Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I remember every detail of the day that I talked to my dad last.  6 years ago exactly... if you're reading this on Wednesday, May 7th.   

The room smelled like old people and cleaner and nursing home.

My family, we'd been there taking turns being bedside and making sure he wasn't alone  for 3 days.  He couldn't communicate back to us, but he would try to.  And his eyes... his eyes said so much.  And that morning... I'd sat reading to him.  And holding his hand.  And his hands... they were rough and calloused as they always were.  He was a hard worker.  His hair was totally grey and thin but so soft.  And his face needed a shave.  It was rough. He was cold, so cold.  And his body so thin from chemotherapy and the cancer that had taken so much from him, and ultimately, a massive stroke caused by combinations of lots of things that his body had endured would usher in the end of his journey here.

But I didn't want to let go of his hand.  See.. I knew that one of those times I let go, it'd be the last time.  I didn't want it to be the last time I touched my dad.  

I cried that day trying to talk to him. So much crying.   Over and over, I wanted him to know that he was a fantastic father.  That all that he thought he'd done badly, that all that he thought was so terrible about his past, that I didn't care.  I never cared.  And that I'd forgiven him for leaving us when I was little.  It didn't matter.  And that I loved him.  And that I'd never doubted his love for me.  Not once.  And it was ok for him to go.  That us girls, we'd take care of each other.  And we'd take care of mom. 

I wish he could have voiced an answer.  I'm sure it was so hard that he couldn't answer.  Only speaking with eyes that were sad.  And showed pain.  And eyes that said he didn't want to leave us, but tired.  He was tired.

And that morning, when another sister got there, I let go of his hand.  And I kissed his head.  And I stroked his hair.  And I said good bye.  And that I'd see him later.    And always, always that I loved him.  He and I never left a conversation that I didn't say that.  And that he didn't say it back.  

He passed away while I was gone, and I told my sister when I left that day that I felt like it wouldn't be long now.  I was right. 

And grief... the last 6 years, is a bastard.  

The first 4 years were hard, but not as hard as years 5 and 6.  

Even as I type this on Sunday... 3 days before the anniversary, I'm sitting here with tears streaming and this inability to stop crying.  And nor do I care to.  

I think these years have been harder because I'm starting to forget.  I don't think about him everyday anymore.  I forget smells that would always remind me of him... like his aftershave.  I used to be able to pick it out really well, and I can't anymore.  I haven't smelled it for a long time anyways.  I remember a ton about the day he passed away, but I forget things about when he was healthy and good

Things like he and I would road trip to Sioux Falls.  And we'd just go drive, my dad and I.  He'd hold my hand and tell me that he loved me, and I knew that he meant it.  He told me often that he was proud of me.   

I was born 2 months early, and was in a hospital 2 hours away...and every single day for 60 days my dad drove 2 hours after work to see me, and to drive 2 hours back, to be at work at 6:00 the next morning.  

Or the times that he'd drive through blizzards to pick me up in Minneapolis at college, so that I could come home. 

 There was a time I watched him go check a vehicle that was filled with flames and smoke to make sure no one was in there, while telling me  to stay back because the gas tank was close to exploding.   Followed by me freaking out and not wanting him to go, and him simply telling me again that he had to, because if another life was at stake, "his was worth losing to save someone else's ." 

One night, around 3 am, in my 20's... I was driving in a field... ( don't ask... ), and my car got stuck in some incredibly deep ruts from mud that had dried from where bulldozers and heavy equipment had been driving on this field.   I called my dad.  And he came with no complaining, and no lecturing, and he pulled me out with a logging chain and his pickup.  I apologized a million times, and he only hugged me and said next time, I should possibly not be driving in fields at 3 am.   

Those stories, those were all the kind of man he was.

I don't want to forget.

I feel guilty for not thinking about him everyday.  Even though that's perfectly normal. 

And the waves of emotions around this time of year.  Especially being away from all my family.  There's so many tears.  And I'm a crier anyways... but  there's a lot of tears happening right now in my life.   I miss him so much.  And I grieve some other losses as well right now, which makes this all the harder this year.

So I try to find comfort in the wilderness I'm in.  And Jesus... I'll tell you He simply comes and today, he's sitting with me in the dirt of that wilderness road. I'm covered in dust and dirt.  And so He's covered in dust and dirt.    And He simply is feeling all this with me, and no judgement and no hurry up and process, but just says "Hey sweet girl... just be where you are right now.  I sit with you.  I don't cause cancer and I don't cause pain, but I do bring comfort, and I speak hope and love and peace.  And because of who I am... you do not have to grieve as one who has no hope.    So hey... let me hold you.  Because I will.  And I am.  "  

I'm not sure where I am on that hope thing.  Hope and I...we've done a lot of wrestling the last 6 years.  But you know... there's a little part of me that never gives up with this hope thing.  Hope that I'll see him in a bodily resurrection someday.  Hope that his spirit/soul is in the presence of God right now.  Hope that this wasn't a permanent good-bye. Gosh... even aside from this day, hope that all the rejection in the last few months from people I care about... even in those places I'm not without hope, and that there's something better for me.  Even though I wrestle and want to tell you I don't always believe it.  A piece of me has to.  Its part of me.  Its who I am.

So if you grieve.  Whatever that grief is, because it doesn't have to be a person you loved or cared for who died.  It could be the death of a dream, the death of leaving something behind...the death of a marriage that just didn't make it,  the death of a relationship that you deeply cared about and they didn't feel the same way, the death of disappointments, the death of relationships from what you thought were life long friendships and you find that they aren't...whatever the hell died in your life... I would tell you this....

  You don't have to do the running, God comes to where YOU are today.  And He'll sit in the shit and muck and the mire and the dark places.  He will.  And He does.  Let him.  And there's more than enough grace there.  And more than enough love.  And more than enough room for all those tears and all those emotions and you... you are not too much.  Did you hear me, friend?  Those emotions...they aren't too much.  They aren't wrong.  And you... will have a morning and a sunrise, and there will be joy again, and there will be dancing again.   

Or that's what I hear being sung over me.  And I believe with all my heart that this big God... sings it over all of us who are grieving. 

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