Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

If you had told me a few years ago that our lives would look like they do today, I would’ve thought you watched too many television dramas. But, here we are and, like it or not, life has dealt us a difficult hand. Somehow, we’re still standing to talk about it.

You know there were times in the last two and a half years I thought you might literally die of grief. Watching you stumble through the loss of your childhood sweetheart and soul mate was nearly as hard as losing my sweet momma. I remember for the longest time after she passed, you called every day and asked me to lunch. We would sit in tearful silence or pretend to make small talk about nothing and everything. It was so hard. I would leave you feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Many times I would sit in the parking lot at work right after lunch and have a good cry before going in to finish the day.

I think I cried all the time back then.

My heart would nearly burst every time I drove into the cemetery and see your silhouette from afar. The picture of you standing by mom’s gravestone, shoulders slumped, head down talking into the air as though she were right there to listen, is forever burned into my mind. I think those times alone with mom at her final resting place telling her about your day as though you expected an answer was the only way you knew to cope with the devastating loss of your very best friend.

Forty eight years, a life time of doing life together, refuses to be extinguished just because one of you is no longer there. Thousands of cups of morning coffee for two was suddenly one, you survived the chasm of waking up to an empty house by bringing a cup to the cemetery bright and early each day. I worried about you for such a long time and wondered when you would stop going there so often, and secretly I worried you would stop going and another piece of mom would slip away.

None of what I was feeling made sense.

We’ve struggled, tripped, crawled and finally walked for the past years and months to find some sense of normalcy, only to find that there is no more normal, it died with her. So, we asked God for a new normal, something that would help us heal and bring us relief from the unforgiving pain of loss.

And in his mercy, he did.

As relentless as grief can be at some point the wound begins heal because of the tender balm of the Comforter.

Time passed and the lunch calls became less frequent, the cemetery visits weren’t as often or as long and you began to have conversations that didn’t end in an emotional breakdown. And ever so slowly, like molasses dripping on a summer day, a new love began to seep into your heart. I think it took you by surprise as much as anybody. I’m sure you never expected what the Lord was going to do next in your life, not in a million years.

It started with an innocent invitation. I think you were simply looking for companionship and so was she. One night out turned into another, and another and one thing led to another until you realized the Lord may have something more for you. And for her. Something neither of you ever imagined…

A new love.

Not the young love that comes with reckless abandon, but a seasoned love that has been tested and tried by the difficulties of life and emerges like the birth of a child. So very painful is the labor to bring it forth, but its arrival brings the greatest joy.

I can’t tell you it’s been easy to wrap my mind around this thing you were trying to explain to me sitting in the sandwich shop several months ago. I’d never seen you hold the hand of anyone except momma, and I wanted to know what was happening and why. This was all new territory and it felt foreign and uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure I liked it. To be honest, I guess I never really thought of you as a man, you were always just my daddy.

To see you dating caught me completely off guard.

And even though the idea of someone else was so hard to accept, I couldn’t deny the light that was back in your eyes, or your smile that was broad like it used to be, or your big laugh that had returned; it was the sweetest sound to my ears.

She was bringing you back to life.

Everything had felt like death for so long, the brightness of life felt like warmth in the depths of my cold soul. It felt like hope. This new woman who had caught your eye was humble and kind and loved momma back when she was still living and breathing. She too had been alone for so long and I noticed she smiled more frequently when you two shared company.

It was beautiful really, and sad.

I mean, how would I ever get used to someone besides momma sitting close to you in church or sharing knowing glances across the dinner table? Acceptance of something new felt like betrayal of what was. Why does it have to be so hard? I long to be a kid again sometimes, to run and play and not have a care in the world. I don’t want to have to deal with any more hard things, I want an easy button. But, life never makes it easy, and feeling one emotion at a time is impossible it seems; there’s always several to sort through and process. So one day I was happy for you and the next I just wanted the whole thing to go away and for life to be as it used to be, back and forth I would swing.

