A Father's Hair-Braiding Miracle

Though many prayed for her, God's lack of response made me doubt that miracles happen.

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Father and author Bruce Ham with his family

After his wife, Lisa, died from colon cancer, writer and blogger Bruce Ham was left completely lost and confused.

Not only did he have his own staggering grief to deal with, but now he had to raise three young girls all on his own. It seemed impossible–Lisa was a wonder mom. Bruce, on the other hand, couldn’t braid hair to save his life!

But as he soon discovered, God was about to equip him to do that and more...

I didn’t believe in miracles. How could I?  My 39-year-old wife was dying from cancer. We had an army passionately praying for Lisa’s full recovery, but God's lack of response led me to believe miracles were a farce. In fact, his refusal to respond to my pleas made me fully question his existence.

After her death, I thought God had deserted me.  

The last day my wife was conscious, I told her that if it was time for her to go, she could.  I promised her I would take care of our girls. However, I was fully unprepared to follow through on that commitment.

Lisa was the CEO of our house. I didn’t know the difference between tights and hose. I couldn’t tell an espadrille from a flip-flop. I didn’t even know how to log onto the school website. She handled it all. I was weak and lost.

A few weeks after Lisa’s funeral, I was at my parents' house, struggling to get out of bed. Not even a snuggle from my youngest gave me motivation. Later that afternoon, my mom pulled me aside and said, "You can do this, Bruce.  You have to do this." 

She was right. My mom’s words reminded me that I had promised my wife that I would step up. I told her not to worry, that I would raise our girls.

I'm not sure what it was, but a spirit inside me was ignited that day. As I drove home, I actually felt strong, a feeling I had not experienced since Lisa’s diagnosis. It didn't remove my grief. It did, however, motivate me to be the father I was destined to grow into.

Not long after, I found my youngest daughter, seven at the time, standing in front of the bathroom mirror sobbing.

“What’s wrong, Annie?” I inquired.

“I can’t braid my hair!”

“Can I help?"

“No. You can’t! You don’t know anything about hair! You hardly have any.”

“I bet I can do it,” I said with confidence.

I called my middle daughter to the bathroom. 

“Lucy, show me how to braid her hair.”

“I’ll just do it Dad." She was clearly annoyed.

“No. I want to learn.”

Lucy proceeded to show me how to separate three strands and weave them back and forth.  I took the helm. The first three attempts left lumps at various points on her head.  But the fourth time, I got it right! My first official hairdo was a small plait on the right side of my first grader's head, just enough to keep her hair out of her eyes during YMCA basketball practice.

I followed my success by looking upward and having a quiet conversation with my wife. I did it! Just like you!

This was a small win, but it began to build my confidence. Next I baked homemade cookies for Lucy’s school birthday party and even tackled my first sleepover–18 girls in all! I took the girls shopping for bathing suits and volunteered in their classrooms.

It didn’t come easy, but it was as if somehow Lisa’s strengths were gradually being passed on to me. I was filling the role of both mother and father. 

As I look back on the past few years, I am amazed. Not at myself. No. I am amazed at God’s miracle. He took an inept man and gave him strength beyond imagination. I thought he had deserted me, but he’d been there all along.

He turned me into the father I’d promised my wife I would be.

You can read more about Bruce’s journey as a father in his book Laughter, Tears and Braids or on his blog The Real Full House.

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