I read the above words two and a half weeks ago, the day after my dad’s funeral. My dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on December 19. While it’s been traumatic and heartbreaking, we have experienced God’s abundant grace through it all. There have been so many moments so carefully orchestrated I know it can only be God’s hand at work.
My dad was an amazing man–a “bona fide character” as one of his best friend’s so correctly put it. He lived life to the fullest, with love, wisdom, laughter, and faith. I heard it said once that a parent’s job is to be the physical manifestation of God’s love for their children. If that’s true, Dad greatly surpassed expectations. My sister and I only knew love from our dad. And laughter…always laughter. Dad taught us that nothing was too sacred for at least a smothered giggle, and never to take anything or anyone–especially yourself–too seriously.
My parents also understood the great responsibility of raising daughters in a world that is unkind to women. They taught us to be independent, to be responsible for ourselves, and to always, always, always seek knowledge. Both of my parents are educators. This was Dad’s 47th year in the classroom–his goal was 50. Thinking was highly encouraged in our house, and my sister and I were always allowed to share an opinion on any subject. This included thoughts on faith. Instead of telling us what we were to believe, my parents actively taught us about God. Church on Sunday was not an option, no matter how late we were out the night before. Sunday dinners consisted of Dad asking questions about both our Sunday school class and the sermon. He didn’t tell us what we were supposed to have gotten out of either, he genuinely facilitated a learning experience where we could develop and strengthen our own faith.
Dad insisted that we continually seek educational opportunities. Each vacation had to have some sort of educational component. I cannot tell you the number of Civil War battlefields I’ve stomped across on a hot, summer day while other kids were at a water park. Where I sulked as a teenager, as an adult, I wouldn’t t trade those moments for anything.
Grief is a funny thing, as I’m sure most of you know. Initially, I felt like I was under attack by a squadron of grief bombers. They’d fly in, drop their payload, and then retreat until the next round. Now, I feel like my grief has settled over me like a weighted blanket. Instead of fighting it, I’ve chosen to just wrap it around myself. It trails behind me when I take long walks, pulls tight when I go to the grocery store or Target, and covers me when I lay down to sleep. And, honestly, I’m okay with that. Because the truth is, Dad deserves my grief, and I need to grieve. So often in our society we try to push death under the rug, hide it away in a closet or spare bedroom, let it accumulate dust under the bed. But the truth is, grief is an important process. Grief allows us time and space to heal from the wounds that trauma and loss leave behind. We all grieve in different ways. The important thing, I think, is to work through the process, whatever it looks like for each of us.
And above all…there is God. In the midst of the tears, God is there with his peace that truly does transcend all understanding. In the midst of the anger, God is there with his comfort that enfolds us in our time of need. In the midst of the incomprehension, God is there with his presence that provides something sturdy to hold onto. And in the midst of unimaginable sorrow, God is there with his promise of salvation and resurrection in the life to come. That, I think, is what gives me the most hope. I refused to tell my dad goodbye. I refused to say those words aloud, or even in my heart, because it’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Not that the understanding of salvation diminishes grief–it doesn’t. There are still moments, many moments, when I raise my fists and beat at the sky screaming, “It’s not fair!” There were things to do, tasks to complete, promises to be kept. And now, those of us who loved Dad are left in the midst of a bombed out crater where our world exploded around us.
But…even in the midst of the anger and despair…I feel God with me. I feel his gentle voice as it whispers Jesus’ words of comfort.
Yes, this world will bring grief and sorrow and pain. But…but…take heart. Lift your head. Take a deep breath. For I, the creator and sustainer, the redeemer and perfecter of faith, have overcome the world.
Blessings and Peace,