The Truth of Grief (Part 2)

Yesterday the boys and I were on our way to a store and one of the songs from my dad’s services began playing. Sweet Hour of Prayer. I used to love that song. Now it brings bitter sweetness.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne –
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

Immediately my brain time-traveled right back to the viewing and funeral. (Nearly seventeen months ago – what?!) Vivid images of the church, the flowers, the people and the casket came to the forefront of my mind. Painful memories began to play like a movie reel in my head. Dad’s funeral. Dad had a funeral. Dad is gone. These phrases sabotaged the images in my head. It just seems impossible. Fresh feelings of shock, overwhelming sorrow, a sense of directionless in my loss, extreme sadness for my mom.

I can’t go there. It’s just too hard. I mean, he’s not here anymore. He’ll never be here. I’ll never see him again, at least not in the father role which I knew and loved. When I see him again, he will not know me as his daughter. I will not recognize him as my father. He will be a Brother in Christ, but not my daddy – the first man who held me in his arms and the first man I ever loved. I won’t be able to sit with him and talk about my boys; the things they did while he was gone; the young men they became. I can’t share with him the things he would’ve loved and appreciated here on earth.

And then I get slightly angry. God, why have You taken him from me? It’s not even that I need him anymore – as I originally thought – it’s that I want him here. I miss him.

It’s easier to function in life by stowing away the thoughts and feelings related to my dad’s death; stuffing it down deep and rarely allowing it to surface (at least not enough to cause much of a painful response). I don’t want to think about the funeral and the casket. I don’t want to think about him lying in the ground…gone, waiting for time to desecrate his body. I don’t want to think about the huge hole that can never be filled and all the precious moments we’re missing out on. I don’t want to think about the days in the hospital nor the minutes that passed as we hung on his last breaths. I don’t want to feel the extreme sadness. I don’t want to feel the stab as his death penetrated my heart (I still know exactly how it felt), nor do I want to feel the continual ache which now lingers. I don’t want to allow my mind to remember because it still really hurts.

I get it – others don’t know what to say. They don’t know where I am in my grief; because at a certain point the grief is only felt deep inside the heart and so on the outside I may look fine. Well, it still hurts.

Those little reminders. Seeing his truck pulling a trailer filled with brush and branches, reminds me of a once familiar sight as he was so often seen hauling who-knows-what; hearing the news that one of his grandsons just started Bible School (which would’ve warmed his heart); hearing how God’s using each of us for His glory; going with us to the PA Grand Canyon, which is a place I’ve never, until this year, visited without him; witnessing the 76% eclipse – though we didn’t get to see too much with the naked eye – it was still a big event which he wasn’t part of. New things to happen to our family can’t be shared.

I had been busy enough lately to keep my thoughts regarding my dad light and pleasant – purposely reflecting on the positive, but my son going to school seems to have made it extremely difficult to bury my heartache. I can’t help as my thoughts seem to drift deep. Deep into the trench of my wound, where the pain is still raw with sorrowful ooze. The pain seeps out of my heart and often floods from my eyes.

When your heart aches and nothing can satisfy; when you miss someone but nothing can bring them back; when you need someone and no one else suffices; when you miss his comfort, advice and big bear hugs; when you just miss your dad.

As life carries on without someone, so does the pain of their departure. It’s there…always.

There’s something about the first year. There’s a countdown. Each month becomes a marker of time. You hang on each day, week and month as the feelings are new and fresh in your mind. But once past the first year, it’s like the clock disappears. No longer are you hanging on each day, not sure what to expect. You’ve been here before. No holiday, special occasion, activity or birthday is new anymore. The weeks and months start to weave together. Each month’s anniversary day slides on by as does any other day. Eventually you start to wonder how many months it’s been. And soon the months become years (or so I imagine).

And perhaps, if I didn’t just send my firstborn off into the world by himself (yes, that’s how I see it!) a few weeks ago, then maybe I would be speaking a different story. But I did and it’s harder than I imagined. Grief twofold.

Sending my son off to school – though a significantly lesser form of loss – has caused a whirlwind of grief emotions. It has caused every memory and emotion to resurface, with a surprising punch of rawness. I really didn’t expect it. It makes me feel alone. It makes me withdrawal because no one understands.

I see a lot of parents sharing pictures of their children going off to school and I think, how can they seem so happy about it? While I sit there struggling as I watch a piece of my heart ride off in the school bus. He rides off somewhere into the unknown, where I can’t see him and I can’t care for him or protect him. My heart aches. I watch my son sprint into my arms every afternoon when he gets off the bus and I receive the biggest, most intense hug I’ve ever gotten. I witness some unexpected tears from a child who holds himself together better than I do and I realize he’s struggling too.

And so…life goes on, but the pain still lingers.