I woke up early this morning as I normally do and walked into my nearly-finished, newly-remodeled kitchen to make coffee for the first time. As I waited for my coffee to brew, I smiled as I looked down at the beautiful granite-looking countertops and appreciated all the hard work and love my husband put into this kitchen.
I took my coffee cup and sat it down in front of my laptop. There in front of me read, April 20, 2018. To some, that date means nothing. To me, however, it marks the most difficult day of my life. The day I said goodbye to my dad.
This blog has not come easy. It was hard for me to write what I felt, as my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. So much is going on in my life right now. So many struggles, stress and emotions. This blog is long (sorry!) and it’s transparent, but here goes:
On March 14th I started writing: A year ago I could’ve watched the movie of my dad’s time in the hospital as if it were in vivid color. Perhaps even 3-D. But as another year has nearly passed, it’s as if a very thin film has been placed over the screen. A little less vivid. A little less raw. And I’m sitting a little further away from the movie screen this year.
I imagine as the years go by a new layer of film will be placed on top of my memories as it grows more and more distant into the past.
Yes, time lessens the rawness and intensity, but there’s still heartache.
On March 21st, two years ago…dad went to the ER, never to return home. For God called him Home. Two years. Seems just a short time ago.
Then things changed.
On April 2nd, my grandma was carried Home as a beautiful blanket of snow fell on the bare earth. She so loved snow. It’s not the same as losing my dad, but as I sorrow for my grandma I again, sorrow for my dad. It floods my heart with fresh ache. It floods my mind with that which had become less anguishing.
The tears were further apart. There was less crying over my dad. The grief filter started to release its foggy layer from my eyes. There was more enjoyment over life itself and I realized the wound was beginning to heal. There was scar tissue forming over the huge gouge in my heart until……I lost someone else I loved. It felt like a knife was taken to my healing wound, digging and prodding until the wound was raw again. It reminded me of the previous stabbing. Things I thought were in the past, things I thought I had worked through, resurfaced again. The shock of the death and the deep sorrow slightly released its gripping intensity as I allowed life to carry me on again. But now my heart aches doubly. It aches for the first loss and it aches for the new loss.
When Dad first died it was in the forefront of my mind. I could not help it. Grief pulsated through every single vein in my body from my bleeding heart. Hemorrhaging into my mind, stinging and blinding my eyes. But with time, it lifted from my eyes; the main arteries began to calm, but still the small veins slightly pulsated. I’m not sure if it will ever leave my body…how can it? The person I’m grieving most was so dear to my heart. He was my daddy. How can the grief fully leave? How can those deep connections and precious memories just wisp away with time?
But it’s good.
Death is a good reminder of our eternity: from what we could be or are being saved, of what we’re going to experience once we leave this earth, that we have a future with our Lord, that we must live each day for the purpose and glory of God. Our consolation comes from knowing the purest joy and delight that awaits those who trust in Jesus as they see Him face-to-face. He rejoices when another child of His is Home. It’s easy to start walking with your head down, self-absorbed in your own little life. Death forces your head up. It forces you to remember the reason we’re all here and what we’re living for. It forces your head-down perspective to change to a head-up, eternity perspective.
And I have faith, though smothered in sorrow and heartache, that His purpose carries on. I do not grieve as one who has no hope, for my loved ones are with my Risen Lord and Savior and I shall see them again!
On April 15th I wrote: Where am I emotionally? Hiding. Ignoring. I’m not thinking about it. I’ve been busy with the kitchen and I’ve just pushed it down deep within.
It’ll come rushing back and it’ll be strong, knocking me off my feet and flooding my eyes, temporarily paralyzing me with its engulfing grip. And then it’ll release. Leaving me with grief- whiplash, as if I just stepped off the wildest ride. That’s grief. It’s a ride of your life. The ups. The downs. Never knowing what might bring sadness or memories. Sometimes completely overcome by a huge wave of grief and other times riding the tide with pure joy, like there is no sadness. It changes. Busyness fools you into thinking you’re okay. And then in the calm, your mind reels. Your emotions spin out of control. And you’re laying in a heap of fresh tears.
