I can still remember the evening of January 8, 2008 as if it just happened yesterday. I had gotten a message from a neighbor that the police were at my mom’s apartment. I called my sister and said you better go over there and check it out. Within 10 minutes, my sister called sobbing and said “She’s gone Debbie! She’s gone!” I remember distinctly the image that flew through my head as I yelled NOOOOOOO!!!!! It was the vivid image of a dream that I had hoped would come true one day…Me and my mom baking cookies in my kitchen and laughing together. I always saw her pulling the pan out of my oven and, as she turned, she was smiling and genuinely happy to be here baking cookies with me. The screaming NOOOOOO out of my mouth was not just about her being gone but my dream had not yet come true.
The dream-screen went black.
Flash forward to October 8, 2018…I received another call from my husband who was screaming in utter disbelief because he just found his father slumped over on his still-running tractor. I could barely make out what he was saying because he was trying to form words through his own shock…but the words that I did hear were the same “He’s gone Debbie! He’s gone!” In a matter of seconds, images of what was already true of me and my husband’s dad flashed through my head.
And this thought…my dad is dead.
I gasped and felt horrified that I would dare to call him my dad at such a time as this! He was Jeff’s dad and I would absolutely be strong and walk with Jeff through this tremendous loss. And I did for a few weeks and then I started becoming very agitated. I felt stuck in this box and there wasn’t much air to breathe. My heart broke every time my husband cried and I encouraged him to let it out because it is healthy to grieve.
All the while, I held it in. My hurt turning into anger. I didn’t know it at first. I have been a master at stuffing hurt my whole life but that is not the life God wants for me anymore.
Finally, one afternoon and much self-induced stress, God revealed to me the truth of my struggle.
My dad died!!!!!!
I called my husband and just sobbed and sobbed over the guilt that I felt over grieving the loss of his dad. Jeff was shocked that I had been holding this in. You see somehow, I was convinced that I wasn’t allowed to mourn for someone who wasn’t my actual father. After all, I have a stepfather and a biological father.
But Jeff’s dad was the closest I had ever been to having a real earthly father. He actually knew me and that includes all the bad stuff about me and what I did to hurt his son five years ago. He forgave me and loved me.
He enjoyed that I called him Dad all these years. He knew and loved our two daughters and they could get him to do just about anything.
I’ll never forget how they talked him into doing an Easter egg hunt. We gave him a pink basket. He acted like he didn’t want to do it at first but he really got into it! I’m still laughing at how he hid the eggs when it was his turn to do the hiding. He would literally cover them up so we couldn’t see them from ANY angle. He was so tickled with himself. There has to be eggs still up there in his yard in places that he simply forgot where he hid them. But he had the best time!
He would always watch the weather for me in the winter, ready to give me a full report of whether or not my prayers would be answered for a BIG SNOW. He always laughed when he would call and say “I don’t think so this time Debbie” and I would snap back and say “don’t be calling me with negative reports dad…I don’t have time for that!”
Dad had his baggage and struggles just like we all do but, what I loved most about him was his honesty about it all. He laid all his cards on the table and was honest…even if it didn’t make sense to me. I could relax with him and we could literally talk about anything. We never argued. He never made me feel defensive and he was always kind to me.
I called him one day and told him I was scared that someone was in the house. He jumped right in his truck and came down and checked the entire house for me. He had no weapons. But he came and he even asked me if he missed any spots that needed looking into.
I gotta be honest…makes me cry just remembering but, I think in my head, that is when he became my real dad in my heart. I don’t know what his plan was with the whole no weapons thing…but just the fact that I mattered to him and he drove over to protect me, he was the best in my book.
I really, really loved him.
He told me one day that he trusted me. Blew my mind! I even asked him…
”Why do you trust me dad after all I’ve done?”
He said it was because I was honest. He said no matter what I’ve never lied about what I’ve done and I’ve never held back the truth.
There are some that would disagree, I suppose, but I don’t care about that. Dad loved me and he trusted me. He took the time to know me and he deemed me lovable and trustworthy.
It is very hard for me in this season because I feel like my Dad dream-screen went black. We had so many more conversations to have and lots more meals to eat together, lots of snow to endure, granddaughters getting married and great-grand-babies to be born and on and on it goes.
The phone didn’t ring this week when this snow came in and I missed him so much.
My bestie’s dad passed away last week. It doesn’t make them dying any easier but she got to spend three months with him before he died. Walking with her through that helped me in my own grief of the losses I have experienced in my life. People who have died and people who are still alive and will have nothing to do with me.
My grief is not all pretty and I still have some very deep wounds but I’ve got Jesus and He is enough. He will walk with me and heal me and use me for His Glory. Mind blowing to be honest! He wants to do the same thing for you. Did you know that? It’s true!
As we move in closer and closer to Christmas, I am reminded that I will never lose my ONE and ONLY HEAVENLY FATHER. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He delights in me even as tears wet the front of my shirt over my earthly losses. I offer my wounded heart up to God for complete healing. Praying that I would trust and rest in Him more and more, being able to lay back against Him and breathe and hear His heartbeat. Could I possibly be that still?
HE is my only Hope and your only Hope. All things of this earth will pass away but His steadfast love will forever remain.
What will I do with what remains of my life? I know for sure two things…
- I will not stop speaking/writing about Jesus and what He has done for my soul and
- I will never give up.
You are not alone in your struggles sweet peeps…won’t you walk with me and learn to trust Him more and more every day?
I love you.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Come and see what God has done (Psalm 66:5a)
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul. (Psalm 66:16)
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)