Saturday, January 16, 2016

Two Years Spent in Grief...

Two Years in Grief

My pen has been silent for over a year, at least in regards to grief.  Many times I have stopped to write, but the words didn’t come.  Was it because I hadn’t learned anything new or because I didn’t have anything valuable to offer?  Still feeling empty, with regards to wisdom and what grief has taught me.  The road has been long and winding.  It has been interspersed with personal and relational struggles, health issues, more loss and fears.  But there are a few things worthy of sharing, if nothing more than to help another suffering.  I have watched several friends lose their parents this year.  I stand by as they grieve, checking in with them, and making sure they are surviving.  I replay in my mind the tragedy they witnessed, the shock and denial they are feeling, and their experience mirrors my own and I am thrust back in.  Though still chronically painful, now, there is less sting, there is enough release that I can now think more clearly about how I can help them.  And that, I feel is my ultimate lesson learned.  Through my experience of being supported in regular ways, amazing ways, or being forgotten, I have learned what to do to help others.  Upon exploring God’s word in regards to grief, this verse stood out to me this year…


2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (My emphasis added)


WOW.  I have thought may times how people’s testimonies are so that they may help others struggling with similar trials.  I have learned in the last year that my favorite books and articles involve people, their struggles, and their triumphs over them.  And as this verse says, our comfort can be used to comfort others, and I have been acutely aware of a draw towards channeling my grief into something productive.  I am not an anomaly, grief is as common as life, for throughout, we will gain and lose, and the Lord giveth and taketh away.  But my lesson learned is what we DO with that grief is instrumental.  Some will wallow in it for a time and let it consume them, others will move past it almost easily, and still others will write book, start support groups, and not stand by without it having a clear purpose.  I hope to be the latter.


I have been praying for some time about how God would use my grief to help others.  Sometimes, I feel unworthy, that losing so many people in my life, and then a parent is no different than others I know.  I close my mouth and mind and then I am brought back to this place, again, pondering.  There has to be more to my experience, than aching and moving on…I long to help someone else.  So I pick up my pen and write again, not knowing where this will go.


Two years into grief, the sting is softer now.  Still, no day passes where I don’t think of, remember, and miss my sweet Daddy, but I can sometimes imagine him with a smile now.  I can get through Christmas without the gut wrenching pain, and can talk about him without tears.  The memories are fading in my little one, who has now been alive longer without her Grampy than with him, a thought once too painful for my heart to bear.  It is now my job to teach her about his legacy, and this is a job I don’t take lightly.


I have learned that grief will only continue, more frequently, as those in my life are lost.  I have learned that these losses only make me long for heaven more, eager to see what God has for us.  The Lord states that the darkness of today will only be cast out by the light and joy we feel tomorrow.  I cling to the hope of heaven, because then, the sorrows of the earth will be long gone and forgotten.  I am not afraid to die, because of my faith in Jesus Christ I know I get to see those I miss again!


The Lord promises to comfort.  There have been times when I felt so alone in my grief, that the world was so tired of hearing me mourn and groan, that I kept it to myself and if not for the Lord himself I may have died in it.  I look back and know that those tears I shed were wiped dry by him, and that they will not be wasted.  Every tear will be replaced with countless joys.


With time has come the acceptance, that is so longed for in grief.  Finally, I have agreed that my Daddy isn’t coming back and life is starting to become a new “normal.”  Though I will never be the same, I could not possibly be the same, because a piece of me is missing.  I love this poem I came across, it speaks exactly what my heart has felt and is feeling…




I had my own notion of grief.

I thought it was a sad time

That followed the death of someone you love.

And you had to push through it

To get to the other side.

But I’m learning there is no other side.

There is no pushing through.

But rather,

There is Absorption.



And grief is not something that you complete.

But rather you endure.

Grief is not a task to finish,

And move on.

But an element of yourself-

An alteration of your being.

A new way of seeing.

A new definition of self.


Indeed I am a new me, a me without my Daddy on this earth, still a mother, still a wife, still a daughter, not improved, just different.


As I turned 40, I became so reflective and introspective.  There is so much to be learned and the most important is community and people.  And so, I gear up to run the course.  My friends will lose their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, beloved mentors, co-workers, and friends.  There will be many broken hearts to comfort and encourage, there will be many hugs to give, many meals to cook, many tears to share.  There will be many opportunities, to NOT be the one to leave them behind in their pain, but instead to call the grieving with a sweet message about their loved one and a validation of their legacy.  A choice to not take the easy, tearless road, but rather to embark upon the weeping, difficult one.

