It’s been five years since Bucky fell out of the sky.
I spent my entire childhood begging God to be a daddy’s girl.
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of someone to play catch with and be there when I woke up from my surgeries.
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of someone to help me with my homework and teach me to drive.
When I got to college, I dreamed of a dad to show off at family weekend and began to dream about my graduation photos.
While my friends were dreaming of their future husbands, I was just clinging to the idea that I might one day have someone to call Dad.
In April 2012, I got a letter from my adoptive father destroying any last shred of hope I had of ever being considered his daughter again. On my run that night, God and I had a chat. I surrendered the dream of ever being a daddy’s girl and vowed that IF I ever had kids of my own, I would never put them through the misery of going to sleep every night only wishing they had a Dad to come say goodnight. I finally accepted that I was an adult and having a “dad” was never going to happen.
A year and a half later, I started calling Bucky Carter “Dad.” I knew the man for exactly seven months. It was fast. It was intense. It was the absolute most beautiful miracle I have ever seen with my own eyes. He loved me as his own. We just loved one another, HARD.
He gave me everything I ever dreamed of. I never took a single second of it for granted. We loved grabbing wings and a beer at Brewhouse and ice cream at Baskin Robbins. We loved playing with the computers at retail stores and playing games at the kitchen table. We loved going to the gym and doing the dishes together.
We spent the last week of his life cleaning up and fixing my condo after the hot water heater busted and left the place a disaster.
It really didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as we were together.
He literally threw me on a roller coaster and gave me my love for all things adventure and adrenaline.
He drove me 30 minutes each way to go meet my eye doctor at his office in the middle of the night multiple times when things got rocky with an experimental lens we used on my eyes. Not sure who the bigger hero was on those nights – Bucky Carter or Jason Nash, although I’m a pretty big fan of both.
Christmas morning was an absolute blast. For the first time in my life, there were gifts under the tree from “Dad.” I’m not sure who played with my remote-controlled helicopter he gave me more – him or me.
He would often apologize for not being there for the first 23 years. And while I was sad I didn’t have him as a kid, I was so full of anticipation and excitement for the decades we had in front of us.
Until we didn’t.
“Felicia, Bucky crashed his plane and he didn’t make it.”
As Todd’s words broke over the phone, my heart slipped lower than it ever had before, or has since.
Emergency response and the news crews beat us to the scene. People began to gather to spectate and report the events of the day. He was a good pilot. The weather was perfect that day. There was nothing wrong with the plane.
He just died.
In the sky.
The plane nose-dived. He was dead before he hit the ground.
I spent hours after the crash at the airfield. The first person to try to console me was an FAA agent. He said, “I am so sorry this happened, kid. I lost my dad when I was about your age and it’s going to be tough but I promise you will get through it.”
I argued with the guy. I didn’t feel like he had the authority to say that to me because he couldn’t possibly understand the extent of what I had just lost.
(Let’s be real. I also just really like to argue. It doesn’t matter who it is, or what it’s about. My counselor is still working on that.)
The next days and weeks and months felt like an endless nightmare.
I woke up each morning and realized it was still true. He was gone and wasn’t coming back. My heart would drop into my stomach every single time.
I saw a grief counselor for a few months after the plane crash. He told me, “If you do nothing else but wake up and breathe every day for the next year, you’ve done more than I would expect.”
He actually didn’t say that because I lost my dad and best friend. He said that because my questions outweighed my faith at that point.
People were looking to me to show them how to respond. In any other season of my life, I would have put my game face on and loved God and life through the devastation. But that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t even will myself to be the rock of faith the world expected me to be.
All I could think is God could have done a million tiny little things that would have prevented the events of that day. Sitting in the airfield that day, I looked up at the sky and said, “it’s all just a game to you, isn’t it?”
It didn’t seem fair. Why did God give me my dream just to take it away?
The God of my reality didn’t match the God of my Bible.
Can I be really authentic?
I still have a lot of questions.
I also have a few answers.
Those seven months were amazing. They were everything I could have ever wanted in a dad. It was the epitome of perfection.
Maybe it was so amazing because it was so brief. Maybe if I had decades with him, there would have been bad memories too. Maybe God knew that in order to protect the beauty, it had to be brief.
While I spent those seven months very grateful to God for the miracle, I wasn’t in relationship with Him the way I needed to be because I was soaking up every second with my new dad. Maybe God gave me the answer to all my prayers but He wasn’t prepared to give me the opportunity to replace my Heavenly Father.
Maybe God knew that losing Dad was the only thing that would get me desperate enough for purpose and community that I would eventually open my heart to trust a couple staff members at Cross Point, which would lead to years of living the “Cross Point life.” That life has shaped every single thing about who I am today.
Maybe God chose me to be able to walk with others through unusual grief. I remember convincing myself that nobody could ever possibly understand. I felt like my grief was special. I have never met another person who had to start grieving the future they would never have while still grieving the past they never had. But because of the depths of my pain, I have since been able to walk through grief with dozens of others.
Maybe the plan was never about answering my prayers by giving me Dad, but was about answering Bucky’s prayers by giving him a daughter in his final days. He also accepted Christ and began a relationship with Jesus 139 days before he died, which might have been the greatest purpose of all.
Maybe the story of fatherlessness wouldn’t be complete without the Bucky chapter. Nobody, not even the perfect picture of a Dad, can fit the God-sized hole in our lives. The experience of gaining and losing an earthly father in less than a year has contributed to my ministry in a million different ways.
Maybe God decided it was time to wrestle with me like He did with Jacob. He knew that having to go through that would give me no choice but to eventually turn to Him in desperation for comfort.
Honestly, we will never know this side of Heaven exactly why God allowed that plane to crash that day. But I do know two things:
God is still good, and He sees the whole picture.
But I would have never seen that had I not been willing to say yes to God one more time. I could have easily given up. Nobody would have been shocked. After all I have been through in my life, it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibilities for me to say “screw it” and stop fighting for joy in this life. Thank God I didn’t. Thank God I said yes ONE MORE TIME. It doesn’t matter how many times you have done it before and been disappointed. What do you need to say yes to one more time?
Finishing your degree?
Trust me when I tell you that I get it. I understand that opening up to the possibility to get disappointed again seems like it isn’t worth it.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to have life and have it more abundantly. But in order for that to happen, we have to risk faith. We have to be confident that He is who He says He is, and we are who He says we are. We have to be willing to throw our nets in the water one more time.
Bonus: Is your dad still around? Pick up the phone and call him today. Pick up your phone right now. Don’t wait for Father’s Day. Treat every day like it’s the third Sunday in June. Love, appreciate and enjoy him.