One year ago, my dad was in a short 7.5 week battle that ended in his death.
I know, that’s a morbid way to start my first ever blog post, but I don’t like to beat around the bush anymore. What’s the point, you know? Life’s too short.
Last June, the 29th to be exact, my dad awoke around 2am with hiccups that weren’t exactly hiccups, but hiccupy enough to make him concerned to the point that he drove himself to the ER. They did some scans and found some growths in his abdomen. My otherwise healthy father suddenly lost his appetite, ability to keep liquids down, energy, was diagnosed with stage four cholangiocarcinoma (a rare and aggressive form of bile duct cancer), started chemo, quit chemo, came home in hospice, and entered Heaven. In 7.5 weeks.
In those 7.5 weeks, my family, being myself, my husband, and my daughters, listed the home we owned for sale, packed up our lives, moved into my dad’s home to care for him for the duration of the year the doctors anticipated he had left, made decisions regarding his care (with his consent and support), brought him home on hospice, and said goodbye to our father, father-in-law, and Peepaw. Then we planned a celebration of life service and continued to settle into the empty home where I was raised that was supposed to hold the five of us, though there were only four now. In 7.5 weeks.
He was here and gone, in the blink of an eye. Healthy, then not. Life was whole, then shattered.
If that isn’t enough for a daughter to process, he passed away on August 20th, 2019, exactly two years and one day after the passing of my mother on August 19th, 2017, of complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Grief upon grief. There is nothing like losing a parent. There are other pains of significant weight, arguably none greater, none lesser, because grief is grief and we all feel and process its weight differently. However, there’s nothing like it. Losing the people who love you unconditionally and support you endlessly, even and especially when you are in your threenage years of biting (refer to my husband’s most recent blog post for some honest humor and solid truths) and teenage years of acting like they know nothing, is a really, really hard thing. And at 24 years old and 26 years old? I was so completely shattered both times.
I’m entering those seasons again. The ones that left me shattered one and three years ago. My TimeHop has been reminding me of the hard days my family endured. This year, the season is accompanied by tears and nightmares of the physical deterioration of both parents. Both of them were here and gone, in the blink of an eye. My mom went to sleep, seemingly fine one night, but never woke up the next day. My dad went to sleep one night, woke up ill, and never got better.
Here. And. Gone.
Two days ago was a hard day. Not one I’m proud of. The emotions and memories swelling within me are getting harder and harder to process as the wounds feel a little more fresh. Two days ago, I was a little less reasonable and a little more rash with my words and responses, mostly toward my husband. Okay, only toward my husband because we are still practically in quarantine during a pandemic. It’s a super great time for me to be isolated (she says sarcastically).
After pretty much the entire day of me unloading every possible emotion, thought, accusation, blame, burden on my husband, he finally spoke up and asked me if I honestly didn’t think it affected him. Even though he didn’t lose the man who gave him life, he watched someone who loved our family fiercely deteriorate within a number of weeks. He said a lot, but finished with, “your dad was here and gone.”
It’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around other people suffering in any significant capacity from the loss because I was the one who lost everything. I lost my mom. I lost my dad. I have no siblings. It’s just me now.
But he was right. Watching a man go from here to gone in a matter of weeks? That’s enough to leave anyone questioning, anxious, scared, simply not okay.
I tried to step back from my emotions and, even though I couldn’t quite accept the fact that his grief was as valid as mine, I tried to slow my words down. After all, when emotions are high, intelligence is low.
Yesterday, while I was making lunch, his use of “here and gone” popped into my head. It wasn’t because of my dad, though. It related to something else entirely.
My emotional state from two days ago, it was “here and gone”. You see, emotions come and go. Objects come and go. People come and go. Stuff… it comes and goes.
You know what I learned (that I already knew, but need to keep being reminded of) during lunch yesterday? If the words stemming from my emotions aren’t true, necessary, or kind, they need not be spewed out on the people I don’t want to be here and gone. Aka, speak kind words to the people you want to keep.
Don’t let those here and gone emotions rule your days. Don’t let them rule your conversations. Don’t let them taint your relationships.
Even better yet, find yourself something that will never be here and gone. Find yourself something that is eternal, a firm foundation upon which you can stand. Something that grounds you when everything else is flying out of control and far above anything stationary and solid.
Yes, I’m talking about Jesus.
I can’t tell you how many times I cried out to God to just fix me two days ago. To stop the words vomiting from my mouth and to stop thinking such destructive, untruthful thoughts. I wanted Him to just fix. me.
I didn’t want to put in any of the hard work that leads to being fixed though. I wanted to go to sleep, wake up like the day never happened, and go on with life. That’s not what I’m called to as a Christ follower, however.
Matthew 7:24 says “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” I want a rock solid, firm foundation so when the storms of life inevitably come, or in this case, when the waves of grief from storms past begin to ramp up again, I won’t be tossed by the waves. I don’t want to feel blindsided by the pain and angry at those who aren’t experiencing it the way I am. I want to hear the words spoken and put them into practice so my foundation is rock solid. I want to hear and put into practice “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.
Two days ago I didn’t put much effort into thinking about such things. My thoughts were not true. I’m not alone, though I sometimes feel lonely. My thoughts were not noble. I was accusing and disrespectful. My thoughts were not right. I was not justified in my actions or words toward my husband, no matter how valid my pain is. My thoughts were not lovely. I was not a beautiful, kind, gentle person. My thoughts were not admirable. I would not want my daughters, my friends, my loved ones to follow my example and feel the things I felt and react the way I reacted. I’d want more for another because there is value and purpose and beauty that comes from every season, and I’d want them to see that, not dwell too long on the pain.
I chose not to stand on my Rock yesterday. I know the Rock. I’ve stood on my Rock so, so many times before, but yesterday I slipped. I let the waves pull me under. But those emotions are here and gone. When the waves died down, I saw my Rock was still there, exactly where He was before.
All of that to say, a lot of things in this life are here and gone. Jobs. Friends. Homes. Security. Loved ones. Emotions.
I’m writing this mainly because I want to, need to, look back at this next time those waves try to toss me again, which I can almost guarantee will be very soon as I walk the season of grief again this year.
I’m also writing this because I want to give you permission to acknowledge the waves that might be trying to pull you under. Don’t do what I do, ignore your pain until all you can do is think on the mounds of emotions rising up around you. I want to remind you that you have a choice in where you anchor yourself and your thoughts and how you respond to those waves as they come. If you see them coming, what will you think on?
Will you have a victim mentality and put the blame on the nearest person to you because they simply cannot understand why you feel the way you feel and are acting the way you are acting?
Or will you think on what is true, noble, right, lovely, and admirable?
I hope it’s the latter. Next time, I’m going to fight for the latter.
But today, I’m resting in the grace that is given to me freely, knowing that my Rock is always in the exact same place. My Rock doesn’t move, He doesn’t falter. The waves might distract me from seeing the Rock, but I know where He is. Such a beautiful grace-filled truth.