Today marks three days of a dark cloud of grief sitting on me. It’s not something to be shaken off, it can only be felt to it’s entirety until the light takes over again. I know the light will take over again. I have faith that God is walking this road with me. He knows the pain of losing, and He knows suffering. He knows the reasons I’m feeling pain. I can hide nothing from Him, nor do I want to. I thank Him for the wonderful family and friends He’s blessed my life with, even if that means that I have to suffer the pain of losing them.
Writing is so cathartic for me. I’ve picked up the phone to reach out to friends and family, but have only made one call to my Mom. Perhaps it’s that I’m far away from so many whom I’ve always relied on the most that has made this grief so much more intense.
Benny and Me
My most unlikely friend from college. He was known on our campus by his handlebar mustache! He was an elementary ed student like me, but he worked full time at his family’s shop/station so it took him even longer to graduate, but he did finish! He decided to pursue a degree after an incredible back injury almost took away his livelihood. He fought hard to gain his life back and decided to pursue something he’d always wanted to. That’s how we met. In Dr. Fridley’s Foundations of Education class. We had some foundation classes together that included science courses and a educational drama class. I graduated ahead of him as I was a traditional student. But we were fast friends and we stayed friends after both of our graduations. I can still hear him trying to school me on some fact of life, “But Mel, look here….” or laughing when something that seemed so far-fetched to me was actually true, “Mel, I told ya….” Once he even almost convinced me he was cooking up oppossum in his slow-cooker.
He was there for me in many ways. So many ways in my young, adult life that trying to pen them all down right now feels overwhelming. But more than anything, we laughed so much. We laughed at ourselves. We laughed at stupidity in life. And sometimes we had really serious conversations. We talked about God, love, relationships, family, and music. I saw small-town life through his eyes. I learned to appreciate a meal of catfish and the best nachos in his presence. We went camping and fishing and explored the flooded damn on the Red River. He always had a cold Coke and candy bar when I’d pull up to his family’s station. I ate dinner with his family several times. I’m pretty sure they thought it was bizarre that we were such good friends but not dating. I’m pretty sure they thought my Missouri/Yankee ways were bizarre, too, but they accepted me and our friendship. My heart hurts for them so much, right now.
Our friendship changed over the years as I married and moved away. Of course we didn’t see each other as often and the last few years were mostly just phone calls to update each other on life. But he was there when I brought my first-born home and I was there when he married the love of his life. Time had passed, but it didn’t damage our friendship.
The last time we really talked was at the beginning of his cancer diagnosis. He assured me he was fine and that I didn’t need to come. Of course, I should have gone. We played phone tag this year a bit before my family moved to Alaska, and of course I should have gone to see him before we left. But I do know the last few years of his life were filled with the love he’d always hoped to have. He was happy. He was faithful to Christ. I know that in Heaven I will see him again. I hope my Dad recognizes him and gives him a hug for me until I’m there, too!
It will be my Dad’s second birthday since he passed in January 2018. Missing him is so much different than I could ever understand it would be. There are times I’ve forgotten he’s gone and want to call him up to share something or get his advice before the sadness reminds me that is not possible anymore. Missing him comes in waves that sometimes I’m not expecting. Sometimes I wish my kids could have known him more. I get angry over the brokenness of our family and wish things hadn’t gotten so ugly at the end of his life, things I cannot change in my own power. I can’t even watch baseball or football games without feeling sadness that he is not here watching them, too. I just miss him.
My Dad was not my biological father. I constantly think about that, how he chose to love me as his own. To love and miss a dad as much as I do is a gift because I know he really loved me. He wasn’t perfect, but none of us parents are, right? But he showed up in my life from the beginning. Though my parents’ relationship ended in divorce, he did not divorce us. That is real love. I think of Dad every day. While I wish there were things that could have been better for our family, I am so privileged to have had him as a father. He is part of me; the part that won’t quit, the part who enjoys a good game, the part who laughs at myself, and the part who encourages my kids they can do things they want. My Dad believed in me, I never doubted that for a second.
I will make a birthday cake for him tomorrow. His presence in my life was such a gift. Thank You, Lord.
Hope in Christ
Losing the people we love is inevitable. Two of my closest friends also lost their dads within months of my loss. Being in my late thirties means that I’ve started to experience loss more regularly. I hate it. It’s really starting to weigh on me. It also leaves me thinking of my own mortality. Does anyone else feel a moment’s paralysis when they think of their own mortality? I have to hand it over to my Creator, who already knows the number of my days because we have to live every moment we have. Living in every moment looks different for us, but finding a connection to my own family is my main goal at this point in my life. Growing in my faith, being the wife my husband needs and the mommy my kids want to be with, these are all the things that drive me.
Feelings of loss come with the love we have for others. We must face both to fully live. The family and friends we lose truly remain in us when we think of them. I look forward to the day when I can meet my Baby in Heaven, hug my grandparents’ necks, my Dad’s, Benny’s, and other sweet friends and family members who have left for Heaven with a piece of my heart in theirs. The truth is that we are blessed to feel such loss because it comes with the love, that has, and will continue to enrich our lives.
Thank You, Lord. Thank You for the time with loved ones here on earth. Thank You for Your comfort when I don’t have the words in my lost moments of grief. Thank You for the promise of Heaven and the end of suffering here on earth. One day I will meet You, but until then, thank You for the strength You give when I don’t have it within myself.