Three years ago. Sometimes it feels so long ago, most times it feels like I can relive the entire last few weeks of my father’s life as if it were the first time. All it takes is a picture, a phrase he would say, a date (like today or his birthday), a smell – even funny moments that remind me of his humour take me back there. Back to the dagger of diagnosis. Back to the pain of hearing the words “incurable and untreatable”. Back to trying to figure out how to live without my father. Back to watching my family Back to the overwhelming weight of grief.
But with Jesus the waves retreat.
There are two moments in time that haunt me the most: the sound of his breathing as his body fought the inevitable result that was the end of his life, and the series of events between the doctor taking us into the nicely furnished room to discuss what was about to happen and watching the signature grace the paper that decided what level of end-of-life care my father would receive. The latter hurts the most.
But with Jesus, the pain subsides if only for a moment.
In what still seems like forever, I felt unusually calm and secure as we listened to medical advice and fought through the torture of hope and devastation. As we considered what was kind, what ‘dad would have wanted’, what was selfish, what was said to us, what we hoped would happen, what we were afraid of.
But with Jesus, we feel peace.
For a moment, in the business of life, I forgot what day it was. And then it happened. A memory. One that stirred and audible recollection of his voice (the last word I ever heard him say). It paralyzed me. And then it took away my footing. A moment that brought the magnitude of a three-year long hole in the life of my family.
But with Jesus, we can move again.
I go back to that numbness of the first days without my father. That uneasy, comforting feeling of the business end of death. Distracting everyone from the loss; allowing us to move forward in momentary denial just to get things done. During these trips back into the fresh feelings of loss, I crave those days of distraction if only for the matter-of-fact reasoning and avoidance of the feelings of loss they brought with them.
But with Jesus, we can move forward.
For the longest time after, I would avoid looking at pictures because it hurt too much; feeling as if his life was now only a photograph of his time with us. An entire lifetime now reduced to a few colourful pieces of paper that attempt to bring joy to the midst of the grief.
But with Jesus, we can feel again.
Just the other day, I was at lunch with some family, and my kids were asking questions about Papa. The more we shared, the more they wanted to know what Papa was like before they knew him – what he was like when they were babies – even before he became Papa. A seemingly regular conversation to the untrained eye, but this conversation started during another big step in our lives without Papa. As we spoke, I felt the same peace over us as I did in the hospital room during Dad’s last moments that assured me of where he was headed.
This conversation was intentional. Sitting in this restaurant together, some of us uncertain of what this next step means, some making shaky steps forward on this journey without, Jesus stepped in. He used our conversation to remind us of the joy. To remind us that even during these moments of pain and uncertainty; the moments that bear the sting of what no longer is, but was, there was a lifetime of joy. A lifetime of love. A lifetime of faith.
My dad had faith like no other. Not the you-have-to-do-these-certain-things kind of faith. Not the you-have-to-go-to-church-or-else kind of faith. Dad’s faith was the God-loves-me-where-I-am-and-who-I-am-and-I-live-to-serve-him kind. His life exemplified the whole ‘if God will bring me to it, He will get me through it’ idea. There was always an (when I was younger) inexplicable security with God’s hand on his life, and I never really understood how that was possible.
Until I found myself walking through a life without my father. I truly do not know how I made it to this point, three years later. Or better yet, I don’t know if I would have made it here without Jesus. From the moment in the hospital when I literally heard a voice tell me ‘It’s okay my child, he’s with me now’ right up until this most recent conversation with family, I leaned into my own faith, with that seed planted by my dad all those years ago. And Jesus continues to get me through it.