THIS is the week that four years ago began what I now mark in time as BD and AD---before diagnosis and after diagnosis. Earlier this week was the day that I got the message that something significant was wrong with my dad's health and tomorrow marks the day that we had the somber conversation of knowing just how advanced and how significant this battle was going to be. Though from the first initial moment, God prepared my heart for the reality that Dad's healing very likely would only come in the form of heavenly wholeness---I was in no shape, form or fashion prepared for how quickly that would progress.
Today, I still find myself very introspective as these days and "anniversaries" roll around. Though the pain and emptiness has changed shape with time, it still is an ongoing struggle at times. Our family has changed dramatically in these years. We've been blessed to add a new family member as my brother got married just over a year ago. It's heart wrenching to know that in just this short year, she's also lost her own father to the same beast of a disease. Daddy never got the gift of getting to know her or experiencing the joy of seeing my brother fall in love, marry, and start a life together. In just a couple of weeks our daughter will officially be finished with her high school education and my niece will also graduate in a few months. Grandpa won't be here to celebrate such a big milestone. For me, I looked forward to the day of him seeing that we followed through with our home education plans from start to finish. He wasn't quite sure about *this* way of school in the beginning (though he was supportive), but as time went along, he saw the difference it was making for our family. In just over a week, I turn 40 and for some reason this milestone feels a bit empty without him around. I think part of me always felt that at 40, I'd finally be a grown-up! Ha!
Each one of us as siblings live in completely different states and very rarely ever find ourselves home together at the same time. With different jobs and responsibilities, traveling at the holidays just hasn't been as easy as hopping up and going home.
Life is just different.
BD and AD.
I see now how amazing our lives were before BD. We just didn't know it until AD.
For my personal little family unit, our lives are good. We're happy. We're relatively healthy as a whole. We've had incredible joys and our togetherness has grown exponentially.
Life had to go on AD. Life even had to go on when the holidays were completely changed and haven't returned to "normal". Can Christmas ever really be normal again when it becomes wrapped in the memory of making final arrangements on Christmas Eve, standing around in a funeral home on Christmas Day, and burial on the day after Christmas...instead of our normal holiday traditions? So far it hasn't, but we are purposely seeking to bring that true joy back to this season this year.
After you've been through loss or dramatic change (AD)---you realize just how beautiful and amazing life WAS. We sometimes just don't realize how great it was until it's ripped away.
I think every single one of us fails to see how greatly blessed we are. We have more than we could ever say thank you for, but we fail to walk in the paths of sincere gratitude. We fail to say the words we should have said. We fail to see what material and non-material gifts we have sitting before us. We take those around us for granted. We're selfish and self-seeking.
Loss teaches you that.
I think in some ways, I'm just now beginning to see the beauty of loss. Though that sounds strange to type and strange to think about, loss did bring about some beauty in our lives. Though the loss of Dad and the roller coaster of his illness and the picking up the pieces after he was gone was HARD and some days is still harder than I expected, I can see now the gifts that came with it.
Loss teaches you to look at life differently----even if it takes awhile to get to that point because grief is a journey that takes you through some anger, bitterness, and depression. Though I still fail many days to see how fleeting life is, I do have the lens of knowing it to be true. I try to take each day with a new perspective that wouldn't have come had I not been forced to go through the valley.
Loss can teach you about your own frailties, weaknesses and rough edges. The ugly shows up. No doubt about it.
Loss can also teach you about the strength of faith, the support of family and friends, and can reveal a side of God you just couldn't really grasp until the valley has swallowed you whole.
Would I rewrite history if I could and keep Dad here? My heart would say yes some days, but the reality is my answer would be no. God knows best. Heaven is a reward. Dad received the ultimate gift. It isn't an ending. It's just the beginning.
That doesn't take away the fact that we feel his loss and I wish I had been able to have more "adult" conversations with him and gleaned from his unique wisdom. I wish my children had been more able to etch him in their memories and experience countless things with him. However, they have learned things through loss that are invaluable. Conversations that we may have never had with them or not have had so deeply---pointing them to Christ, heaven, and faith---have been priceless. They've seen first hand how God can heal broken hearts through the deepest pain. They've seen the hope of heaven.
Though I still don't understand what God's plan was and how *this* fits in---I've learned a deeper level of trust and my faith has grown. Though my heart broke, it also grew. Though my heart has an empty place, it has filled in other areas that I didn't know possible.
Thinking back over those days at this point now leaves me with great memories. Some of the *harder* things have lost some of their sting as the BEAUTY has replaced some of the crippling sadness. God really did reveal Himself to us many times during those days. We saw glimpses of heaven that still just leave me breathless. I find it a blessing like no other to see how my Dad responded to everything thrown at him and his final days/hours were evidence of his faith.
Time sure doesn't heal all wounds. (That's a lie!) Time DOES give us a different perspective.
I'm thankful today most especially for those final days. Those days that allowed for some VERY meaningful conversations. Times for God to show us Himself in ways we'd never experienced.
Today, I miss my Dad and I think of the journey that we've all been on and how our lives are different. I do think of what could have been and what I hoped for----but I walk in a deeper trust that God's plan is far beyond mine.
Today, I'm thankful.
I'm thankful that loss does bring gain.
It brings us a deeper longing for heaven. It brings us greater gratitude for what we had and for what we currently have each day. It brings a greater perspective. It brings the reminder of what we're living life for. It brings us the reality of knowing just how much we need God in our lives and just how much of a gift His sacrifice was for us.
Loss brings heavenly focus.
For that, I'm grateful.