But God knows it all.
Grief is intense. No one can escape it. No one slips through life untouched. David wrote that God is near the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18) and God heals the brokenhearted (Ps 147:3).
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. Psalm 6:6
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God My times are in Your hand;” Psalm 31:9-10,14-15
But David also wrote:
You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
His perspective was despite his tragedy and hardships. Not only when the going was easy and when the waves stopped crashing. Things of this life will pass away. People we love will pass away. Limitations will be put upon us. Hardships and distractions, we will encounter, but in His presence there is always joy and pleasure.
David was struggling, yet he didn’t despair alone; he cried out to God over and over again. It didn’t take the heartache away, but it gave him hope through it.
But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill. Psalm 3:3-4
We will never be free of hardships and sorrow on this side of heaven. But where do we go during the hardships? Do we try to rescue and relieve ourselves? Or do we call upon the Name of the Lord?
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
My emotions continued to barrel downhill. I had no idea how I felt. I was emotionally and physically a mess.
We decided in March to replace our kitchen cabinets, floors and to re-paint the walls, however it became quite apparent a total room-gutting was our only option. Bare concrete floor and wires strung along the studded walls. It has been quite a journey! Not only am I dealing with the grief of losing my dad and the two-year anniversary quickly approaching, but new grief from losing the only grandmother I ever knew (just 18 days shy of the anniversary of my dad’s death). And now a kitchen remodel. And a son who struggles through big changes like these. And realizing my physical limitations with an in-the-process-of-being-officially-diagnosed disease(s), as I’ve been suffering due to the extra work of this remodel.
My dad was a carpenter and he would’ve loved to have been part of our kitchen remodel. I have cried so much this past month. I have been irritable and frustrated with the stress of the upheaval in our house. I have been exhausted, as has my husband who has been working a full-time job (with overtime) in addition to the work involved in this remodel.
I’ve been forced to accept a dirty and disorganized house because it is now a construction zone. We’ve seen an expected smaller job turn into a big one. We’ve used more plastic utensils and paper plates than I can count. We’ve turned a blind eye to the amount of tv and tablet time our boys have had. We’ve been in survival mode.
But God gives grace.
When you go to look at kitchen cabinets and the man says his wife accidentally put the wrong price, but he honors it anyway and it saves you sixty percent of the asking price; when you go to check out and the cost for an item turns out to be only a quarter of the price on the tag; when they don’t have the light fixture you wanted but you find another that’s much less; when you are blessed by meals from your church family that actually carries you over most of the month; when you are shown generosity and kindness that can only come from God from the blessed hands of those around you, you realize that God knows what you need—even in a kitchen remodel—and there is grace abound!
On April 19th I wrote: I know what it is. It’s not that I’m numb. It’s that I don’t want to go there. I allowed myself for a second to think about where Dad would’ve been right now, two years ago. This would’ve been his last full day alive. This would’ve been the day Grandma and Grandpa would’ve seen him briefly, for the last time. (And now she is with him at the feet of Jesus.)
I don’t want to go back to the Intensive Care room to see my dad laying there. All hooked up. So weak. Struggling to hang on. Because the fresh grief of my grandma’s passing makes this two-year anniversary so much harder.
It still hurts. And I don’t want it to hurt.
The sting isn’t quite as great as it once was, yet because of my grandma’s recent death, it has creeped slightly closer in my horizon.
Death—it’s incredibly difficult. Its lasting effects are unpredictable. Forever. Up and down. It’s probably one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through. And yet I have other things too on my plate. My own physical struggles. Watching my child struggle.
I feel so guarded this morning. Not wanting to feel too deeply. Afraid to go there. But my mind just can’t help itself.
I should have some great insight or comfort for those walking a similar path, but I have only my path, my reality, my heartache to share. But, if there is one verse these past two years that I have laid everything on—my sorrow, my physical struggles, my son’s struggles, my questions about God’s will—it is:
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
(For more on this verse, read A Gentle Hand.)