Saturday, November 26


("The Photo Booth"...The selfie of the 80's)

I've never made it a secret that I've always been a "daddy's girl."  My daddy and I even look alike!  

Growing up my daddy and I shared lots of silly traditions and funny jokes that only the two of us understood. In fact we even had a "secret pal club", where we would go out to lunch at a secret location (Pizza Hut) and he would sit and listen to me talk about whatever was on my heart… For as long as I wanted to. He has always made me feel so important. 
 My Wedding Day July 19, 1997

As I grew up I always went to my daddy for advice… He was the most gentle and loving father to me. He was patient and kind, and whenever I felt bad, he would always lift me up and make me feel so loved. 

I remember being in Elementary school and feeling sad about kids being mean to me, and my daddy would always say…
"You know Kerry Ann, if I was in your class, I would be your best friend and I would play with you every day". 

Both he and my mom loved me so much!! Many nights I would wake up to find them kneeling next to my bed, silently praying for me. They blessed me with my most precious gift…a strong faith and undying love for our Lord, Jesus, Christ. 

Even as I grew older, through my college years, and into my marriage, I always went to my daddy for advice. We often prayed together and felt a special call to serve our Lord in a very special way. 

I confided in him one day that I felt a special and specific calling to suffer for our Lord and my daddy then confided in me that he felt that same calling for himself, but neither of us were really sure what this would mean or what it would look like. So my daddy told me that we just needed to stay close to Jesus and be open to whatever He would choose to send our way.

My daddy retired early from his 30 year employment at GTE telephone company, to pursue his true love and vocation..... working for our Lord full-time. 

He went to Ave Maria University and earned his masters degree in theology and for the next 25 years, dedicated all of his free time to act as a servant for Christ. You could always find my daddy continuously in prayer while at daily Mass or in his office reading or studying our Lord's word, so that he could share everything that our Lord taught him with the world....And share it with the world, he did! He taught CCD for the high school kids at St. Ann, going on to head up the RCIA program for our church as well, gave talks, organized Adult Ed programs, and gave spiritual talks and even spiritual direction to many souls. He put his entire heart and soul into his ministry......I could go on and on. 

To this day… I still meet people, who when realizing that I am Jim Courtney's daughter, will tear up and tell me how much my daddy strengthened their faith life or literally brought them back to our Lord. I believe that my daddy is a living Saint on this earth.

Over the past years, he started to forget things until finally it became apparent that he had been stricken with dementia. My daddy, who truly lived for our Lord, with his entire being, was now being silenced (in a way) BUT with this painful cross, my mom, my sister and I, just knew that this was an extremely hard, but a BEAUTIFUL cross, sent from Jesus Christ Himself, as A gift to my father for all of the hard work he had done for Him.
Jesus loves my daddy so much.

I clearly remember the weekend (a few years ago) when I realized how serious my Daddy's situation had become. My dad came to stay with me at my house while my mom went out of town, with her bridge group. Jeremy took Madison, Savannah and Nicholas camping (we only had three children at the time) so that my dad and I could spend a special weekend alone together, as I had been worried about him for quite some time. 

Over that weekend I realized that my dad did not always remember where he was or even who I was...he would frequently ask me, "Where's Kerry", and he would feel afraid. 

Even though I had been saddened as I observed his memory slowly declining, I hadn't realized how much his condition had progressed. This realization pierced by soul as my heart instantly broke into a million pieces. 

After I drove my dad home on that Sunday afternoon, I came back to my house and decided to take a warm bath and just sit.  The house was empty and I was shaking, purely in shock and prayerfully trying to get my head around all that I had discovered. 

While I was still in the tub, Jeremy arrived home with the kids. I tried to calmly explain everything that had happened over the weekend..... Jeremy's face fell as there was so much to report (Jeremy loves my dad so much).....and I was ADAMANTLY trying to tell Jeremy everything without crying… 
I told Jeremy that I COULD NOT let myself cry yet, because I knew for sure that if I let myself begin to cry, I would never be able to stop. 

Jeremy lovingly listened to my every word,  not saying much, just allowing me to pour my heart out. Then he walked over to me and sat on the step of the bathtub and just cried.  
He cried for me, because I could not cry for myself. 

In the past couple of years, this rugged and splintery cross has been so painful for my mom, my sister, myself, and our entire family. My mom is so beautiful and strong as she has, in a way, lost her best friend....her partner, her lifelong love....She is suffering with such Grace
I love you so much, mom

(iPhone selfie of today)
This Thanksgiving was the first time I was able to see my family since my lung transplant (as I am still in seclusion, but was blessed with the permission of my lung transplant doctor, to cautiously celebrate Thanksgiving at my parent's house). It had been a longer time since I had seen my daddy, because we were both homebound.  
I have missed my family so much!!! My heart fluttered at the thought of finally being able to see them face-to-face again, feeling better, and with new life in me, as it had pained them to see me so sick for so long. 
I wore my wig to Thanksgiving Dinner (that Jeremy so lovingly had made for me at a specialty wig place in Dallas… My poor husband had to sit for four hours as I was fitted for it… He is so good to me). 

 I wore my wig on Thanksgiving, so that I would look more like myself when I saw my daddy. One of the first things he did when I walked into his room to say hi to him, was grab my blonde hair and smile. When I was little he always called me "Colonel Whitehead" or his "Little Blondie" I leaned over and asked him if I could give him a kiss and he puckered his lips up for me!! it was pure heaven… I really miss him. 
Then I got to sit alone with him for a long time and just talk to him and I cried A LOT but it was so therapeutic and comforting for me to just talk to him. He could not answer me back, for I have longed to hear my daddy's strong but gentle voice just one more time, but he had a very firm grasp on my hand and would not let go…He was looking at me and seemed to maybe understand what I might be saying to him (I just know Jesus connected our hearts at that moment) and then he fell asleep.

The world will always fall short of total happiness, as Heaven is the only true fulfillment of our heart's desire… That is what I always tell my children. 

My daddy will never know me in the same way until we meet again in the presence of Jesus.
For this reason, my daddy's little girl (me...his kerrybear) longs for heaven even more, in a new and special way. 

This Thanksgiving has brought me more joy than any other Thanksgiving that I can remember. We all sat around the table and talked for hours and laughed and cried and just swam in the amazing elation that Jesus blessed us with that day. 
(My Daddy kissing baby Gracie Ann)

Before leaving my daddy's room to sit down for our Thanksgiving feast, Jesus granted me the strength to put my own selfish desires aside and be able to bravely say to my dad....
(with only a few tears)
"Daddy, it's okay that you cannot remember who I am, but please do not worry and take comfort in knowing ....That I will  ALWAYS remember who you are for as long as I live."

I love You, Dear Jesus