God said in Romans 8:28 “All things work together for Good to those who love God” and my solemn and heartfelt prayer that in this new year of change, of growth, of aging, of love, that the devastating death of my Daddy will work together for the good of another...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

12 Lessons From 12 Months Living in Grief

One year has passed.  In many ways it flew past with such swiftness that it felt like the quickest 365 days of my life.  Yet, in other ways it drug by, as the pain of loss weighed me down like a pile of bricks.  I have aged this year, in more ways than one.  The newly formed frown wrinkles on my face have deepened.  Physically, my autoimmune diseases intensified, as my body retaliated against the unavoidable stress.   Emotionally and spiritually, I was forced to come face to face with life questions I'd been denying, and I was tested in my reaction and resolve to handle them as God would desire.  

As I reflect upon this past year, and the learning that has occurred in my mind and heart, several lessons surface and re-emerge to create a strong theme.  These aren't novel lessons, surely those along this journey have documented them countless times before.   Since I exist as a deeply introspective and sentimental spirit, always seeking to grasp some depth of growth from each situation, I feel I must document them to acknowledge, validate and move forward in my personal process.  And if sharing my lessons aids one hurting soul along the way, then my suffering was not in vain.

A timeline for grief is impossibly irrelevant.  When I received comments encouraging me to move on and giving me a timeline for my grief and returning to "normal" I actually felt more alone, and less inclined to share with others that I was indeed still hurting.   In turn I tried to push the feelings out of my mind and heart.  This caused the grief to rebound, and built up a sort of reverse tolerance effect, as the more I pushed it back, the bigger it surfaced.    I realize most people are trying to find the words to say to help comfort the hurting, but something like "I know this has been a rough year for you.  I'm praying" is so much better.  There should never be an expectation for when someone will be "ok" because grief is such an individual process.

I personally believe that the depth of grief is the direct result of the depth of relationship shared.  At the tender age of eleven I went to my first funeral for a classmate who died from cancer.  I have lost many family members and have attended more funerals than the average gal my age.   The first taste of deep grief I ever experienced was losing both my of grandparents six months apart at the age of 17.  It was a paralyzing grief and I cried for days.  It lessened fairly quickly and I felt relief over not having to worry about their health on a daily basis.  But of all the losses I experienced, none could prepare me for losing my Dad.  Even though we knew it was coming, and cancer was slowly taking him, the resulting grief was unprecedented and unexpected. There is absolutely no right or wrong in the experience of loss, and it is not to say I was closer to my Daddy than someone else who loses theirs and seems to handle grief  "better."  There is simply no hard and fast stage or rule that can be applied as cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all.  There is only difference and for that we must offer acceptance and support.  

One of the worst parts of grief for me was knowing my children wouldn't get to spend time with their Grampy.  Hearing my 2 year old share her memories (that she was really too young to remember) was heart shattering.  To hear her ask "Where Grampy?" while skyping with Grammy was too much.  There will always be a grieving of what could have been and that will never go away.  But even more so, I learned that part of my personal grief was also mourning the relationship I had anticipated.   My father and I didn't always get along well, in fact through my teenage years things were often strained. However, once we both found Jesus, we became closer.   I was able to actively forgive him for things I blamed him for and realize that he is human and I was looking for someone to blame for the bad choices I had made.  We were on the same page then, we agreed on politics, we supported the same ministries, he encouraged me to travel to Israel when others didn't, he encouraged our adoption. We grew, we loved and the deep love I felt for him grew stronger and I believe actually made up for lost time.   There is no other explanation for that type of healing and love than that God had intervened.  And so, my grief largely stems from the loss of relationship that I so longed for, looked forward to, was excited about, and loved.  And I believe it ultimately was a deep longing for more of the joy and blessings from God that he provided through my relationship with my father, and thus, symbolizing a deeper yearning for a stronger relationship with Him. 

