It’s a Monday afternoon, four years to the day after I watched my Dad take his last breaths on earth. There’s a baby he never met watching Little Einsteins from the vantage point of her comfy high chair in the next room. Her older sister dances on either side of her — the four month old that was a beautiful altar, a place where I met grace and thanked Jesus daily in the midst of loss — she’s four years old now. Watching, dancing and drawing pictures of unicorns. Simultaneously. Her wispy blonde hair stretches past her waist and what a thought it is that she’s lost two grandpas in her four short years.
Once upon a time, my Dad stuck a pen in a Christmas card for me. Years before I’d ever written a blog post or much of anything besides papers for grades and a single short story for the university literary magazine, he wrote in that card that my words would help others — and me at the same time. The pen has long since disappeared, but the words etched something into my heart I don’t think I’ll ever lose.
What a remarkable thing it is for a parent to see something in a child — even when a child doesn’t see it.
Around these parts, winter gave way to an early spring that dissolved back into a flurry of late snow and cold temperatures. I can’t see the wind outside, but I can see the trees moving.
What can I say today that I couldn’t say four years ago? I can’t help thinking if he wanted me to do one thing today, writing words would be it. On the anniversary of such a hard time what words do I have to help others — and maybe myself at the same time?
Well friends, this is what I’ve got to offer on this windy Monday evening, offered with a prayer that they do help…
Two life-changing truths have changed my soul as I’ve walked the road of loss these four years. Simply put:
If you’re looking for reasons to feel sad, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to give thanks, you’ll find them.
I guess sooner or later, we tend to find what we’re looking for.
If you want to count all the ways you’ve been cheated, all the things you missed out on, and all the ways other people got a better deal and are playing a better hand than you, you’ll find reasons to count and keep right on counting. You might even write a list long enough to fill up a spiral-bound five-subject notebook. And then you can go back to the store for another.
But let me warn you: that road is likely to take you places you don’t want to go.
It’s been said a hundred thousand times in a hundred thousand ways, but whichever way you choose to say it, it comes down to the same simple truth: Comparison is the thief of joy.
I could sit on the couch today — or any day — and count the ways I feel cheated because they still have their Dad around and I don’t.
Or because I wasn’t here for the majority of his last decade on earth.
Or because there was a lot I still wanted to sort out, understand and put together about that Renaissance Man, my Dad.
If you’re looking for reasons to feel like you got the short end of the stick, my friend, hear me: you. will. find them.
But when it all shook out and those yellow flowers were laid on that coffin and all was said and done? I can only point to Jesus and give thanks that I know how to point to Jesus and give thanks.
That day I started counting up: Eighteen Months I was back in my hometown seeing my Dad almost every day.
Two countries my Dad stamped his passport in, when he traveled halfway around the world to see me and to meet his grandchildren.
Three children that call me Mama were held in his arms, in his heart.
Four years he got to call himself a grandpa.
Four months he got to know my first daughter.
And for more than a decade, he’d been going to church, changing from the inside out. And for more than a decade, the things between us that threatened to break us apart started breaking apart instead.
The branches outside are still waving in the wind coming off the river.
And there’s a wind that can blow our souls to count our losses, blow our heavy hearts toward sadness. And maybe thats’s our natural inclination: to see and compare and think if only and wish things could’ve been different.
But the trees outside my window, branches swaying in the breeze? They’ve weathered decades and decades of hurricanes. You can see where limbs are missing. You can see the years have been rough. But what you don’t see is the roots, roots out so far, down so deep in the sandy soil our little house rests on. The branches are blowing, even today, but the roots are holding on.
We can choose, you know?
Choose to let the wind blow our souls this way and that, choose to let comparison steal the joy that’s rightfully ours, paid in advance and in full before we ever started our own journeys here on Planet Earth.
Or we can choose to dig deep and find ourselves rooted in holding onto the One that’s been holding us all along. And we can choose to count it all joy. We can choose to see a million reasons for our souls to sing.
We can choose today, and we will choose again tomorrow.
Whatever you choose to look for — that’s what you’re going to find.
Look well today, friends. See.