But, scripture has proven to be true once again.

Love really does overcome.

I read somewhere a long time ago that love doesn’t always come sweeping in and knock one over, sometimes it comes in quietly and unnoticed at first. That is how I feel about your new relationship and your upcoming big day. Like I’ve been slowly won over by the unstoppable power of love.

It doesn’t hurt as bad to think about someone else sharing my maiden last name as it did in the beginning. And when I stand up in church with you while you’re next to her, I’m sure I will be a basket case of emotion. When you promise to love and treasure until the end of your life, I will weep a little in my heart and remember how you made that promise to another woman a long time ago; and you kept it. Then we’ll celebrate with cake and punch and we’ll throw rice and cheer you on your way. I’ll laugh and cry and thank the Lord for this new normal, the one we prayed for but didn’t know what it would look like.

I guess now we do.

It looks like a second chance at love.

Once the festivities of the day are all over and the last white bow is put away, I’m going to find myself a cup of coffee and head out to the cemetery where momma is laid to rest. I’m going to stand by her grave and spend some time talking into the wind about everything and nothing.

And then I’m going to do what we’ve done a hundred times before, I’m going to call you and set a date for lunch.

Just you, me and our new normal.

I love you, Daddy.

Love,

Me

 

 

Advertisements

Remembering: The Gift

It wasn’t too many days until number three came home from the emergency room, and the house was bustling again with three little girls. All felt righted in her little world. The end of the summer was near and she knew her days of freedom were numbered, she longed to explore this new place and find all the hidden spots where an overactive imagination might run wild. But momma was a little reluctant after what happened to her little sister, so she settled for running down the big hill that was part of their back yard, finding roly poly bugs to play with, and running through the sprinkler in the summer heat.

It wasn’t too many days until it was bedtime before the first day of school. She rushed through a shower, she never really understood what all the fuss was about. I mean, why did a person have to bathe every single night? It seemed like a bit much to her, but she did as she was told. Once she showered she pulled on her favorite pink fuzzy cotton night gown and wrapped her long hair up in the towel, piling it high on top of her head. She swung the hem of her nightgown back and forth and realized it used to touch the floor.  But these days she noticed there was at least enough room between her nightgown and the floor to put a small building block and it made her proud.

She was growing up, even though momma told her to slow down.

She walked quickly to her bedroom, mostly because the floor was cold, found her hairbrush and attempted to tame the unruly wet mane. She was supposed to brush her teeth, but she took toothpaste and rubbed it on her tongue instead, this was so she would pass the breath test if momma chose to give it.

She was finally ready.

She crawled up in her twin bed, grabbed her pen and paper that were closed safely in her green binder and carefully laid them out on her lap. It was bedtime, the time she’d picked to write her book. She’d decided she wanted to tell stories, but it proved tougher to actually write them down than she thought. She wasn’t giving up, though, she laid the binder on her lap and began to write words she hoped would start to tell a tale. No one had ever told her to do this, there was just this notion in her head that she should, so she did.

Her book was a fantastical story about a fairy princess and a mean witch; the ultimate duel between good and evil. Of course good would win, she figured good always won whether in real life or fairy tales. She would one day tell of a lesson that felt like good didn’t win, but at eight years old she hadn’t learned it yet.   Her story this night was headed down the familiar road of good overcoming all, and she loved writing it.

It seemed like no time had passed when momma came in to tell her goodnight. She tucked the blanket up high around her neck and kissed her on the forehead and gently reminded her that Jesus loved her and so did her family. She drifted off to sleep with sweet dreams of fairy princesses and sweet momma, it was a good life.

The next morning was a fanfare of emotion as all the little girls in the house would be starting a new school. One minute it felt exciting, like a new adventure and the next it all seemed scary and she desperately wanted to go back to her old school where she already had friends and knew the teacher’s names. The fear in her heart had grown substantially since number three had her accident a few weeks earlier. She understood now that bad things could happen at any minute, what she didn’t realize then and would understand later is that some of her sweet innocence had been stolen that summer. She was no longer naïve about how unsure life could be.

