My Sister's Side Door

Firsts

My father died in May of this year. It wasn’t unexpected.  He had cancer, and by the time they found it, there wasn’t much that could be done in terms of a cure. We had less than a year left together before he died. I was holding his hand at that sacred moment when his soul took leave of his body and he stepped into eternity.   I could feel the presence of God in that small hospice room.  There was no struggle.. no fight for once in daddy’s life. His eyes were fixed on something that we could not see.  And at the moment of his death, a single tear fell from his eye.  I can’t say with certainty why that happened, but I believe he was seeing something very beautiful.  The peace in that room was palpable. Supernatural.  It was something my father had never experienced in his life here on earth. I believe that it was a tender gift from his Creator.  It broke my heart in the most beautiful way.

I spent many days in my father’s hospice room before he passed.  Some days we talked endlessly.  Others were spent in a comfortable silence between father and daughter.

I’m not sure that he ever came to terms with his death before the moment that it happened.  He fought for each breath until he took his last one.  But what I do know is that he made his peace with God.  I came into his room one night, and he was a little agitated.  “Angie, people keep coming in here praying for me.  Am I going to die?”  Seem strange to some that he hadn’t realized it before this moment, but if you truly knew him, you would understand.  Pete was a fighter, and he would not “go gentle into that good night.”

But the moment had come when difficult truths had to be spoken.  I told him that I loved him with all of my heart. And I told him that he was dying. My father had spent years running from God, but that night, he turned around and came face-to-face with his Creator. All of the distance my father had put between him and the Lord disappeared with his earnest prayer. He poured out his hurts, his heart, to the Lord.  It was a sacred moment and I was blessed to be there to bear witness to it.  A few weeks later, we all gathered around his bed and held his hand as he breathed his last breath and stepped into eternity.  There was a palpable peace in that room that had been absent during his life here on earth. When he breathed that last breath, a single tear fell from his eye.  HIs suffering was over.  After years of suffering from post-war trauma, my Nam vet father had finally made it home.

Losing him has really turned my life upside down.  I’ve cried alot, and I’m sure that I’ll cry more as the years pass on.  I don’t believe that “time heals all wounds.”  But I know that Jesus does.  That’s the hope that I cling to.

Since my father died, there have been many painful “firsts”.  I bought my first car without daddy’s input.  And drove it to my house instead of driving it over to his.  I took my first trip back up to Lynchburg and couldn’t call him to let him know that I’d arrived safely.  The list of “firsts” is growing daily.  It made me sad at first to realize all of the things I’ll do without him now.  But I’m not sad about it anymore.  That list is a testimony to all of the things we did together. To the love that we shared.  For all of our troubles, in the end, that love is what we are left with.  And I am thankful for that.

While I was in Lynchburg, another anniversary came and went without commentary.  In part because I couldn’t let myself think about it too much or I wouldn’t have been able to get through the week’s work.  Mostly because the grief is still, some days, so fresh in my heart.  This year was my daughter’s first birthday after daddy’s death, but really she would be twenty-five this year.  My father grieved Brenna’s death so deeply here on earth, but his grief over losing her has passed.  Was she in the room with us waiting for him when he took that last slow breath?  I cannot say.  It is a mystery. But I can hope. And I can trust in the goodness of God and know that whatever my father is experiencing is far more beautiful than our human hearts can even fathom.

Daddy’s nickname “Grumps” was given to him in anticipation of Brenna’s birth. I had a t-shirt made with the name printed on it and presented it to him with much fanfare.  He was so excited to welcome his new granddaughter into the world.  His heart broke on the day that she died. We buried my baby in a small grave in our hometown of Hogansville.  My father now rests beside her.

I believe that daddy is experiencing many  “firsts” as well.  Seeing Brenna again for the first time would have delighted him to the core of his being. But seeing Jesus…the Savior who gave it all for him.. I can only imagine.

For me, I cling to the truth that I know. Death is not the end.  The pain of loss will never leave me entirely while I’m alive, but by grace, I will learn to live with the hurt.  I know that there are still hard days ahead, but I fix my eyes on Christ and put one foot in front of the other.  Everyday. In that, I honor Christ and my father.  Until we meet again.

 

 

Advertisements

For Jenny

Jenny and I met during what was undoubtedly one of the most chaotic seasons of my life. I was in my early twenties and I was dating a guy who, as it turned out, had a thing for Jenny. I wasn’t exactly friendly to her because of this, and Jenny being Jenny..wasn’t about to let that slide. At her insistence, we spent some time hanging out, and figured out pretty fast that we got along quite well . We had alot in common. And we laughed. Alot. And just that quick,

a beautiful friendship

1936025_102441726435362_8245768_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1936025_102441729768695_1726756_n

 

 

 

 

 

was born.

 

 

That first summer, she helped me get a job driving the beer cart at golf course that she worked for so..

1910133_100517129961155_6497024_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

much of that summer was spent flying over concrete entirely too fast in a golf cart that wasn’t “souped up” but drove like it was. We talked alot.  About life, her past and mine- but we also spent alot of time in the moment.

I am so thankful for that now.

Our friendship spanned many relationships, several short-lived fashion trends (READ: disasters), a couple of marriages, and one very difficult divorce. We struggled through the loss of children..and then we celebrated the birth of two-

Hers…

18333_1328986308914_603047_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and my own.

 

You see, because of that friendship, my husband and I were able to adopt a beautiful little boy.

 

156118_1645826459745_2348403_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

154335_1645826939757_5634404_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of that friendship, a beautiful little boy lives in a home filled up with love, security, and encouragement..

162900_1645829699826_7680309_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

156556_1646788963807_1226602_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1377565_10201474099028594_235278219_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1465212_10201794003466005_1294577386_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny gave us that gift by bringing us all together.

1936025_102409496438585_6212058_n

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny and I hadn’t spoken much over the last few years and her passing was very unexpected. I knew that she was unwell, but I don’t think that I let it sink in just how bad things had become until they day the message came in that she was in the hospital. From that moment, time kind of stood still. To be honest, it still does most days. It took some time for me to be able to get through the day without crying. Longer still for me to be able to look at the pictures..endless stacks of them.. that remind me of earlier times “before.” Before the heart wrenching losses that quite simply broke her heart and mine. There was much left unsaid in the end, and I regret that so much. I know her well enough to know what she would say about that. She had a loving and forgiving spirit..always comforting others even during times of intense personal pain. She was ( and is) an amazing human being.
One of Jenny’s greatest talents was bringing all of the people that she loved together. I have been blessed beyond measure to spend much time over the years with her family and other friends. Her older sister is my sister now. In Christ and in life. Her mother made the stocking that we hang for Isaiah on the mantle every Christmas. With loving hands. Her mother was also there with us on the day that Isaiah was born. Jenny brought us all full-circle though I couldn’t quite see that at the time.

It takes time to push past the incredible heartache that comes after… after my friend steps out of this world and into eternity.  It takes time to once again appreciate the beautiful things that she saw and captured through that ever-present camera lens.  It takes time to get through an entire day without tears.  Or at least, without public tears.  It takes alot of time. But there is one certainty in all of this.  To have a friend like Jenny is worth every.single.bit. of the pain that comes from losing her.  She was.. she is… a gift to those of us who have been privileged enough to call her friend. And I will never forget her.