I imagine the time has to come, at least once, in the life of any person who professes that Jesus was Who He said He was and is Who He says He is. It’s the time when the Theology you’ve been studying and thinking and believing and writing about and talking about has to either be the Truth you cling to in the fire, in the storm, or else it becomes the curtain that gets pulled back to reveal a poor, tired soul whose only hope was placed firmly in something akin to smoke and mirrors.
My Dad meant a lot to me. And in our last few years together, I felt like I was getting to know a man I’d never really been acquainted with. Sure, I have great memories from my childhood, of a Dad who loved his Miller Light with a slice of lime, would rather have been at the beach than anywhere else, who sang along, just a little, to Beach Music on the radio and wore RayBan Wayfarers long before they a throwback making a comeback.
I also remember a Dad who could get pretty angry pretty quickly. Who I was a little scared of. Who sent my childhood best bud running home for supper when we heard his car coming up the driveway. I think I hear my Mom calling…
But the man I met when I came back to North Carolina was not exactly the same man. This was the Dad who held onto a pen from the days when I worked at a Pawn Shop so that he could stick it in my Christmas card one year, a card filled with life-giving words about my ability with words, his belief that I would write words that would matter. He became a cheerleader, an advocate, an encourager.
And one hot summer day when we were overwhelmingly busy with trying to start our photography business, trying so hard to get things off the ground, juggling life and kids and transition, I heard a big noise, and looked out the window to see that my Dad had towed his lawnmower over to our house — we didn’t have one yet — and there he was, in the heat of the day, riding his lawnmower back and forth to cut our grass for us.
The Renaissance Man was cutting my grass. He was a different Dad. I loved him more than ever before.
And that last day came, when he bounced the baby on his lap while I typed away at the keys of the computer for him. And I can’t explain it, but my heart was so happy that day. And I told him I loved him and he left and I remember thinking about walking outside just to tell him again how much I loved him, how thankful I was for him. I sure do wish I had.
Stuff was just happy. I was so thankful.
HH came home that evening, and I looked around our mess-of-a-house with a smile. And, beaming, I said something like this: “Even though our house is a mess, and Blakey had a poop accident that went everywhere, and I don’t like where we live, and everything feels crazy and today was really frustrating, I think I’m finally content. I think I’ve finally found contentment.”
And four hours later, while we sat and ate some ice cream together, children asleep down the hall, my phone rang with the news.
It was the beginning of the end.
So the question has to be asked. The Why question.
Why my Dad?
Why when I think I’ve finally learned contentment, finally discovered so much peace and joy nestled inside a heart so grateful for the love and support of being near my Mom and Dad again?
If God is X then Why?
And this is where the testing happens, where you find out if that faith you’re claiming to hold onto gets tossed in the fire, and you find out whether or not it’s fireproof.
My endeavor for the week in the hospital was to stay fully present. To honor my Dad by not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, staying present in everything that was happening. Not to let go of hope if there was hope to hold onto. Not to check out at the register when I was still supposed to be on Aisle 3.
My best efforts were symbolic gestures — the things that work in my mind, that make sense to me, that say “I’m still here” inside my head. I wore a purple dress on the day we said goodbye. I wore it again to the funeral. I brought yellow flowers to the hospital that day. I made sure I got the chance to stroke his head one more time. I spent ages trying to make choices about the funeral service.
I sensed an abiding Presence through it all. I might do my best to try to explain that another day.
Once the week was finished, the funeral and the celebration of life all gone, I began to face reality without my Dad. And the real testing began.
My longwinded explanation of how I’m handling the “Why” might take a bit, so bear with me…
To be continued with love,
Has life ever forced you to find a Z at the end of a big Y? Do you think you managed to find one?