“Not many can say the words I am about to say – my dad was the coolest person I’ve ever known. When all of my other friends were embarrassed to have their dad pick them up from school or drop them off at a dance, I never was. I was always proud to be ‘Nick’s daughter.’ My dad painted hot rods, low riders, classic cars… any type of custom car, he was the man. He was well known around town and when the ‘mini truck’ craze was a big thing in the 90’s, he was the guy everyone wanted to paint their truck. I am the youngest of two girls so my dad never had a son to do the car stuff with, but our garage was always full of young men. Some there to learn, some there to watch and all there to just be in his presence.
My dad was the epitome of a gentle giant. He stood 6 feet 6 inches, weighed about 350 pounds and wore a size 16 shoe. To a stranger, he would seem scary at first glance. But as soon as he smiled you knew he was sweet-tempered. He was a mentor to many people along the way. As a young man himself, he showed grace and kindness to friends that were struggling to find their way in life. In his 30’s he served as youth pastor, shepherding teenagers to lives of meaning and purpose. And in his 40’s he served as the most important mentor of all, Papa.
I got pregnant when I was 19 years old. At the time I was living with my parents, sort of dating a guy I wasn’t supposed to be having any contact with and trying to figure out my life. I don’t know what my parents felt when I told them I was pregnant. Scratch that, when I told them I was 5 MONTHS pregnant! They told me they were going to dinner that night, alone, and would be home later. The next day, they asked what, my plan was. What ‘our’ next step was. My dad didn’t hunt down the guy I had been sneaking around with, he didn’t kick me out, he didn’t scold me, he asked what they could do to help. I had 5 sonograms when I was pregnant. Each time, the doctor would say, ‘We just can’t tell. It’s such a big baby that it can’t stretch out enough for us to see the gender.’ On July 12, 1998, a super hot day in Texas, and also my due date, my dad and I decided to go out to lunch. I chose a Mexican restaurant at our local mall and he obliged. Little did my 19-year-old self know, Mexican food and long walks are known to induce labor. Later that night, I started having contractions. I called my doctor and he suggested we head into the hospital. Myself, mom, dad and sister loaded up in the car and headed to the ER. 7 hours later I gave birth to a big, burly baby BOY! From that moment, my dad was smitten with my son, Micah.
They were inseparable. Micah had a little spot carved out between my dad’s side and right arm where he sat and watched TV shows about cars or sporting games, the same place I used to wiggle into when I was a little girl. He custom built a hot rod stroller to push Micah around car shows in. He was the score keeper at all of Micah’s baseball games. He was the grandpa that got to the practice fields early and held the best spot. My mom worked Saturdays so as Micah got older and began playing tournament baseball, my dad and I would be the ones to drive out of town and sit in the bleachers sun up to sun down watching him play. He was so very proud of Micah.
On July 23, 2010, my dad had a massive heart attack and passed away. He was 56 years old. We were devastated. Not only did I lose my father, but Micah lost his as well. The next few years are a bit of a blur to me. My mom moved in with Micah and I. Micah started middle school football then on to high school football where he excelled in both. He got his driver’s license, got his first car. All things my dad would have been over the moon about. Over the years, one of the things I missed most about my dad was his advice, his security and his assurance. He was one of those people you could ask a question of and his answer immediately made you feel at ease.
In his senior year of high school, Micah was offered a football scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy. There were so many times I needed assurance from my dad that I was doing the right thing. Not only sending my one and only son off to college but sending him to an out of state military academy.
There had been several times I had noticed little signs that I felt were from my dad. Throughout Micah’s acceptance to the Air Force Academy, I began to notice more and more signs of affirmation that were undeniably from my dad. On our official visit, the football coach was telling me how I shouldn’t worry about Micah, how they will take great care of him. He said, ‘We actually just celebrated one of our cadets’ birthdays last week and I even made him a cake.’ He pulled up a picture on his phone and turned it my way. The cake read ‘Happy Birthday Nick.’ My dad’s name. That is one of so many winks that I have received during that time. With the help from my dad, I sent Micah off to college.
