These are some words I shared on Facebook yesterday morning:
Many of you know that my dad had a massive stroke 4 years ago. His suffering from a deteriorating body and mind ended this morning. After hearing the update yesterday afternoon that he was going down hill quickly a strange thing happened, I KNEW he was going to die today…on my birthday. At that same moment, I recalled a story that I ALWAYS recall around my birthday. It’s a story my mom shared with me about her dirty feet when she went into labor and an act of love between a husband and his wife. I’m not sad that my dad passed On my birthday. I actually think it’s fitting. Because now when I think of this date, I also think of THIS story of my mom AND my dad. Beauty mixed with pain. I love you dad.
After writing this, and as the day went on, waves of emotion would hit me and I would cry. While sitting on my porch swing, during one of these waves, I jotted down the following words:
Today I grieve, not because my dad passed away on my birthday (or even because he passed away) but because “picture perfect” families, relationships, situations and circumstances don’t exist…not yet anyway. Hebrew 10:23
Yesterday, I found myself grieving for what never was and for what never can be this side of heaven.
I thought about my mom and her death 25 years ago. That journey was a huge lesson of learning that life is about letting go and learning how to live expectantly without expectation. This is where you learn to hold onto the hope but don’t allow circumstances of life to dictate or control that hope. Expectant, hope-filled living can exist regardless of circumstances. I had to learn and remember to live this way every time I returned home after my mom’s death. Home was never the same, yet I learned that I didn’t want this change to dictate whether or not the trip home was considered a good visit or a bad visit. It just was… so uncover the joy, find the beauty and keep one eye on eternity.
My dad will be cremated. My mom was cremated too. But unlike my mom, there will be no memorial service for my dad, there will be no coming together. My dad, in many ways, was a loner. Despite being a salesman most of his life, he kept to himself. As far as my brothers and I know, he only had one set of friends who lived locally. (And what wonderful friends they are too!) His other friends have either already passed away, are in poor health or are scattered all across the country. I did speak to two of his life long friends on the phone yesterday. What a blessing that was.
My dad was unable to care for himself after his stroke and had to live with his caretaker– a situation he resented all the way up until his mind deteriorated to the point where he didn’t know how to be resentful anymore. But four years of “semi-isolation” living is not a situation conducive to making new friends…especially for a loner like my dad.
Yesterday, I found myself grieving the fact that I can count my dad’s immediate family on one hand. Okay…maybe one and half hands. There have never been uncles and aunts and cousins. Grandparents are long gone too. Yesterday, I grieved the fact that I’ve never had the “picture perfect” looking Facebook family…uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparent and great grandparents. There’s me, my two brothers and our kids. That’s it.
Today, as I continue to grieve, I am so thankful for all the “surrogate” family members and precious friends the Lord has brought and continues to bring into my life. You know who you are.
If I could, I would gather you all together today for a family photo. I love you. Thank you for journeying with me.
“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrew 6:18-20 Message