Dad died a year ago today (October 25). If you had told me it would be this hard I would not have believed you. Honestly, I am still grieving. I miss him deeply! I don’t understand the grief. It is daunting. It pulls me in and incapacitates me. I’ll think, I should be over this by now. I should move on. I should stop thinking about him and, I know some folks are tired of hearing me reference my dad. Now, to be honest, I’m a very joyful person (do you know me? :)). And even in this grief there has been much more joy, more sorrow. But, yes the sorrow is still sometimes consuming. But here are some things I’ve learned (brace yourself they are not all pretty):
- That memory is one of God’s greatest gifts: I am not sure if He does it or how He does it but it seems memories of my dad are more vivid since dad’s death. And it has been a blessing. I can see most any situation and be drawn back to something that dad said or did. I was blessed with an example that I will strive to live up to but that is so much bigger than I will ever be.
- That I will spend the rest of my life with unanswered questions: Sometimes I wish I wasn’t, but I’m a question guy, always have been. Mom used to tell about when we were little and were visiting her sister (Rie) that Rie’s husband Melvin once asked when they were visiting us in Birmingham, “Mamie, how do you turn this thing off?” Mom thought he was talking about the window air conditioning unit, but he was talking about me. I’ve always been a questioner. I asked a lot but now I could fill a library with those things I wish I’d asked dad: The why’s, what’s, and how’s never seem to stop coming. If you’ve still got either of your parents - never stop asking!
- That I will hear about the influence dad had on people the rest of my life: There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t hear about how dad influenced someone to serve the Lord or inspired them to greater service. I love hearing these stories - thank you for sharing. Yesterday someone told me that they had quoted him Sunday in their sermon. Friday someone posted a couple of lessons they remember from him.
- That satan will use anything he can to distract us: The people of the Spring Meadows church have been so patient with me as they have tried to love a distracted preacher. I could not be more thankful for that and I hope they will continue to be. satan has used my own grief and some unresolvable issues as distractions. I’ve fought it and fought it and some days I win, but more often than not I find myself not where I want to be emotionally. Not able to express my joy and excitement about the WORK HERE because I’m thinking about dad. He would not be proud of that. I’ve been horrid at my “job” this year. I’ve worked more but with less focus. I’ve accepted responsibilities that my energies can’t fulfill. I’ve just not been good. And it’s affected my health and my moods and my reactions but most of all my energies and my focus. God, please let me be better. For now, did I say it clearly enough - thank you.
- That there are no answers to why people die, they do. At times I still find myself thinking - “dad wasn’t even sick. I see him in that hospital bed, semi-conscious at best, glazed over, far-away look and I think, how’d it happen to someone who never got sick, who was always full of life, who took such care of himself. But even that should be a clarion call - everyone is going to die and spend eternity somewhere (Hebrews 9:27, James 4:13-17).
- We all grieve - differently. When mom died it was over a year later...I was talking on the phone one day, dealing with someone else’s problem when it came like a flood. I eventually composed myself enough to get off the line - I don’t think they ever knew and I know they don’t know that I cried for over an hour. And when it was over, it was over. I still miss her, more now than ever. I wish she could see how richly God has blessed my life. I wish she could see my daughter-in-laws, my grown sons, my Lucas, the work at Spring Meadows, the opportunities God has presented in my life - she would be - “proud” (only close family will get that line). And at some point I’ll cry a river over dad’s passing. I’ve cried, but I know, I haven’t shut down enough or the pebble that will release it all hasn’t been moved yet. Grief is very natural.
- That we should say the things we should say and not wait or hold back. Relationships should not be taken for granted. I had no idea when I heard dad speak at Polishing the Pulpit last year it would be the last time. I’m so thankful that I took time with dad and that I decided years ago to express my love for him so often. Dad was from that generation that didn’t do that - and so I didn’t grow up with it. But I needed it even as an adult and determined I would take the first step. And dad eventually got to where he would hug me back, or even first and tell me he loved me. I never doubted it but it meant much to also hear it. We should NEVER assume that people know how we feel about them. If there is someone in your life with whom you are at odds, ESPECIALLY a parent, then you should do all that you can do to make that relationship right! (You may need to stop reading right now and place a call…life is too short to live with regret! And bitterness is not pretty on anyone.
- I am so thankful for my wonderful wife and sons and daughter-in-laws and for unbelievable friends and an amazing church. I'm also blessed with an unbelievable extended family for which I'm thankful. We can't face life alone. I need you.