“Will you tell me the story of how Papa died?”
Most often the answer is yes, and often through tears, I tell the story over and over again to the captive audience our two small children create. Because they are young the story is succinct, still difficult to relay on the best of days.
Sometimes, the honest answer is a humble no. And being an over-communicator, I explain my heart is too sad to tell the story again at the moment.
They understand, of any “no” they have received, they have yet urged or pressured me into a “yes”.
The first time they asked, I was unsure how to answer, but the initial blow death wields fades (not really) enough for a timeline to be created and a story of hope to be woven. But what happens with the main living character asks to hear the story of her life?
As I sat on the back porch beside my mom while the kids swam with voracious energy and life, she asked me, “So what is the story you tell them?”
I became nervous. How would she react? What would she think of my version, a jambalaya of voices? The story has been shaped with the various details family members and friends on the scene have given. Cautiously, I asked, “Do you really want to hear it?”
“Yes. It would be interesting.”
And so I bravely began to tell my widowed mother the story in the same way I tell our children…
The night before Papa died, he called one of his best friends. They didn’t usually call each other at night, but Papa needed trusted knowledgeable help solving a problem on a house he was selling. The details of their conversation I don’t recall, but his friend was surprised and touched by the call and pleasantly unusual way Papa said goodbye.
Papa then called another client he had been working with and talked business as usual. Because that’s what Papa did.
Life was normal.
The next morning he woke and went to the storage unit. When he finished he called Micah to see if she still wanted him to pick up a shepherd’s rod at the hardware store for her garden. God was so good to let Micah talk with Papa one last time. With a declined offer for the shepherd hook, Papa headed home. What a blessing that Papa didn’t collapse at the storage unit! Who knows when Papa would have been discovered or received help if he had collapsed there! God is so good to have brought him safely home.
Micah heard the garage door open, but he didn’t come inside. After a short bit she went out front and came across his body. He had collapsed in the garden and was unconscious.
She hollered for help and blessed neighbors came rushing to help. One neighbor breathed for Papa while another called 911 and us.
The emergency crews came as fast as they could and did everything they could to help bring Papa back to life. But God was ready to take Papa home to heaven. No matter what they did, God had just the right moment for Papa to head home. He has just the right moment for each of us.
God was with Papa the entire time so Papa didn’t need to be afraid. Papa loved Jesus with all his heart, so we know Papa is in heaven and we’ll see him again if we ask God for forgiveness and receive Jesus as our rescuer.
I continually tell them the story of how Papa died because I believe it’s part of their grieving process. They are attempting to reconcile life and the unjustness of death, because death isn’t fair and we weren’t created with the intention of engaging death. There’s a certain freedom that comes with knowing we don’t have the capacity to get this grief business right, even more that we don’t have to. Knowing how to process something we weren’t created to understand is asking the impossible apart from God. A deep sigh of freedom to walk this journey day by day with God’s help.
But maybe I continually tell them the story because it’s good for my heart and nurturing to my soul. Reminding myself of who my dad was and how he is still impacting my life though dead. The task of aiding children through grief is no joke, but they’re a healing help.
How this story and the interactions we have circling life and death will shaper their lives, I’m unsure. I pray their hearts are drawn closer to our Savior Jesus and Lord who helps us. What about you? You’ve probably experienced death. Have you held a grudge against God, certain life would be better if that life was spared or though the heart wrenching experience have you fully trusted God’s timing?