It is true when they say life moves on at a rapid pace after someone is lost.  You find yourself at the grocery store wanting to scream at the checker "MY DAD DIED!  DON'T YOU CARE?" and yet, life progresses.  You feel as though you are riding on a carousel and just want to get off and be still.  Yet you can't and life moves forward as you are somehow stuck frozen and behind trembling, shocked and barely surviving. People overwhelm  you and check in at first, and  by 3 months, the support has all but ended, and that is actually when you need it most.  I don't fault anyone for failing to check in.  It hurt for awhile, until I reminded myself that I am guilty as well.  Don't expect everyone to check in with you regularly because the truth is, they  probably won't.  And it's ok because God will provide you with just who you  need "for such a time as this." (one of my favorite scriptures from the book of Esther.)   For me it was an online support group for Pancreatic Cancer patients and their caregivers that spawned into a support group  for daughters who lost parents to PC. These girls became my lifeline.  Only they truly understood what I was battling on a day to day basis.  I could share how I didn't want to get out of bed, or that I was angry with the oncologists, or that I was angry at God for taking my Daddy a week before Christmas. I could share how something I saw, a song, a smell reminded me of him, ad they could do the same.   It continues to be a real and true support group that only God could have orchestrated!  And in true God-ordained  fashion, I was even able to hug the neck of one of the girls in Phoenix this past Christmas.  She held my hand through the last few days of my Daddy's life ad I did the same for her when it was her turn.  We shared  the pain, horrors, and images together and now, we continue to  grow and heal together.  There just isn't any substitute for those who have walked the same road.  And God WILL provide you with others who will check in with you almost everyday, who will pray for you through and just  BE THERE.  And you will KNOW that without them you would have never made it this far.  

Just about the only thing I could do from this awful experience is to vow to help others.  My greatest lesson for the future is to BE THE PERSON THAT IS THERE in the months and YEARS following the loss. Not to only support someone in the days and weeks following the loss but far into the future.  Make a point to call the person, text, email, message.  Share a memory, a picture and just LOVE THEM.  Grief does not end when the funeral is over or even a year later. 

There is a difference in not forgetting someone and actively remembering them.  Don't be afraid that you will make your loved one cry when you bring up the lost.   You may, but it is not a bad thing.  The tears are just coming from grief that has been there the entire time and has found validation for escape.   The mere acknowledgement of the lost one is so vital.  I cannot tell you the number of people who DO NOT talk about my Dad.  I know they are concerned with upsetting me, but I can't shake the feeling that  they have forgotten him, or that they are choosing to gloss over his existence.  Far better is the validation of his life, that he lived, by simply sharing a memory of him and saying "I miss your dad too."  It may seem awkward to the outsider, but truly, it is profoundly healing and comforting for the grieving.  So go ahead and say something.  Say you love their loved one and miss them.  This speaks volumes to the hurting one and helps to activate healing.   The less you say the more alone we feel.

I remember in the early days, awaking to the breathless feeling and  anxiety of reminding myself my Daddy was truly gone.  Some days I preferred to stay in bed in tears, but life with a toddler forced me out of bed.  Slowly that acute pain lessens, but there are still days where I have to remind myself he is really gone.  Just the other day I was lifting weights at the gym and thought "I won't get to ever go to the gym again with my Daddy.  He's really gone." And the tightening in my chest and loss of breath returned just like the day after the funeral.  And some days you will still want to lay in bed no matter what life demands.  You will attempt to distract from the grief but then it will come at you swinging, and be so intense it will buckle your knees and be too overwhelming to ignore and you will have to succumb.  But that is not to say the acute pain does not become easier, it numbs and lessens and becomes more of an overarching ache.  I read once that grief is likened to phantom-limb pain, it is always there and you don't want it to leave because then you forget the missing body part.  I would agree, allowing the pain to survive in your heart keeps you tied to your lost loved one.   

Don't let anyone tell you how to handle your grief.  Let yourself experience it, allow yourself to be in the MUCK and tell your friends and family you need a day to pray, sleep, read, write, and just be.  Realize there will be days in which you get zero done.  Allow yourself to just be.  Grief comes in waves and you may find that what you thought would affect you doesn't, but other things bring back the brunt of it.  Anniversaries, dates, holidays can be brutal.  Don't fake your way through them, FEEL THEM. 

I remember the day that I finally released the anger that I had towards my Daddy's doctors for missing things.  I felt that they could have done so much better and I was angry.  The truth was that I was actually looking for someone to blame.   In a moment of clarity I realized that on the cross, Jesus Himself cried "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!" and I took a lesson from my Lord and did the same.  Humans are just that, HUMAN.  Once I admitted that my Daddy's death was all in God's timing and  there was nothing ANYONE could do I was free.  As I did, you may have to forgive them multiple times, and surrender the whole process to God over and over again.

