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What a Trip to the ER Taught Me about Real Fatherhood

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mena in hospital (2)


A recent trip to the ER with my daughter gave me a deeper connection to Mary and Joseph, and the meaning of real fatherhood.


by Ryan Langr


“We Need to Get to the ER”

Caffeine and GraceI had just changed into my PJ’s and settled down with my book under the nice warm covers. My eyes were droopy and I was looking forward to drifting off to sleep while reading. In the other room my wife was taking care of my slightly fussy daughter. She’s teething her molars and had been running a slight fever. No big deal, right?

“We need to get to the ER. Her fever is 105.” My wife’s words registered in my body before my head fully grasped it. I jumped out of bed and got dressed, threw some things into the diaper bag, and absentmindedly shoved my rosary into my pocket. In thirty seconds I was ready to head out the door for the 30-minute drive to our care provider.

My daughter’s anguished, distressed screams finally hit me, and my throat tightened as my heart sank. I was so worried about her, and in my empathy, her cries were causing me distress. I spent most of the trip to the hospital and in the waiting room pacing back and forth so I wouldn’t vomit.

She ended up being OK, of course. In hindsight we probably overreacted, but we needed to be sure—for our sake and hers. Throughout the drive there, waiting in the ER, and the unfortunate catheter they gave her for a test, I felt the pain and discomfort she was in.

Connecting with Mary and Joseph

I had always taken Mary’s involvement in Christ’s crucifixion very matter-of-factly. She was there and she suffered, but it was always an intangibly abstract suffering. After the relatively minor experience in the ER, I now cannot even imagine what the crucifixion was like for Mary. I could now spend my entire life meditating on that alone, and I’m sure I will be provided with more opportunities with my children to further experience empathic pain.

But I don’t want to forget about Joseph, either. What must it have been like to raise a son he knew would suffer, whose sole purpose in life was to die for the innocent? I now feel as though I can better identify what he was going through as he fled into Egypt so his son wouldn’t be slaughtered by Herod. And what about all the Holy Innocents? My heart weeps for all their families.

Throughout the Bible we see examples of fathers both protecting their children and sacrificing their children. What faith it must have taken Abraham to climb Mount Moriah. What pain Adam must have felt when Abel died at the hands of his own brother. But above all, now that I have a child, the Father’s sacrifice of his only son, Jesus, takes on a whole new meaning. If I can hardly handle something as small as a fever in my daughter, would I really be able to give her up to whatever God asks of her? This is the true spirituality of uniting to God’s will, to embracing pain with a joyful spirit, and to look forward to a time when we will all be united again. From a simple fever, I have found a need to embrace these principles again.

Real Fatherhood

This Father’s Day I am overjoyed to be a father. I am grateful beyond words for the gift of my daughter, and the gift of being shown what real fatherhood looks like.

Real fatherhood is a radical desire to protect and shield your child, while at the same time entrusting them to the love of God.

Real fatherhood is courageous compassion, willingly partaking in the suffering of your children.

Real fatherhood is daily gratitude for the gift you’ve been given—both in being a father, and in being a son of God.

Real fatherhood is a recognition of the never-ending spiritual and physical responsibility I’ve been given.

To all fathers—priests, adoptive fathers, mentors, father-figures—thank you for the essential, difficult role you play in all of our lives. Thank you for your compassion as you suffer with those you love, especially when they don’t realize it. Thank you for being an image of our Father in heaven, who has given us so much. You may not always get thanks in this life, but someday our Father will say “well done.”

Happy Father’s Day.

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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