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 alot. Others were spent in a comfortable silence between father and daughter. I think we both knew that there are just some things that words just can’t do justice.
I’m not sure that he ever came to terms with his death before the moment that it happened, but I do know that he made his peace with God. I came in to 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, but if you truly knew him, you would understand. Pete was a fighter, and he would not “go gentle into that good night.”
Regardless, the moment had come. That moment where we had to say the hard things to each other. I told him that I loved him with all of my heart. And I told him that he was dying.
And then we talked about his faith. My father was raised in the truth. He knew the Gospel, and he had received Christ early on in his life. But later, he was wounded many times by the people who serve God. Because of those painful experiences, he came to confuse God with the broken people who serve Him. I don’t know a better way to explain that. And I also don’t think that’s uncommon by the way. I asked my dad if he wanted to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and if I could pray for him. He said he would be the one to do the praying. Made my heart smile. And so he did. What a prayer! It was sincere and heartfelt. He poured his heart, his hurts, out to God, and asked for his forgiveness. And he received it (1 John 1:9).
Losing him has really turned my life upside down. Most days I feel as though I am pushing my way up from some very deep water. And my arms are tired. I’ve cried alot, and I’m sure that I’ll cry more as the years pass on. I don’t fully believe that “time heals all wounds.” But I know that Jesus does. That’s the hope that I cling to.
Since he 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 for him to see. 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 all of the ways my father invested in my life. To the love that we shared. For all of our troubles, in the end, 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. He was so excited to welcome his new granddaughter into the world, and he was absolutely heartbroken to know that her stay on this earth would be so short. He was there with me in the hospital when she was born. And he was there in the room with me after she died, leaving only to go up to the funeral home to make her arrangements so that I wouldn’t have to. We buried my baby in a small grave in my hometown. My father now rests beside her.
I believe that daddy is experiencing alot of “firsts” as well. Seeing Brenna again 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.