It was a tough lesson and her young mind hadn’t processed it yet, she just knew to be afraid of the unfamiliar.

Momma made sure they were ready and marched all three to the bus stop which happened to be right in front of the church next door. She stood dutifully and waited for the big yellow thing to pull up, open its doors and cart her off to a place she’d never been. When she arrived at her new school, it felt much bigger than her last one. It didn’t take her long to make a new friend and she quickly decided this new place wasn’t going to be so bad.

Rememebering, the talent 2

Running and playing on the playground was her favorite, especially the slide, with the swings being a close second. She wore the same pair of jeans most days, only when momma forced her to put them in the laundry did she go a day without them. All of this washing stuff seemed like such a bother. Her morning routine consisted of flying out of bed, snatching on her favorite jeans and a t shirt, zipping upstairs to eat a bowl of grits and back down to pretend to brush her teeth and hair. Then she would fly out the door to meet the yellow bus and eventually find herself in her third grade class at school.

She had the whole morning down to an art.

One morning she was especially excited as the teacher had told the class there would be a spelling bee the next day. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might fare pretty well since she liked words and all. The entire third grade gathered in the cafeteria to start the process of eliminating students based on whether or not they could spell the word the teacher called out to them. The first time around the room sent many kids back to their class, but she had spelled her word correctly and now it was time for round two.

She had butterflies with more butterflies in her stomach.

Remembering, the talent 3

There were still so many left in the bee and she really wanted to win that golden trophy that said “3rd Grade spelling Bee Champion” on it. She hoped like the dickens she could make it through round two and her mind was still thinking that exact thought when the teacher stood right in front of her with the big book that held all the spelling words in the world, she figured.

Your word is “know.” Then the teacher used it in a sentence. “This is a word that you should know.”

Her mind went blank, there was more than one “know.” I mean, which one did she want? Was it “no” or “know?” Oh, how her third grade mind whirled. All eyes were on her and the teacher was looking over her big book and right into her panicked eyes.

Her heart picked up the pace, how DO you spell “know?”

This is probably the earliest memory I have of my love of words. It’s not something I identified until I was an adult. I thought everyone loved words and everyone could put them down on a page, nothing too special about that. It wasn’t until my greatest tragedy that I realized how comforting words were and are to me. They became a balm when I needed it so badly. It still amazes me that anyone would want to read them, I certainly don’t have anything profound to say. I just find a great sense of comfort in saying to you so many of the things that go on in my heart, and I find many of you relate.

It’s like a connection.  

It wasn’t until I started this search for meaning in my life that I began to think way back to a time when my heart was still naïve and relatively unharmed and found that I loved words even then, I just hadn’t identified it. I now realize that words are my birthright gift. Basically, I was born with a raw talent and I’m learning through trial and error how to use it.

It’s been so powerful for me to walk through this process and begin to understand my heart a little better.

Last time we were together I told you the earliest memories I had of realizing bad things can happen at any time. This week I’m starting us on the journey of when I discovered I love words. The more I remember and piece it all together the more I am convinced the Lord starts His work in us from the time we are young, we just don’t always recognize it. It can take a tragedy or a big life change or a person to open our eyes to something that was always there.

Our unidentified gifts.

You may not even realize or understand your birthright gift, the one you were born with that no one else can accomplish, but I am convinced it is in you, in your heart just waiting to be brought out, dusted off and refined.

Ask God to help you remember the thing that used to make you the most happy, the thing that you’ve taken for granted since childhood. You might discover there is more to you than you realize, a gift that’s being overlooked and underused.

This could be your time of discovery.

It wasn’t long until the teacher reminded her that she only had a few more seconds until her time would be up. Then her turn and chance at the golden trophy would be gone.

