There may not be enough tissues for me to complete this post as I’ve been stuffing the tears away for a moment such as this. A quiet moment, alone in the privacy of my home comes about rarely. I haven’t been able to write since my dad unexpectedly died, mostly because I typically write in public spaces like Starbucks, not really the place to sit and sob-type one’s heart. (Though that’s how this piece was concluded.)
Thirty-three days ago I was herding my kids into the car so we wouldn’t be late for sports camp. Slipped neatly into my pocket my phone was completely undetected as we cruised through the usual morning preparations with the ringer off.
No notification beeps.
No vibration effects.
Going through the checklist to leave the driveway I noticed my phone glowing on the console.
With one leg in real estate I get that all the time. But the car was shockingly quiet so I decided to listen to the message as we made the right turn out of our neighborhood on schedule to deliver my son to sports camp on time.
“Julie, you need to call your mom right away.”
THAT was the extent of the message. The voice distantly familiar but not recognizable, my heart froze.
Instantly my thumb touched the words call back. The deliberate and controlled voice in the message couldn’t fool my heart. I knew I wouldn’t want to know what turn my life was about to make.
“You need to go to your mom’s house right away…”
“Something happened to your dad….“
“The firefighters and ambulance are working on him….”
“She’ll take your son to his sports camp for you.”
Her exact words I can’t recall. If you’ve received this call, you know time freezes and life blurs. I turned to head home fully away I sacrificed precious moments, but acutely aware I couldn’t manage our four-year old daughter if I needed to say goodbye to the greatest man I have ever known.
“You are to unbuckle and go immediately
into the house as fast as you can.”
“Go to daddy and tell him you are home.”
For all the times we’ve had to practice following directions, this was the moment that most mattered. Pulling up, garage door rolling back, our stunned daughter did exactly as I asked. Catching a glimpse of her with my husband I sped off with my son, again giving directions, though now through tears.
Another phone call as I crossed the intersection, the seven minutes of distance between our homes never seemed farther. Illegally I put the phone to my ear, uncertain I wanted my son to be privy to details in that moment.
“It’s not good. They’re still working on your dad. When you get here you need to park around the corner, you don’t want Will to see this.” My sister-in-law was forcefully composed only revealing what I most dreaded.
There wasn’t a quivering lip to lead into a succession of tears; the sobs came like a flood breaking wide open. The realist and optimist in my heart battled, one for hope, the other for protection.
Instructions to my son began…
“Sweetie, a person I’ve known my whole life is going to take you to sports camp today.
I trust her completely and she’ll keep you safe. You are to….”
…interrupted by another call.
“What’s going on?”
His voice a concoction of concern, bewilderment and annoyance.
“My dad……..something happened to my dad….”
“What happened to your dad?”
Eyelids nearly puffed shut in the short hundred and eighty seconds I realized the facts of the matter and overwhelmed by heavy sobs I grasped for composure. A clearly as I could manage, “My dad, he’s no more. He is no more.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You need have someone watch Simone and get to my parents house as fast as you can.”
Abruptly, I hung up, knowing full well miscommunication would lead to unnecessary arguing my heart couldn’t manage.
“Mom, is Papa dead?” I nearly forgot the six-year old ears occupying my backseat. My mission wasn’t sports camp now, it was to get to my dad’s side.
How do you tell the truth to a child? How do you simply say, “Yes”?
You just do….or don’t.
Maternal calmness overrode the crushed little girl in my heart, “I’m not sure honey. When we arrive, there are going to be a lot of fire trucks and an ambulance. They’re doing everything they can to help Papa. But God is in control and we need to pray.”
Those prayers we pray in the times of crisis, through tears and heavy hearts leave a forever etch.
“Dear Lord, You alone are in control. Please help the medics help Papa. Please comfort Papa.” Simply all my heart and mouth could manage.
Turning the corner the lights of the red fire engine were met by my parents neighbor and long-time family friend. Grabbing his booster seat our son went confidently away in her tender care. They’ve only been neighbors for a couple of years, that’s a couple years I know God was carefully preparing for this moment.
Bracing myself, hoping for a miracle I rounded the corner of the fire truck. Medics were putting equipment away. But even if they were still working on his body, the moment my eyes met his forever frozen blue eyes I knew. The lively man I adored was pale, his body stiff, formed like a mannequin.
The medics moved aside allowing me space to be near. I hugged the body that my dad once occupied and gently put my head to his chest like so many other times over the past thirty-eight years. The little girl couldn’t let go of her daddy; the woman couldn’t let go of her anchor, guide and friend.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s not supposed to be like this.” Her sobs, her gripping maternal hug penetrated my soul. My sister-in-law was right. It isn’t supposed to be like this. God didn’t design us to bear death, the grief of death.
My mom had been occupied with close friends when I stepped on the scene, but now we met. Holding each other tightly her voice ached, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do now?”
That’s how a lot of people are feeling right now. It doesn’t take the death of a cherished loved one to face grief. A job loss, a divided church, a prodigal child, another difficult year of barely making ends meet. The distance to “What are we going to do now?” is a very short length. Usually we see the unfinished product of our struggle, but through my dad’s death, it’s as if a scroll of answers has been unrolling before me.
I’ve created a new section to Peacequility title Grief. As I journey through down the path of death, God is showing me life, stirring hope and giving a song to my sadness. Just as Christ carried the cross, I see how He is carrying me now. And I am grateful I don’t need to pick myself up by the ol’ bootstraps and carry on. I’m grateful to be supported by His unfailing care. Are you there? Are you resting in His care in the midst of a crazy world? Because though you may not believe or feel it, He is carrying you in this very moment.