One of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard is the one my pastor gave on September 4, 2016 – This Time, Next Year. It’s about your life changing one year from today. It’s a great message of hope for what’s to come when life isn’t working out the way you thought it would.
But today I’m really thinking about this time LAST year. It’s a day that I need to look back at for a minute. It marks the day that everything changed in my family forever. From this day forward, there will never be another “first time without Dad.” Nope… this time last year was the last day my Dad would take a breath on Earth.
This time last year, we had just celebrated a beautiful Father’s Day with my family. All my brothers came out, which was a first for at least 6 months. A lot had transpired in early 2018, and I really wasn’t sure how this gathering would turn out. In fact, I almost volunteered to work so I wouldn’t have to be there. I’m so glad I didn’t do that. I was able to not only be present, but see that even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, my family was still my family and a place of joy and laughter. We ate pizza. We played poker. And for whatever reason I felt compelled to take a picture of my Dad and his sons…the last picture that would ever be taken of my Dad.
Two days later, this time last year, I was in the midst of a very busy conference season and a lot of transition at work. My mom called me at 9:30 am to say, “Dad fell!” She was frantic, so I knew it wasn’t just a fall…when she said, “They’re working on him now.” I knew I needed to get home as soon as my car could get me there. The 40-minute drive was the longest, fastest drive ever. I kept hearing, “He died. He died. He’s gone.” I kept rebuking the thoughts that I was sure were from the pit of hell…only to find out that my brother was on his knees praying for my Dad in his living room after he got the same phone call and was hearing the very same thing. The words, “He’s gone,” were quickly replaced with “Life is but a vapor.” It took a minute for my brain to catch up with what had happened…my Dad was here one night and gone the next morning. It was the most surreal moment of my life.
This time last year, I started a journey of learning all about the peace that surpasses all understanding. I knew my friends were praying for me and praying that I’d experience that type of peace. I can’t even explain how I mustered the strength to call people and tell them my Dad had passed away. How did I set up the celebration of life? How did I drive his clothes down to the mortuary? There is no doubt in my mind that God is close to the brokenhearted. His presence was so thick and so real…it was the most beautifully, painful time of my life. I had joined the “club” that everybody does at some point of their lives, but nobody really talks about…and once you do join, you’re so glad there are others who have joined and navigated it before you.
This time last year, I didn’t fully understand the grief of a widow. I’m not sure I fully understand it now, but having witnessed and walked alongside my Mom during it, it has made me love Jesus all the more. He really understood the pain. It’s why He told people to care for the widow and orphans. I kept thinking, “Wow…this is what they mean when they say until death do us part.” But man, marriage doesn’t seem to end because somebody dies. Like I said, it’s been one of the most beautifully, painful times of my life…and listening to the stories of my Mom and Dad told through the eyes of a widow has just made me appreciate marriage all the more. I haven’t experienced marriage yet, but oh how I will see it differently forever. I remember a friend who was navigating a divorce asked me, “Why does it hurt so much?” The only thing I could think to say, “Well…the Bible says it’s two becoming one flesh, so it must feel like flesh being pulled apart.” I’d say I’ve witnessed the same watching my Mom navigate the loss, but it’s different. No one made the choice to go, but he’s not here anymore.
So today I took the day off. I cried a little. I laughed a little. I remembered a lot. I thanked God for all He has done in this last year. All that He has walked alongside me through. My faith and hope in the future couldn’t be any stronger. This morning during my quiet time I heard the words, “You are your Father’s daughter.” I’m not sure I fully knew or understood that this time last year. But today I know I’ve inherited both my earthly father’s and my Heavenly Father’s strength.
I am so, so grateful.
Today’s Forecast: A lot of memories.
Silver Lining: A lot of memories.