Realize that grief takes a great deal of energy.  There were days where my fatigue was so intense emotionally and physically that I was merely surviving.  The first three months I truly felt like a zombie, merely existing to move through the motions.  Soon, I quickly began to beat myself up for not being the wife, mother, daughter and friend I so desired to be.  I no longer cared if my child ate purely organic food and there was a lot more trips through the drive-thru and boxed Mac-n-Cheese.  My usual hard-core runs and workouts were replaced by easy bike rides at the gym.  Support and  encouragement for my friends went by the  wayside.  I lacked the energy to play with my child.  I got really tired of trying to go to social events and act happy.  I just wanted to be sad.  So take it from me, just plan on letting go of high expectations you hold for yourself.  Don't worry that you don't have a list of Pinterest activities and supplies on hand for your child and instead stay in your jammies all day and let your kid watch the same movie an unspeakable number of times.   Let your friends know that you will attend playdates, events, activities if you are up to it and don't feel guilty or make excuses if you decline or cancel.  Tell your spouse that you may need some time off to write, sleep, cry, read, pray and schedule time to process.  See a grief counselor and consider it time for you.  If you need additional help, see your doctor.  Plan respite for yourself or send your littles  to a Mom's Day Out or preschool.  And DO NOT beat yourself up.  Cut yourself some slack.

Many times you may feel that you have regressed back to square one of your grief process.  Guess what?  This is normal and OK.  You will hit your knees and  beg God to take way the heart-ripping pain. You will long for heaven  like you never have before  and wonder how you will continue living without your loved one.  It is during the most broken, painful times that you will have to realize the process is one completely out of human control and you will again reach for God's embrace.  You must surrender and ask for healing.  And repeat.

Don't force yourself to do anything until you are ready and don't compare your grief with others.  When  you are ready, slowly re-emerge from your cocoon.  Return to your social life and experience your hobbies again. Pray about using your grief experience for something constructive.  Pray for opportunities that God may use you to help another hurting heart.  Keep your eyes open for someone looking for support and simply be there.  You now have a story and don't think for a second that God doesn't have someone in mind for you to share it with!   Ask God to show you the good that He planned to bring from the pain and embrace it!

Grief is the most isolating and individualizing experience of humanity and yet, it is the  most unifying all at once.  Everyone will experience it at some point in their lives.  Take comfort in knowing that Jesus grieved for his dear friend Lazarus before He brought him back to life!  
HE KNOWS YOUR PAIN.  When you feel alone rest comfortably in that promise.  Grief is love with no place to go and as long as you live you will love and ache for your lost one.

Thank you for allowing me to be transparent on my personal journey.  It is my hope that by sharing these lessons, God will help to heal another grieving heart.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

And then your knees buckle...

You seemingly traipse forward through this life, half convinced you are finally ok, and then, unknowingly, unsuspectingly, unexpectedly, it returns to sideswipe you, and suddenly you are thrust back into the deepest pit, spending the remainder of your day in bed, in tears again, sobbing as if today was the funeral, not 11 months and 1 week ago...

And you wonder what happened?  Just today you were "fine" and felt happy and joyful, pressing forth in Christmas activities and planning, trudging your way though the season.  You almost had yourself believing what you thought was a self-fufilling prophecy, that if you fake it you'll make it.

Subconsciously you decided that you wouldn't "go there" in your mind.  You wouldn't allow yourself to revisit the suffering of one year ago, that each and everytime you remembered a date or an experience you would put an immediate stop to it, and you had yourself convinced it was finally actually working...


You realized your birthday is coming and it was on your birthday last year that you heard the words "THE CANCER IS BACK." And then your brain returns to those final 2.5 weeks of his life and you let yourself go there, albeit slowly, and in an instant you are reliving the awfulness of the suffering.  Just the thought that he couldn't eat Thanksgiving dinner last year, because he had returned to being in his bed all the time, and we weren't sure why yet, we hadn't heard the bad news for the second time.  Turkey, and stuffing and mashed potatoes was the trigger this time.  The catalyst for the pain and angst of the grief flame flaring and burning bright again, and you are sent spiraling back into that dark place.

