One year ago, I walked out of our worship program into a back room of the Church and called my mom. She answered and quietly said, “He’s gone.”
It was not an unexpected moment. Dad had battled cancer, heart issues, diabetes, a massive heart attack, a stroke and then another stroke. His health had been declining, and on Christmas Eve he had what appeared to be another stroke that finally brought the end.
That was a year ago. One long and emotional year. I honestly thought about entitling this post as “big boys do cry.” I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting and drawing some conclusions about the whole experience that I thought I would share.
1. Even when expected, the end is still difficult. The last time I saw dad he was so thin and weak. I knew the end was near. It still hurt to say goodbye finally. It still hurts.
2. No one truly understands your pain. My father and I had a unique relationship. I honestly do not think I can explain it to you without hundreds of hours to talk. I can now clearly see that each person handles the struggle of loss differently based off of their own relationship.
3. I wish I could remember my last conversation with him. The first stroke took away much of his speech, and I spent the last year and a half talking to him and not with him. I wish I could remember clearly the details of those precious moments. Enjoy every second you have with the people you love.
4. I never know when triggers will come. I am surprised at the moments I get emotional about dad. Sometimes it comes when I see a picture. One day I broke down when I heard a song. It has frequently happened when I write about his life. I wish I could control my emotions, but I never know when they are going to hit me.
5. I appreciate the prayers of people. It has always felt awkward to pray for those who have lost loved ones, but I understand it better now. There are days I know I have been empowered merely through the prayers of people. God gives me what I need to make it through each day; this is especially true when people pray for me.
6. I am not alone. I have loved hearing other people tell me the stories of their parents (and spouses) over the last year. I know that everyone struggles with the loss of the people they love.
7. I am thankful for eternity. I cannot imagine trying to live through loss without the hope of heaven. I know what my father believed, and I am confident in his faith in Jesus Christ. I live with the comfort that I will see him again. The message of Jesus makes the most sense in light of death.
8. I am blessed with a great family. My wife and children have held onto me through my emotions and struggles. I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who love and support me.
9. I am building a better relationship with my mother. I have always loved mom, but that love has grown in new and exciting ways over the past year. I have talked more to her about her. I have listened closer. I have tried to help her through this year while leaning on her at the same time.
10. My faith has not diminished. I am not angry or confused about losing my dad. God gave him to me for over 40 years, and I was blessed beyond measure. Because of this experience, my faith in Jesus and the meaning of faith has increased. God has used this to teach me how to be a better father, son, and husband as I live out my faith with my family.
I won’t lie. I miss my dad. I think about him almost every day. I wish he could have been there to see my son graduate. I wish he could have seen my youngest kill his first deer. I wish he could have gone for a ride with my boy when he got his license. I wish he could talk with all of them and share his wit and wisdom. I wish he could have been a part of this past year in every way.
I can’t believe it has been a year, but it has. The pain has diminished a little, but it is there to remind me what I lost. I know I am not alone in these feelings. My heart goes out to anyone struggling with loss. May your faith strengthen you, your friends and family comfort you and may the peace of God the passes all understanding fill your heart today.