I took this pic of The Blands, Christmas 2008, just a few weeks before Mr. Dave was diagnosed.
Let me tell you about a very special dad. His name is David W. Bland, and he is my husband's father. Five years ago today, Mr. Dave lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. He was such a vibrant, happy man! I miss his corny jokes, and his constant singing around the Bland household. I miss him putting me in head locks. I miss watching him love on his sons and Ashley, he loved them all so much! I miss his beautiful dedication to his wife, Joyce, and his love and passion for God. He was such a wonderful man, and he was taken from us way too soon.
He was diagnosed in early January of 2009. His doctors never gave a firm time frame, but we knew from the start that it was bad. He battled the cancer so hard, though. He made it so much longer than people with this cancer usually do. For a while there in 2009, we really thought he may have beat an unbeatable cancer, but in the fall things got worse again. By winter 2010, amidst all those crazy blizzards, he was on hospice care. He died at home with Joyce and Dave by his side on March 15th, 2010.
It seemed so unfair to lose him then, if at all, with so many happy events coming in the future. Dave, Matt and I were all graduating at the same time in May (Dave and Matt with Bachelor degrees, me with my Masters) plus, Dave and I were getting married in June...so many BIG milestones that he should have been able to attend and enjoy.
Way back in the day, when we all were youth leaders at the same church, Mr. Dave used to tell me that he was my #1 fan, because he wanted me to marry his son. When Dave and I started hanging out and then dating, he would always ask me how our relationship was going, I think he knew Dave was too shy to talk about it with him whereas I, obviously, talk about everything! When Dave asked me to marry him, he was so excited that I would be joining their family. He was always praying hard for us, and holding us accountable so that our relationship could be blessed. He was awesome like that!
I know that Mr. Dave would be so proud of my Dave today. He is a wonderful husband. He's dedicated, and hard-working, and so much fun to be around. He is also an amazing dad. I know he gets those traits from his father. That goes for Matty as well. Mr Dave also missed Matty and Laurie's wedding, another event we wish he could have been around for. He would also be proud of Ashley and how much she has grown into the young woman she is today, and most of all that she loves church and and Jesus even through these hard teenage years.
He will miss the birth of his grandchildren this year, ours in May/June, and Matt/Laurie's in July. I know that him not being here for their births will be hard for both Dave and Matt. However, he was the only one of us that got to witness Lily and Jackson being "born" last year, because both were born right into Heaven. And hopefully, after being held by Jesus, they each were passed right into the arms of my father-in-law. As much as I wish they ALL were here with us, that thought comforts me a lot. They are all happy, in Heaven, not sick or scared or anything bad like that, and they all have each other.
I know that it's possible that Mr. Dave still keeps tabs on his family, and has been with us through these past 5 years, but it's not the same has having him here, physically. Dave told me today, that if he could just have a few minutes to talk to his dad, to hug him, to have a conversation together...that would be awesome. I wish with all my heart that I could give that to him. I tell him all the time that I think his dad knows how far we all have come, that he has to be able to see how we all are doing. I really think that is true. I hope that it is.
Grief is such a sucky thing. Losing loved ones is the worse thing that can happen in life. I know we shouldn't feel bad for Mr. Dave, because he is where his heart always wanted to be, but I do feel bad for us. We've lost a wonderful father and friend. No matter how much we love Jesus and try to understand death and Heaven and all that, it still seems totally unfair that we had to say goodbye to him so soon.
We visited his grave today, to tell him we love him and to spend some time telling him what his beautiful life meant to us. As I gave Dave some alone time, I looked up at the sky and saw what looked like an angel in the opening of the clouds. I took it as a sign that everyone up there is more than ok, and that we will be too. One day, we will all be together again. I can't wait. Until then, we love you and miss you, Mr. Dave.