And you realize how lonely grief is.  Despite the empathy you receive from others, grief is isolating.  You are back on the island again, though you rationalize that you aren't, that other people get it, and they do, yet they don't and once again you are treading water out there in the ocean.  You realize you are afraid to open up, even to your husband, and you have yourself believing that no one cares anymore, and they are tired of hearing your woes.  You've even heard from those who have lost someone that a year is the turning point, and that time heals all wounds.  And you want to scream! And you wonder why that is not the case for your grief!  And what of those who hardly experience any grief at all?  Did they discover the magic ticket to escaping the most gut wrenching pain of mourning?  Or did they truly just not have a relationship so deep that grief was the only outlet for the love they felt?

And so you keep your mouth silent.  And people forget that like oil and water, the holidays and grief don't mix well.   And you try not to get swallowed up in it, and live alone in your quest to pretend you are ok.   You decide the best strategy is to be insanely busy and you try it and it works for awhile.  And as most plans do, that are not orchestrated by God, they fail and we are back at square one again.  And you wake up with that breathtaking anxiety you once had.  The kind that woke you up from dead sleep and left you gasping for air in the realization that he was really gone.  And in a blink of an eye, those moments are back once again.

Because that is just how Grief plays the game...

And you realize that the Holidays are the biggest suckage of your energy and emotionality.  He died ONE WEEK before Christmas last year.  And now, the  next two weeks of  THIS year are just taking me down those last two heartwrenching weeks of watching him fade away to nothing.   But perhaps by  keeping myself insanely busy with  the coming holiday season I am  doing myself a sincere disservice?  That perhaps the answer is to allow myself  to dig deep, hunker down and just muck around IN THE GRIEF.  To allow myself  to stay in it, to just be there, for a time, not forever, but for a time enough to experience it, and then move once again out of it and back into the world, never assuming that was the last visit, because true grief is never over.  Parts of it lessens truly, and part strengthens, but it is impossibly never ever over.

And you realize that you held on so deeply to that grief to hang on to the person you were grieving for.  And that allowing yourself to swim deep in that dark pit of grief allowed you to have some semblance of a connection with the departed.  And you believed that if you started to somehow lose your grip with grief, or if it somehow let you go back out into the world with some replacement, something even such as JOY, you would feel  guilty enough to return to the grief for the hope that you can again connect to your loved one...

"Grief is LOVE with no place to go"

And now as I spent the last 4 hours crying in such an unplanned plunge into the darkness, I poke my head out now and I realize that my  plans to attempt to avoid all this are thwarted by God Himself.   Not only does he want us to experience this wholly and fully,  but He uses our darkest times of grief to heal and strengthen us for His glory.   And He encourages us to revisit the muck, because it is during those bleakest of moments He does his very best work.  In the brokenness we become redeemed.  And our God, is in the weary business of redemption, yet He never grows tired of the work.  And it is ok to be in the pain, the muck, the deep, the dark of night.  Because soon, the sun will rise and with the morning comes the brightest light.

And Grief is the final act of Love you can give someone...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

December 9th...

One of the most precious nights of my life was sitting alone, in the hospital Hospice room, in the peace and quiet of his breath.  I fought the urge to constantly update friends and family on my phone, and eventually put the devices away and realized the gift I was being given.  I felt God whisper to my heart "This is a gift.  This precious night will be one you won't soon forget.  I'm giving you the gift of your dad and you must cherish it."  I sat in silence listening to his breath, which was deep and even, and peaceful still.  The clock quietly ticked and I snuggled in my pull-out couch and just watched my Daddy.  I picked up my journal and penned 6 pages, that I would read to him only 2 days later.  Soon, the gentle rhythm of him, lulled me to sleep.  It was one of my most precious nights on this earth...

A tribute

This is what I read at my Daddy's funeral.  It was taken and re-written from what I wrote to him while he was in Hospice.   There was so much more I could have said.  Oh my Daddy, this is the tip of the iceberg...

Dear Daddy,
I was honored and privileged to spend a night with you at the Hospital Hospice and much time alone at home.  I soaked you in, and your calm and quiet breaths were music to my soul.  It was my greatest honor and blessing to care for you in your final days.  I prayed that you would go easily and comfortably without pain or fear.    I prayed that you would have no regrets or sadness from this life, and as you left this world you would only know and feel the pure and deep love we have for you.   And when heaven’s gates opened wide, I prayed that Jesus’ face would be all you saw and all you ever needed and that you would swim in His love.   I knew that all your pain would evaporate and joy would envelope you!  And I told you that once you settle in you will turn around and there we’ll be, right behind you, in merely a nanosecond and until then your memory will be forever etched into our minds and hearts.  