“I repeat, How do you spell know?”

 

To be continued…..

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

 

 

Remembering:  The Realization 

Continued…
But since her bottom was planted firmly to the old worn couch and her legs felt heavy like she had taken her jeans off the clothesline and put them on before they were dry, there was no way she could move. This perfect move-in had gone from glorious to dangerous more quickly than she could shoot a marble. Daddy asked her if she had any questions, and even though her mind was filled up with words nothing came out of her mouth. In the days leading up to this, and in her short eight years, running felt like the most wonderful way to play. But not today, today running felt necessary because it was the only way to escape what was going on inside of her heart.

But how, she wondered, can you run away from your heart?


It wasn’t until I typed the last word of my previous blog that the Lord opened my eyes to something that I’d not seen so clearly before.

I’m a runner.

And I don’t mean the type that laces up their shoes and hits the pavement. I’m talking about the other kind. The kind that runs on the inside away from things that are painful or too hard. The kind of running that leaves you breathless not because of physical activity but because of fear that grips your heart and leaves you struggling for air.

Running is how I handled my life when my children were small clear up until my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Honestly I don’t think I would have thought much about my behavior because I’ve always been a busy person by nature; I don’t like to sit still for long. But what I didn’t realize until mother was diagnosed and there was no place to run, was just how damaging this lifestyle had been for me. When you face pain on that level there’s nothing in this world that can help you get it off of your mind. Even times spent in prayer and Bible reading are plagued with thoughts of what could come next, and will I be able to handle it?

A hurt that deep changes everything.

Her diagnosis has become a crisis of belief point in my life. I went from loving Jesus with all of my shallow heart, to being shoved into the deep end of the pool and held under until there was nothing left to do but stop fighting. Interesting that I would use that particular word to describe how I felt. Fighting, I thought, involved remaining relatively in one place, and putting my dukes up. But I’ve learned there is more than one way to fight. 

Run and don’t look back.

That was my undeclared life motto. 

Running was my escape.

I figured if I could run hard and fast enough then the hurts and difficulties that were chasing me would never be able to catch me. What a lie. The fact is we can run for as long as our mind will let us but there will come a time when we will have to stop and stand. I’ve told you this before, I really thought I might die when I had to feel the pain of mom’s diagnosis, and ultimately her death. And then I was sure I couldn’t take any more when I watched my dad suffer through the loss while dealing with my own grief. But, today I am two years and four months down the road of healing and I can honestly tell you that life is richer when you don’t run from it. Not easy, but inner healing is worth the struggle.

It’s like the beauty mixed in with sorrow become the most eclectic mixture of color and emotion.

A kaleidoscope we call life.

As a little girl I think I understood that life would get messy and I wanted nothing to do with it. I preferred the sunny days and the blue skies.


What I understand as an adult is mighty winds will blow through our lives; they’ll pick up everything in their path and leave chaos behind. And even though it hurts real bad while it’s happening, there’s a promise of freshness to follow. It reminds me of those summer storms that cause trees to bend over; when the wind gives the leaves a wreckless ride and where flowers are left lying on the ground beaten down by the relentless rain.

But sooner or later the sun comes back out.

And the ground shimmers as it illuminates everything it touches. Before you know it the flowers are standing back up and the leaves have nestled their way into the grass finding a new home. It’s then you realize the rain is exactly what you needed.

It brought nourishment and strength.

Running from your problems, your difficult situation or the thing that’s hurting you is only going to hinder you from being able to experience what God is wanting to do in you and for you. Sooner or later you’re going to be pushed into the deep end of the pool, take it from me your Heavenly Father won’t let you drown. He’s promised to walk through the deep waters with you, and I can tell you from personal experience that HE WILL. You might think you’re not going to survive, but you will. And your life will be richer because you stood and didn’t run and allowed the Lord to work. 


His plans are always good.

Not to mention all of this running is exhausting.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

‭Jeremiah 29:11 NLT