July 12 is a hard day for me, friends. The memories are still vivid, as if they happened hours ago. Sometimes when I can’t fall asleep, I relive them.
July 12, 2013. A Friday.
I received three phone calls that day. The first was from Dad, about mid-morning, his usual weekly check-in. He called to chat and say hello to his granddaughters whom he saw only a handful of times a year due to the miles between us. It was a pleasant conversation. We had just visited him the week before, and he had plans to come out to see us soon. We ended it with, “I love you,” and hung up.
That evening, the second phone call came. This one from my brother, a tone in his voice that instantly made me tremble.
“Dad collapsed. He’s in the ambulance now.”
His words were so foreign to my ears. Before I had time to process — before I had time to rally my fellow prayer warriors — my brother called back.
As abrupt as that, life can end.
I remember falling to the floor, wailing. My husband and daugthers surrounded me in hugs and tears. I have never sobbed so hard.
The grief I felt was unlike any emotion I’ve ever experienced. It was more than sadness. It was an inconsolable ache for the one thing I wanted but knew I could not have: just one more day here with Dad.
Knowing we are not guaranteed tomorrow doesn’t make it any easier when someone we love loses it.
Grief is a bear, heavy, loud and enduring.
For those who are new to grief, I wish your burden was lighter. I wish your heart did not have to bear up under this. But I have hope to share with you, friends.
Having lived with (not through, with) grief for five years, I have learned that grief does have an upside.
Grief is one of the greatest teachers we can have. If you will allow me, I’d like to share with you the things it has taught me.
Grief teaches us to put less emphasis on materials things.
Not that I was especially materialistic to begin with, but after seeing Dad’s 62-year life reduced to figures on a legal document, I just couldn’t deny how empty possessions are. They burn, rust, break, disappear and get sold at auction. In their place is only air. The sentimental things hurt to lose, it’s true; but it’s also true we can’t sneak any of it into Heaven.
Memories and love are the only things we can hold fast to, and I aim to build those more than earthly treasure.
Grief can widen our capacity to forgive.
Grief can remind us what really matters. Resentment isn’t on the list. Knowing this, I am more quick to forgive (though far from perfect at it).
Grief will teach us to seek help from those who understand.
So many people have walked the road of pain before me, some more intense than mine. I found tremendous blessing in drawing from their wisdom.
Grief shows us how to help the hurting.
When we have lived through pain, we empathize on a whole new level with those who are enduring trails. We learn from being on the receiving end of help that often the best thing to do for someone in pain is to just be with them.
Grief gives us a reason to press on with more abandon to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us (Phil. 3:12).
This life and all its ups and downs is not all there is. We are promised a day with no more pain, no more sorrow, NO MORE TEARS! We will be joined with all the saints who have passed on into Glory before us. How amazing it will be!
This joy will be ours because Jesus took hold of us. He bought us from death and redeemed us from a forever of pain. This grief I know today, I will not know in Heaven, and for that reason, I press on, and I reach all the more for the gift of freedom Jesus provided for me.
Blessed are we who grieve, my friend, for we will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Comfort may seem like a million miles away right now, but it is there, and it will surround you.
Allow the grief to draw you to the foot of God’s throne, to shape you into something new and to be what prompts you to pour into others the comfort you receive.
Praying for you, and missing my dad,
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