There, with the cool autumn breeze shooing the first fallen leaves along as the moon rose, my husband held me snug in his arms. It was that stand-back-and-check-it-out moment as we admired the beauty of salad greens, kale and cauliflower looking chic in their new five-by-four home.
Like most parents, we neglect taking time for the you-and-me we committed to be, but on this evening, we put the kids to bed an hour early (you can imagine how my day had been) and did something for us. Though the sun was already melting orange into the horizon we carried the tender vegetable plants to the raised boxes he and our son built the weekend before.
Beneath a sliver of the moon my cheeks felt cool as I brushed the tears aside as best I could. It seems an impossible wish to get through a day without my broken heart pouring out of my tear ducts. The daily realization that the single most influential person in my life, my dad, will never be here to share the inconsequential moments that compose life continues to catch me by surprise and leaves me in a puddle of heartbroken disappointment and sadness.
Now, before the planter boxes trimmed with brussel sprouts and broccoli ready to plant, I imagine the next afternoon my dad smoothly pulling along our curb in his iconic car donning his once trendy sunglasses only he could pull off. I hear his gentle enthusiastic voice, “It’s commin’ along” and when he left, he’d likely add, “It’s looking good!”
Because he had a special way of speaking truth and life into this little girl’s heart, my dad’s absence leaves the deepest void I’ve ever experienced. He was a rare fill-your-tank person. Now that he is dead, I’m running on empty and heaven seems too far away.
Loss is not a foreign concept to me, but past losses have always offered a tangible hope. The hope of doctors mending my sick body, the hope of being able to bear another healthy child despite multiple miscarriages, even in the face of divorce, I had the hope of living out God’s plan for my life. In those times, grieving was but for an amount of time I felt I could wait out.
When the hope of meeting-up with my dad in heaven hinges on my death, of being separated from my husband and children, it’s like opening a large snack bag to find a ton of air and a few crackers. Not. much. there.
Everyone I know would rightly argue that I have reason to hope because I know I will meet him again, I know this so well it sounds like the blah-blah-blah of a Charlie Brown character. There is so much life I expected and desired to share with my dad the heartache is hard to escape because when you share life with the rare person you deeply appreciate and enjoy there’s no “win” this side of heaven.
And I’m not alone.
I don’t know an adult who hasn’t been backed into the corner of despair at one point or another.
Normally I would have the scaffolding of a plan already in motion, but the type-A in me has succumbed to the fact I have no control over heartache or healing.
Oddly, I’m okay with that.
I don’t have to run from the pain. I don’t have to fill my schedule to occupy time or be in constant motion to prevent a moment from opening. I can just be.
We weren’t designed to process death and there isn’t an update we can install that will change our ability, but through my dad’s death I have found a new hope in God’s love.
We read about God’s love for us, how he knitted each of us in our mother’s wombs, how he knows the number of hairs on our head…we read and know in our heads we are loved. We have head knowledge that God sent his one and only son to earth, to suffer and die for you and me that we would have the opportunity to be redeemed and presented holy before God. These things we know so well, but as I wrote before, I don’t want to die and leave family behind, but I don’t like living with the sorrow of my dad missing either. Through perfect love, God was willing to bear sorrow and Jesus was willing to endure suffering and death for you and me. That’s love.
First world people tend to run from any sort of sorrow or suffering often viewing it as a problem, as if it’s a byproduct of failure and something they need to “fix”. But God defines sorrow and suffering as an opportunity for him to repurpose the decaying parts of our soul. Yes, it’s painful, more-so when we’re not in control, but as we pray and draw near to God, as Jesus did, we give way to God’s glorious plan shining through our lives. While my heart will be bandaged for however long it takes, I find rest in awe of God’s love for us.