Three years ago, May 17th landed on a Sunday. Daddy was doing so much better in physical therapy that I had stopped visiting so often. It was a thirty minute drive and I had two young kids at the time; it’s not easy to make regular trips anywhere with little ones in tow. Besides, I didn’t want to take them into the therapy place. There were too many things for my kids to break on accident and it was too bizarre for them to see Grandpa connected to all kinds of tubes, a bald scar on the side of his head, unable to speak.
But Daddy was doing much better. You could tell he worked his brain to the limit; it was the part of himself with which he was most familiar and so he pushed his mind until he broke out in a sweat. It hurt to see how hard it was for him to put blue pegs in a board. But he could do it now. He liked going for “walks” outside–meaning he was wheeled around in a wheelchair by my mom. One of the things he wrote down was “Oh, to walk, to run again!”
He asked for his guitar a number of times. Mom didn’t bring it because she didn’t think it would be good for him to have yet another point of frustration. Maybe she should have anyway. I think I was the one who told her not to.
That Sunday morning I finally felt like I could relax. We had a normal morning rush out the door, which usually leaves me frazzled, and a nice time singing worship songs with everybody. My phone rang in the middle of service, which was not usual, but I missed the call by the time I got outside. I tried to call back, but it was a third-party line and they couldn’t tell me who had called.
We had just gotten home from church. The kids were still running around in their nice church clothes. I was massively pregnant with our third and the adventure of going out was taking its toll on me. I was exhausted. When the house phone rang, I almost missed that call as well.
It was the physical therapy place. They were calling to tell me I had to rush over to the hospital to be with my mom. They called to tell me my dad, who was being prepped for a wheelchair walk, said “Thank you” to the nurse, and then stopped breathing.
“So is he–still alive?” My voice trembled.
There was a black pause.
I sank to the floor, willing myself to stay on the phone, figure out what happened, find my mom, get out of the house and to the hospital as fast as possible. Finally, the call ended. Eric was standing on the stairs, staring at me. The phone in one hand, one of my kids in my lap, I told myself to cry. “He’s gone…” I told my husband. And then I couldn’t stop saying it, because I couldn’t believe it, and I had to convince myself somehow that this was real or I would never get through it. “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone–!”
Eric came to me, put his arms around me, tried to shield me from the pain that was inside of me. It didn’t work. I felt abandoned. I don’t remember what he said, but I think he tried to say something. My head snapped up to stare at him, my eyes wide and wild–“We have to go.” He understood, took the phone, and I got into the car to wait for him. My sister-in-law came to wait with the kids. I cringed when I saw her talk to Eric, hoping she wouldn’t come over to me to say “I’m sorry”. I didn’t want to hear “I’m sorry”.
The drive to the hospital was about thirty minutes. I was rigid for the first few minutes. I could feel a scream building up inside me. I warned Eric; he nodded and said, “Okay.” He looked a little scared. And then the sensation of loss spilled over in me and a scream, ragged and raw, rushed from my throat. I threw my voice at God. I challenged His character. I blamed Him for my pain. I threatened Him–Creator of the universe–that I would not forgive Him unless He had a bleeping good reason for taking my daddy away.
I was throwing a tantrum because I was scared and felt how small I was. I didn’t want the comfort God had for me. I wanted to soak up the pain and wallow in the vast rent in my heart.
I can’t write about the entire day in one sitting. I’ve tried so many times. I can either write about the first half or the second half, but never both. It’s too much and I’m already light-headed with the effort of getting this down.
I spent nearly two years giving God, GOD, the cold-shoulder. I’m a little frightened by the arrogance I had at that time. As I said, I was scared.
But God, in His infinite love, only wrapped me up tighter in His Father-embrace and refused to let me run away. I couldn’t deny Him, even in the moments when I wanted to. I think part of me wanted Him to get mad at me, fool that I was, because–well, I’m not even sure what the logic was behind that one. There probably isn’t any.
God broke me and showed me the path to letting the hurt go without ignoring the grief of loss. It is a difficult balance, especially today, but He has cemented His faithfulness in me forever. I trust Him. I’ve been throwing a fit today and it’s been getting ugly. But I’m done now. I’ve written it out of me, acknowledged the loss without giving bitterness a foothold. I know this dance. I won’t be led away.
I love my daddy. But he was a man, a fallen human being just like me, and the only thing my daddy really wanted me to know was how much Father God loves me. And oh! how He does.