As I write them, the words seem surreal.
But yes, they are true – so painfully true.
Last Thursday, in the wee hours of the morning, my dad passed away.
I was the first one to hear the news – an unexpected phone call that jolted me awake, followed by desperately trying to comprehend the words that didn't make sense through the fogginess of sleep. Though it was difficult, I am grateful that I was the first to know.
I cry at the memory of the phone calls I had to make. The people I had to jolt awake. My brother and sister, my husband, my sons. It was so hard to hear their reactions. But oddly, I somehow felt privileged to be the one to tell them.
As time passed, my brother and sister came over. And we waited together to tell Mom. When she woke up and poked her head out of her bedroom, she was surprised to see all of us there. I walked into her room to help her change out of her nightgown. All of a sudden, I could tell that she understood.
She looked at me and said, "Everyone's here. Did something happen?"
"Oh no! Did Dad die?"
And that's when I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and had to say, "Yes, Mom, he did."
She did well hearing the news then, and she's done very well dealing with the news in these last few days.
The blessing lies in this – my dad died peacefully. His injuries were serious – more serious than we originally thought – and he was in a great deal of pain. However, Thursday morning he just stopped breathing – no fuss, no fanfare. One moment snoring, the next moment silent.
I have had a feeling that this was coming.
And so, my reaction is shock, but not surprise.
Because of the fact that a part of me somehow knew, I've been praying for him. I've been praying that the Lord would be gracious and allow him to die quietly – not in pain, not afraid.
And the Lord answered my heart.
Since Thursday, we have had the arduous task of making arrangements. Again, the best word I can use to describe the whole process is surreal. Picking out his clothes was heart-breaking, picking out his casket was grim.
But, I'm so grateful for the last 10 days with my dad. For the healing that came in some of the very kind things he said to me. I heard my dad tell me he loved me. Eye-to-eye, and fully aware.
I held his hand, and rubbed his arm. I have never done anything like that in my life. My dad wasn't a real demonstrative guy, so this physical, comforting contact was a gift.
My very last moment with my dad was when the rehab facility called me at 11 PM on Tuesday night. They were unable to get my dad calmed down, and they thought perhaps a familiar face would help.
I was able to settle him down. And just before I left, I rubbed his forehead and his eyebrows and put him to sleep. These were my last moments with my dad, and I will treasure them forever.
My feelings are many, complex, confusing – sadness, relief, love, hurt. A weird discomfort that I am now in the world without a father.
I'm sure it will take me a long time to process it all.
But through it all, the firm and powerful Presence of the Lord has been there.
I've felt Him hold me up. I've felt Him push me forward. I've even felt Him pick me up and carry me a few times.
And, of course, I've had time to ponder His word for me this year – JOY.
He gave it to me because He knew. He knew what was coming less than a week into the new year – He knew how quickly my dad was going to die after that.
So, He purposefully placed that word – HIS word – JOY, into my heart.
But I wonder, to WHAT purpose, Lord?
Someone asked me in a comment last week – How do you find joy in your sadness?
Well, I guess I'm getting a first-hand chance to find out.
Two weeks ago, I would have been hard-pressed to answer that question in any positive way. I would have probably told you that *joyful sadness* was an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp.
I would have told you that I didn't think it was possible.
But now, though I might still tell you it's impossible – I can tell you that it's HIM-possible.
I would tell you that sometimes you can't figure out how the joy is going to come. That when you're not sad, you can't possibly anticipate feeling joy in sadness. But, when the sadness actually comes, you can be surprised by the joy.
Happiness? No, of course not. But JOY? Yes.
JOY as in a settled feeling that God was here in the difficult circumstances long before you arrived. That God paved the way for His goodness to cover you, for His power to strengthen you, for His peace to fill you.
That in every single tear you shed, you will be reminded of Jesus, Only You.
My mom keeps apologizing for crying. She says she feels that she should be strong. I keep reminding her of the shortest verse in the King James Bible. John 11:35…
He definitely allows grieving. His tears prove that our tears can be a holy thing. That our tears are sanctioned and blessed by His suffering. That His tears reassure us that He understands, more than we will ever know, how much death hurts.
But joy is found in knowing the rest of the story.
Jesus did something BIG to fix the death problem that started in the Garden of Eden. He did something BIG to remove its curse.
He Himself died.
(I like to think of it as the ultimate oxymoron – LIFE death!)
And so, as believers, we grieve – but WITH hope.
I can't remember who said it, but someone said that my father didn't die, he just got promoted. And how true that is. C. S. Lewis would say that my father has left the Shadowlands, and is now where everything is REAL. He has experienced the end of the beginning, and is now at the beginning of forever.
I like the image of that. My dad standing erect, with a clear mind, and a big smile on his face. I think that image is the promise that we all have to look forward to.
My father is with the Lord. And one day he will be reunited with his resurrection body. And when I die, I will join him. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll meet him in the sky when our precious Lord returns.
In it all, the JOY is found in Jesus, Only You.
I will miss you, Dad...until we meet again.
And then, we'll have eternity.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NLT)
"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord."
(2 Corinthians 5:1-8, NLT)
"It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies...What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
"Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
...thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 50-55, 57, NLT)
"...do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
(Nehemiah 8:10, ESV)
How has God comforted you in a time of grief?
Linked today with:
Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Darlene at TITUS 2SDAYS
Jen at UNITE
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Bonnie at FAITH BARISTA JAM
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Barbie at WEEKEND BREW
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS
BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"