Daddy, I will miss so many wonderful things about you!  I will miss your crooked sweet smile, your laugh, your garage tinkering, your piles of “Stuff”. I will miss your stories about growing up at Girard College, and all of your antics and pranks.   I will miss hearing of your travels while serving overseas.  I will miss going to the Y with you and hearing you say “Take your time, I’ll finish my work out and have a cup of coffee and wait for you.”  I’ll miss our trips to Big Lots, not shopping for anything in particular, just sharing our mutual love of a goodbargain.  I’ll miss how we both wore socks to bed even in summer with our cold feet and how I inherited your way of rubbing my feet together.  I’ll miss crawling in bed between you and mom even as an adult to chat late at night, or laying next to you in bed to catch an episode of “Pickers.”  I’ll miss your pinball machine fixing, eating Braums with you, the mints you handed out weekly at church and how you loved your “greenies.”  I’ll miss how you saved everything to recycle and add to your garden compost I’ll always remember our hike up Camelback Mountain in Phoenix and how many times you came to Arizona to help me, move me, bring me a car or drive me home from graduate school for Christmas.  I’ll remember how you came up to my sorority for Dad’s day and moved me to different colleges.  I’ll miss your precious bond with my daughter, how much she adores you and talked about you all the time even when we were apart.  Don’t worry, she will never not know you!  You being gone gives me a greater sense of urgency to teach her all about Jesus so she, too, can one day join us in heaven!
I’ll cherish the lessons you taught me, like strength through adversity, your commitment to family and friends and your church, your strong work ethic, your constant generosity and gift for servitude.  I’ll miss your brilliant engineering mind and all the silly little contraptions you designed and constructed around the house.  

I’ll so miss you calling me “Sis.” I can count on my right hand the number of times you actually said my name, but Sis was so comforting because it was just for me.  

But what will remain most vivid in my memory dear Daddy isthat at the age of 62, I witnessed Christ take reign of your heart.  In you I saw the most radically changed human being of my life.  We were saved close together, so I watched your faith grow and with it, so did mine.  You taught me well and because of you, my faith is strong.  I will miss your scribbled up sermon notes and verses falling out of your Bible, the way you pouredover the Word for hours on end and our many discussions.  Through this journey you developed a sincere love for others and a gentle spirit.  I loved watching a wonderful example of the change that Christ can make in a human being to transform him to be more like Himself.  

I will miss how much you encouraged me.  You supported all of my God-given passions and ministries.  You told me I musttravel to Israel even when others warned me it was too dangerous to go.  You supported Lee and I in our quest to adopta child saying we must do what God called us to do!  (my one regret is that you will not meet your Ethiopian grandson this side of heaven.)

Oh my daddy, you fought so hard and though you have lost this battle, Jesus has won the WAR!  By now you are in the loving arms of your Savior and have heard Him utter “Well done my good and faithful servant” and your body is new, whole and free of pain and suffering!  
Jesus simply could not bear to be away from you any longer.  You are so loved and will be missed by so many.  I am so grateful that we were able to hold your hand until Jesus took it from us and walked you to your true home! I love you my precious little Daddy!  I cannot wait to one day be reunited!

You can now proudly proclaim as it states in 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Coming Home Again

My mom asked me if I didn't want to come home anymore...because it had been 9 months since I'd come, and the last time was when we lost him...Of course, consciously I did and just hadn't found a good time to come, not to mention the astronomical prices of plane tickets, but maybe, deep down, subconsciously, I had avoided the trip.

About a week before I left, I began to think about it.  How different it would be.  That HE would not be there.  That he would not be waiting for me at the end of the ramp at the aiport, lifting my too-heavy, overstuffed bag into the back of their Camry.  That we wouldn't go to the Y together, or chat over breakfast.  That he wouldn't be out tinkering in his garage when we returned from lunch or shopping.  That we wouldn't watch "Pickers" together and I wouldn't stay up late chatting in their bed.

