Unexpected Fathers

Few things break a girl’s heart more than losing her father.

Unconsolable sadness shown in the eyes of a young friend of mine a few days after her dad died.

I could relate. Several decades earlier, when I was a teenager, my dad passed away suddenly, and I felt lost. But somewhere in my grief, there was a flicker of hope, like a single candle in a dark, sad room.

During my childhood, both my mom and dad—though they were of different faiths—had read the Bible to me. I loved the stories that assured me of the presence and care of my Father-Mother God. I believed in this divine closeness, and that I couldn’t be separated from His/Her love. Now with my dad gone, I needed something to comfort me…and I felt I could look to this loving presence for assurance and strength.

As I stayed with my young friend, I hoped that what I later learned might help her. I trusted that she too would find the comfort she needed.

When my dad passed on, for support I turned to the Bible stories I knew. Soon I discovered that the fathering qualities I loved about my dad really have their source in the divine. And since these qualities are not limited to one human being, they can be expressed tangibly in my life by others. And that is exactly what happened!

First there was Winn, who was like an uncle to me. Winn would just appear! I’d wake up and find him at the breakfast table. Or he’d be outside fixing something that needed repair. With his jokes he lovingly teased me, but that made me trust his care and objectivity, especially when it came to helping me navigate choices and decisions around relationships with guys.

Then there was Walt, a Swiss friend of our family who grew up in the Alps. He stepped right in to help fill my dad’s shoes—ski boots, actually—accompanying us on day trips to the mountains and nudging my brother and me to glide gracefully and swiftly down the steep slopes of the Sierras.

A couple of years after dad died, mom remarried. My stepdad, Chet, had known my dad professionally and admired him. Our combined families—each parent brought two teenage children—discovered that we loved the outdoors. One of Chet’s favorite expressions, “The family that bikes together, stays together,” told me in a humorous way how much he cared for and was committed to our united family.

Each of these relationships, full of spiritual qualities of love, care, strength, stability, guidance, fun, and humor, were tangible expressions of the fatherhood that could never really be absent. I truly believe this is possible because they have their source in the ever-present Father-Mother God.

On this Father’s Day, I’m grateful to remember all the wonderful examples of fatherhood I had growing up. And my young friend? Through the continuing support of those who loved her, she gradually regained her joyful outlook and later married a wonderfully nurturing man.


Have you been fathered by someone other than your biological dad? Have you been the giver or the recipient of fathering love?

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