The last time I saw my Dad I was 12-years-old. It was eleven days before my thirteenth birthday and my Dad had left for work early in the morning, he had brought my older brother, Jeremiah, with him that day. My Dad didn’t have one of those normal Dad “jobs” that so many of my friends’ parents had. He didn’t clock hours or report to a direct boss. Instead he was his own boss, owning an expedition company that brought scuba divers to explore wreckage all over the ocean. His job took him on many great adventures all over the world, and that day was to be no different, as he headed out to dive the wreckage of the USS Moody which had been sunk off the of coast of Catalina island.
The LA Times wrote this about my Dad:
“By all accounts, Darren Douglass was among the most accomplished scuba divers on the West Coast: underwater photographer, editor of a dive boat magazine, leader of charter excursions to the deep.
It was my Dad who was in charge, when wet-suited explorers splashed overboard from the dive boat Atlantis. It was my Dad who led the way through the murky depths as they dove the wreck of a sunken ship. And when things went tragically wrong in an underwater tangle of anchor line six miles out to sea, it was my Dad who paid the silent, ultimate price.”
You see, toward the end of the expedition it was discovered that the boats anchor was stuck. The divers broke off into pairs to dislodge it, my older brother, who at the young age of 14 was already considered an accomplished diver, was among the pairs. Deep below he discovered a malfunction is his equipment. He was out of air. He began to buddy breath with his partner, but there was not enough air for the two, as they ran out my brother began to sink, his partner shot to the surface unconscious.
When my father realized that my brother was not yet safely to the surface he gathered his gear and went after him.
They were found on their backs at the bottom of the ocean, an arm’s length apart, a father reaching for his son. His arm was outstretched, they said; his palm was up. Most likely they had been touching until my father passed out.
My Dad was remembered that Friday in a standing-room-only memorial service as a devoted father, a devout Christian and a dedicated outdoorsman.
Friend after friend spoke of my Father’s love for his children, his love for Christ, and his kindness.
I remember, coming home from school one afternoon, and my Mom telling me that that day my Dad had brought a homeless man home giving him a shower, a shave, his own clothing and a meal.
I remember my Dad teaching me to ride a bike, he held on to the back of my purple banana seat schwin until I was ready to pedal on my own. I remember him gathering up all of my lamby stuffed animals late one Saturday night as he prepared to teach Sunday school, an illustration on Christ’s love for his little sheep.
I remember him taking us off roading in his Bronco during a rainstorm, trying to make the biggest splashes he could. I remember watching Last of the Mohicans with him, and I’m still traumatized for life.
That was my Dad.
My Dad was far from perfect, my parents fought and struggled. But on July 2, 1995 none of that mattered. Perfect or imperfect, he sacrificed himself out of love. It wasn’t my fathers gear that held him to the bottom of the ocean that day, it was love. It wasn’t nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was love. The symmetry of this is not lost on me.
Even though it has been over 20 years since I last saw my Dad he continues to influence me. His choice, his faith, and his love effects how I love, how I parent, and my faith.
As Father’s Day rolls around again this year. I think of my Father, the man, flesh and blood, an influence on me to this day…a man, a hero, a Daddy: Happy Father’s Day.
***as shared at smccutah.org/westjordan