Not too long after he left, I got engaged to the man I had been dating. We married the next year and I moved to his family’s farm about 30 minutes past the town I had raised Micah in and grown up in myself. That year, depression hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know if Micah leaving had caught up with me or moving to a new town or the loss of my dad in general. Life had been busy since he passed away in 2010 and it had finally slowed a bit. Whatever it was, it knocked me down. I prayed day and night for relief. For strength and peace. I struggled to feel comfortable in my new home. It was the only place I had ever lived without Micah and the furthest I had ever lived from my hometown which contained all of my childhood memories. I began to take refuge in the outdoors.
I had noticed a male and female cardinal in my backyard a few times. My dad and I loved St. Louis Cardinal baseball. Micah was a baby when Mark McGuire was popular and we’d all sit and watch baseball for hours together. Cardinals are also known to be representative of a loved one who has passed. One day I had left my house and returned to the back door wide open. I wasn’t nervous because we live on a farm and I knew there wasn’t an intruder, but it was peculiar to me. I went in and took a look around. I heard a tapping from an upstairs room. The room I heard the tapping from was a room intended for storage but when I moved in, I changed it to my ‘quiet room.’ It is a small room, a little larger than a closet, but it has a big beautiful window that overlooks our horse pasture. This room, of all the rooms in my house, felt comfortable to me. When I pushed the door open, I saw the 2 cardinals sitting on the window seal tapping on the window. They had somehow gotten in the house, flown up to that room and were now perched on the seal trying to get back out.
That was a huge turning point in my depression. From that moment on, I was flooded with signs from my dad. Some that only I would see and smile at, and some so incredibly undeniable that anyone who heard the story would feel my dad’s presence.
The incredibly undeniable leads me to one of the more recent and definitely most life changing signs I have received from my dad. In February of 2018, at the peak of my depression, my husband and I were approached by our local Historical Foundation and asked if we would be able to save a 120-year-old chapel in our county from being torn down. We own the largest piece of undeveloped land in the county and the chapel itself was 3,000 square feet. We went to the chapel on a cold winter morning to take a look. I remember how dark and frigid the inside of the chapel was. It was completely empty. Not a single thing on the walls. Not one piece of furniture. Nothing. It seemed like a huge undertaking and with the way I was feeling, I just wasn’t sure that this was a project we needed to take on. I wandered into a room off to the side. It was the former youth room.
As I scanned the walls, there was one thing stuck to the wall. I walked towards it and realized it was a bumper sticker. The sticker was from a Christian Hot Rod Car Club. It had a black lowered hot rod on it and it read, ‘take the ride to the other side.’ I instantly got chills. I felt my dad’s presence in that chapel stronger than I had felt it since the day he passed away. A hot rod bumper sticker in the youth room! Two of the things my dad’s life were a reflection of. I knew then, we were to save this chapel.
I took a picture of the sticker. I didn’t immediately tell my husband. It was such a strong feeling, it honestly overwhelmed me. The next morning, he was sitting at the kitchen table talking to his own dad about the chapel. When he got off the phone he said, ‘What do you think? Should we do this?’ I asked if he had seen what was on the wall in the side room and he said no. I showed him the picture. When he looked back at me, he had big tears streaming down his cheeks. We agreed right then that we were called to save this 120-year-old chapel from being torn down.
It is 11 months later and we moved the chapel on Saturday. Over these past months, it was rough at times. The first moving company we hired flaked out on us after months of stringing us along. The cost to have it prepared for move doubled and the cost to have it actually moved tripled. We had less support from some certain people we had anticipated more from, but through it all, we never doubted our decision. Not once. For the first time in 8 years, I felt the peace I had felt so many times after getting advice from my dad. I felt the security his words of wisdom had always instilled in me.
We have about 9 more months of restoration to do in the chapel and then we plan to open it to the public. Our vision is to share this piece of history with others by hosting weddings, community events, conferences, workshops, youth events and so much more. The move of this chapel is a tangible example of the power in signs. I truly believe the ones we love are looking over us. I would never felt confident enough for my husband and I to take on such a large task had I not felt the security and reassurance that only a father can provide. Although he may not be here in body, in the times I have needed my dad most, he has been here. Through sending Micah off to college, he was here. Through my unsurpassable depression, he was here. And through our move of the chapel, he was here.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Tate of Rockwall, Texas. You can follow the chapel’s preservation progress here. Have you gotten signs or winks from loved ones? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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