Five Years Without You

Dear Daddy,

I’ve often imagined what a typical day in heaven is like for you. Now, on the fifth anniversary of your death I am wondering, what does five years feel like in heaven?

In case you’re wondering, here’s what five years feels like down here…

I live in a house you’ve never seen. You aren’t here to help me when I need to fix or paint something. I cry angry tears when spring comes and I work on the front yard landscaping alone. That was always our thing.

I have children you never met. Twins in fact. I know, right? You always joked about wanting twin grandbabies. When I look at my kids, I see so many of the qualities I adored in you. Kindness, quick whit and curiosity. If you were still here I wonder how you would influence their little personalities.

But it’s not just the kids and this old house triggering sadness. It’s me. Five years later I am a different person and it’s strange to think you don’t know the new me. Since you passed, I am stronger. Not just in my faith, but in my thinking and determination.

Oh, I’m still selfish and greedy. I want you back so you can teach my children what you taught me. Five years later I grieve the memories that will never happen.

The year you died my heart was dripping with sadness. The waves of grief washed over me frequently. Now, they don’t come as often or linger as long. But when they come, oh how my heart longs for you. Then I do what I have done every year for five years. I pull out your old shirts and smell them. I put on your jacket and put my hands in the pockets. Then I let myself cry. The kind of cry that makes your chest ache and gets stuck in your throat. I let grief hug my soul and I mourn what is gone.

As quickly as the sadness comes, it’s gone. I take a deep breath and once again choose to accept the sovereignty of God. I remind myself pain has purpose. My pain has a purpose and I will not waste it. You wouldn’t want me to. So I change my lens and remind myself,  even in death you are still helping shape who I am. Five years later I think you would be proud of who I have become. More like you.

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January 9

January 9 is not a day I look forward to.  January 9 is the day my daddy died.

Think about the way you anticipate Christmas, your birthday, or a special day in your life.
In the same way you look forward to those days, I feel the complete opposite about January 9 and the week preceding. I wouldn’t say dread, but pretty close.

I’m sad. Impatient. Grumpy and irritable. Then sad again.
I remember and recount all the days and memories leading up to his passing.
I cry at the drop of a hat and can’t decide if I want to be alone or talk about it.

We knew it was the end. The cancer had spread too many places. Daddy had stopped taking chemo because he hated how it made him feel. Surgeries and procedures were no longer an option, so he saw no point in taking a medicine that made him feel like crap just to prolong the inevitable. Daddy’s oncologist saw him Monday and told him to go home and be as comfortable as possible. But when a hospice nurse and morphine are ordered, how comfortable can you get?

On Thursday I went to see him after my ultrasound for Lincoln. We all knew he was getting weaker, but had no idea how close he was. Mom made a quick run to the store, so it was just daddy and I on the couch. I told him Amy and her family were driving down after school.  Lisa and her family would be here soon.

“Tonight we’ll all be here with you daddy. I think it’s ok to go.”
He closed his eyes and nodded.
“I just want to do it right”, he replied.

We exchanged a few more words, then sat on the couch holding each other and crying. It was the last time my father would hug me.

Shortly after Lisa and Amy arrived he said he was tired and went into the bedroom to lie down. We all took turns going in and talking to him.

Our last conversation was horribly beautiful, if that makes sense.
He was starting to fade in and out. Opening his eyes and talking seemed to require all the energy he could muster.

I wrapped my hands around his frail face and tried to memorize his features.
“I love you daddy. I’ll see you in the morning, or I’ll see you in Heaven.”

He became unresponsive later that night.

Friday morning a dear friend called and offered to take Neala for the day. When she came in, she asked to say goodbye to daddy.
Once in the room, she had an odd request. She told me to hold his hand so she could take a picture.
His liver, among other organs, was starting to shut down so his skin was extremely yellow.
I didn’t think it would be a very nice picture and not how I wanted to remember him.

But then she brought the picture to the funeral.

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This picture is displayed in our living room and I think it is horribly beautiful, if that makes sense.

My life immediately following daddy’s passing was challenging. Like the original picture, I wasn’t sure I would like my “new normal”.

Thankfully, God has helped me find beauty among grief’s rubble.
In the midst of my pain, I have found the sweet presence of the Lord to be nearer than I ever thought possible. I also find myself drawn towards others in pain.

At some point in your life you will experience loss.
While I cannot protect you from loss, grief or sadness, I can offer a bit of advice:
Find the beauty among grief’s rubble.
Turn your ear towards others in pain and offer to listen.
Draw near to God instead of turning away.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

 

 

Daddy’s paintbrush

We moved this summer to accommodate the bucket load of children I recently had.
The house was built in the 80’s, which means lots of honey oak cabinets and brass doorknobs.  The only thing good that came from the 80’s was my little sister and the song “Endless Love.”

I wasn’t able to do many projects this summer because I was in a zombie, sleep deprived state taking care of twin babies. Now that everyone is sleeping through the night and we have one foot out of survival mode, I’ve started tackling my never ending to do list.

This week I painted the play room. It’s “supposed” to be a formal dining room. But there’s four of you turkeys children, so there ain’t nothing formal or fancy about our house. Besides, even if we did have a fancy schmancy dining room, there would be nowhere for our guests to sit because our family uses all the chairs.

The play room has a chair rail. The former owners painted the bottom a crimson red, and the top was this weirdo yellow/beige color, which I felt looked like baby poo.

When I started to prime the walls, it was instant joy. Painting is something I enjoy almost as much as vacuuming because the results are instant. I started humming and made up a little song about saying goodbye to the 1980’s.
But when I sat down to trim by the baseboards my heart took a quick turn towards sadness. I wished so badly my daddy was there painting with me.

Your dad took all of you upstairs to play so I could actually get some painting done without 4,128 interruptions. I painted for almost three hours in silence. No music. No phone calls. Just me and my memories.

My daddy, your Pawpaw, was a painter for many years. He taught me how to paint when I was a young girl.  I remember helping him paint several rooms in our church growing up.  He showed me how to cut in and what kind of rollers to use on various surfaces. Daddy was always patient with me during our “lessons”, even when I rolled the paint too thick and left drips.

JoJo came over the next night and helped me paint the trim because it was so.much.stinkin.trim. Crown molding, chair rail, baseboards. It was about to drive me batty.She brought over a few of my daddy’s paint supplies.  Funny how little things can trigger your heart. When I dipped his old brush in the paint I closed my eyes and tried to remember his voice, his smile, his laugh. I imagined what it would be like if he were still here. He would roll and I would cut in. Our conversation would be natural, not forced or awkward. It would be funny and meaningful all at the same time.

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Looking back, the lessons my daddy taught me about painting can apply to many aspects of life:

Buy the expensive brush.

Don’t rush through the job.

Paint that is still drying isn’t pretty, but it’s part of the process.

You can’t keep rolling over wet paint.  It makes it sticky and cronky and, just no.

Cleaning up isn’t fun, but it’s necessary.

As the four of you get older I will teach you how to paint. More importantly, I will teach you the lessons my father taught me as a young girl. Lessons about working, waiting, loving.

I can’t promise I will be as patient as he was.
But I’ll let you use his brush.