My mom has a saying I heard a few times.
“It’s okay to look at the past, but don’t stare.”
That makes a lot of sense. I’ve watched a lot of people waste amazing potential because they still remember that great football game from high school, that one relationship that got away, that one rejection that nearly broke them.
On Monday most everyone will celebrate Memorial Day, and they should. But for our family, it marks ten years since my dad passed away.
That’s surreal on so many levels and there are little details long suppressed that are coming back as the date approaches. We recently lost someone that was close to dad who was so good to us after dad was gone. It brought us back in a lot of ways to 2004.
That season was horrific. For my husband, me and the kids, we were in such transition. Tom was in a brand new job on the OH/PA border living in a crappy apartment above a hot dog shop. Everything about the job was different than what he came from. I remember panicking when I heard the apprehension.
He celebrated his tenth anniversary a couple weeks ago.
I was back in Upstate NY with a kindergartner I was homeschooling and a baby that was recovering from croup. RSV. Pneumonia. Near death. Hypothyroidism. She was receiving therapies three times a week. I remember them encouraging me to speak more so she could hear verbalization. But back then all I had to offer was stunned silence and tears.
I worked on selling the house while Tom tried to find one in OH. There were many trips to look at new homes. Fights because we were grief stricken, shell shocked and bone tired.
Someone came to my sister and me and tried to pit us against us each other to see who was grieving more. She was a true Daddy’s girl who learned her work environment was changing while we made funeral arrangements. She found out about the change when boxes were delivered.
We did a lot of ministering to others because so few knew Dad was sick, and there they were at his funeral. He looked great. It was a very small circle that knew his fight.
Mom woke up the day after the funeral realizing after a life time of caring for so many people, she had no one to care for. That was her role, what she did. Who she was. And that was gone.
Once our move was complete I remember sitting in our new bedroom staring at those towers with blinking lights. Deep down I’m a country girl so I still don’t know what they are. But I couldn’t wrap my mind around it all. I had no idea how I got there.
And if I’d even survive.
While I set our toddler up with therapies and doctors and made sure our first grader adapted well to school and made sure my husband felt encouraged in his new job I grieved. I missed everything my family was. This new normal was so radical I had trouble trusting God. My husband worked through a Bible study on Job with me to help me take the pain and find the purpose.
And I’m so glad he did.
From that pain, grief, sadness, shock and everything in between I clung to Hosea 2:14. Basically it says when in the wilderness, God will speak tenderly to us. In that season I learned to lean on Him. Listen. Realize it was a season and He did have a purpose. It wasn’t a joke at my expense. I understood it as a preparation season, too. A visual learner, I pictured every tear going into a warehouse that Jesus will show me in heaven, and explain it all to me on that warehouse tour. I picked up His challenge to take that brokenness, knowing I will never see life the way it was, but in that new way, share that broken place with others.
Had I not lost so much on a level so deep, I would not be writing. In that season I surrendered everything, even fear. From there I started writing with no more fear of rejection or people pleasing. I trust God’s timing and words He gives, and am a literal scribe. I’ll put myself out there so people can see there is hope. They can survive this. Thrive, even.
As I emerged I was reading Get Out of that Pit by Beth Moore and I realized I was involved in something toxic that threatened to keep me in 2004 even though a couple years had passed. There was someone not just looking back, but staring. She wanted me to stare too. And when I decided not to, she didn’t like it.
Each year when we mark dad’s passing, it’s always different. This year is a little more pronounced. A decade I think is a milestone to remember. Losing someone so recently that meant a lot to our family brought feelings and memories back. As much as I miss dad and think of so many things every day that we could talk about, I know he’d be proud of how we’ve carried ourselves. Mom took on a project that was his dream and handled every single detail until it was completed. My sister is a mom and her little guy would be a delight to his grandpa. Dad would be proud of how my husband’s worked to provide for us and look out for his family. Our kids? There is so much in our son that is my dad. Our daughter was a kindred spirit to dad. She was less than a year old when he passed, but the bond was deep.
I am who I am because I’ve been emptied and made new. I’ve cried enough tears to fill that heavenly warehouse. Or 4.
But at this special remembrance, I look back.
And thank God I didn’t stare.
If you’re struggling with grief, I highly recommend griefshare.org. This was also key in my healing and moving forward.