On Friday, the halls at school were flooded with a red sea of flowers, balloons and candy for Valentine’s Day
celebrations. Love was in the air; However, any mention of the word love in my third grade class and the room erupts in nervous giggles and a resounding “Ewww!” To my eight-year old students, love involves romance and kisses; and since the other gender has the “cooties”, the very thought of love is “gross”.
Of course those older and wiser understand that there are other types of love besides the romantic variety. The love of a friend, and familial love, to name a few. It is also an accepted fact that love is not simply something we claim to have for someone, but rather something we demonstrate. The true story I’m about to share with you involves a powerful demonstration of a father’s relentless love for his daughter.
At 16, Emily was pretty, popular and led an active life. She was captain of an all star cheerleading team, a dancer 4 nights a week at a studio, and attended a performing arts high school at the local college where she studied dance. Judging from outside appearances, she led an enviable life. Of course as the old adage goes, ‘things are not always what they seem’. Internally, she was dealing with a low self-esteem, had trouble setting boundaries and struggled with unhealthy attractions. She had already suffered heartbreak at the hands of boys, and, to top it all off, her parents’ marriage failed. That toxic mixture of emotions brewing within her was about to set her life on a perilous change of course.
That change came when she met and fell in love with a man who would eventually introduce her to heroin. So would begin her downward spiral. In no time at all, she found herself unable to function without drugs. She stole from her family, committed crimes and other unimaginable things to support her habit. Within two years she was hardly recognizable—her beautiful, long hair was shaved off, her body was emaciated and unclean and she was completely preoccupied in chasing the next “fix”.
The one constant in her life was her father; He spent thousands of dollars sending her through countless programs, none of which kept her off the streets for very long. Emily would go weeks at a time without contacting her family, and yet, her father would always allow her back in the house, bailing her out of jail against the counsel of the ‘experts’. He would go out looking for her; oftentimes putting himself in danger. He carried around two photographs of his daughter—a beautiful high school graduation picture, and one he had taken of her while she had been home in between highs. He would carry those photos around and ask the homeless or people in known drug spots if anyone had seen her. He offered addicts money if they would ride with him and show him where they last saw Emily. Against all odds, he always found her. No matter how much she moved throughout the city, he’d find her and try to bring her home. He wanted to save her, but didn’t know how, so he just kept looking for her and hoped one day she would be at the end of herself and finally be ready to come home.
That day was the morning of March 21, 2007. It was about five in the morning and she had been outside all night. As she walked she realized how utterly exhausted and worn she was. For the first time, she decided on her own that she was finally done. She went to the hospital and called her mother to get her. By morning, she was registered at Teen Challenge in Philadelphia—and of course, her father would be standing by, ready to pay for her stay.
Today, Emily is blessed to be healthy, happily married and the mother of a precious baby girl. And what of the father who never let go of his little girl’s hand? He is faithfully serving God, thanks to a little help from his daughter…but that’s another love story!