Those thoughts haunted me before the trip, but they paled in comparison to all of the small reminders that would floor me.  Even traveling up to Jewell county to see his grave didn't phase me.  Not one tear was shed there.  Perhaps because, to me that grave is irrelevant, other than a special marker to remind us, I know that he does not reside there, but is in heaven.

It was the precious inquiries of my 2 year old, time and time and time again, "Where's Grampy?" that brought the tears.  She was reminded of him, being in that place, even though he was gone before she turned 2, she remembered.  Looking at his picture on the wall one day she said "Grampy, wanna go swing?"  Several times while swinging she pointed to the bedroom window where he spent his final days in the guest room, specifically chosen so that we could raise his bed high enough to watch his precious girls swinging.  She said "Grampy is sleeping in there.  I'll see him in a little bit."  At church she even asked Pastor Dave "Hey! Where's Grampy?"  And we were taken aback that a two and a half year old would know that Grampy's presence was always strong at that church.  And still,  every time she would swing, she would say "Grampy say 'Booga Booga'!" When we went to the zoo, she said "I want Grampy to go to the zoo!  Where's Grampy?"  The fact that the last time we went to their zoo she was only 18 months old and Grampy went with us and she remembered can only be explained as a blessing from God.  Those things crushed me.  And blessed me.  The fact that God had answered my prayers about her having her own personal memories of him, memories I hadn't told her or reminded her of through pictures or videos.  

But it was the other reminders that send my knees quivering.  The top of his dresser, empty.  No more chapstick or loose change in the tray, or lotion, or hairbrush, or random things he took from his pockets.  All gone.  And his closet, empty of his clothes, all gone, his desk and piles of stuff totally cleaned off and gone, his writing on the dry erase white board in the garage, left there, unerased, his tools and organized drawers of nails and screws, still there.  Those small and simple reminders of him
 were the most excruciating.

I always love going home, I look forward to it each and everytime.  This time, however, there was a clear and tangible physical void in our home.  There was a distinct missing piece, one that I don't suspect will ever be unfelt...I suppose in time the going home will get easier, as has grief at almost 10 months of him being gone, but for now it was so painful.

I broke down to Mom one night.  I hadn't suspected I'd have such a terrible time with it, but being there was PAINFUL, and I was ready to go back "home" to Utah, before I usually am.  I realized it was a roller coaster ride of emotions.  Being away, I didn't see the day to day of his dying, I called in for a quick update from mom, but until I got back there in December, I just didn't know.  Being home again was transporting myself back into the end, the hospice, the pain, the agony of knowing what we were about to walk through and knowing I couldn't do it!  Being home again brought it all back again, and it was fresh and vivid again.  In Utah I could choose to stop my brain from traveling back to that dark time, but in Kansas, reliving it was unavoidable.

And so, I'm back to my life and the reality that comes with it, and I can again sweep the horror under the rug for a time.  I know my Daddy wouldn't want home to hold terrible memories, and so I choose to focus on only the good times, and picture him tinkering in the garage, and going to get ice cream, and recycling the bulletins at church, and hanging out and chatting, and being my dad.  What I wouldn't give to have one  hour with him, and to hug him a few more times.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'll see you in the 'morrow...

It is not uncommon for Macie to wonder where Grampy is during our frequent Skype sessions with Grammy.  He would come downstairs and say "HI Macie." (I can still hear his voice, a blessing I'm thanking Jesus for...)

The other day was different.  She had been talking to Grammy for awhile and then suddenly she said, with a wrinkled brow, "Hey Grammy!  Where's Grampy???"  Grammy groaned and responded with "Oh sweetie, Grampy isn't here."  Macie then said "Grampy not der.  It's ok Grammy.  I see him in a 'morrow.  I see him in a 'ittle bit."  

It broke our hearts.  Truly heartwrenching pain that I hadn't felt so strongly in awhile.  I reminded her that Grampy is with Jesus.  

So sad, but so indescribably wise.  It's so painful to mourn and grieve the memories we'll miss with him on this earth.  Yet, there is the hope of heaven.  Never in my life have I longed to be in heaven as much as I do now.  Never have I prayed Jesus to return faster than now.  I've never had a big enough reason to long for the freedom of heaven.  And after watching the suffering of a wonderful soul in a failing body, I see the reward that heaven is.

And so they say, "A day is but a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day in heaven."

And so, this little one is right.  We'll be see you in a 'morrow Grampy/Daddy.  We'll see you in a 'ittle bit.

We love you.