Sunday, September 26, 2010

I still remember

I had to be at work in the evening of this bright, sunny day. I thought I would lay out in the sun before I took off to go do hair for six hours and close the shop. Gave my mom a call to check on my dad. She had been staying at the hospital with him for three weeks now. I was at home doing all the chores and taking care of home stuff.

My dad had been fighting lung cancer for a year now. My parents never told me how bad it really was. They hid that from me. Maybe I was just ignoring it all. No one thinks their dad will never be there, right? I was expecting my dad home that next day. My brother in law was to come out and bring a bed for him and move my parents room around. So, I was expecting to see him, but not on this day.

Here I am laying out in my bikini getting a sun tan. Just relaxing. At nineteen you seem to think everything is going to be great and work out. You never think of the worse in things. You see the best in others and you know each day is going to bring a new excitement to your life in some way shape or form.

I was that girl who liked to party. I was that girl who never stayed at home. I was out with my boyfriend and I was doing things that only made me happy. I wasn't a bad kid, I just knew how to have fun. Maybe that is a trait I get from my dad. He loved to have a good time.

It was summer. It was the month of April, and it was unusually hot. Now, I had called to check on my dad and mom said he was doing great. I was planning on going to the hospital before work. Little did I know he would be gone by the time I was ready to go.

My brother in law pulls in the drive way with my nephews. I sit up and smile at him. I am thinking he is here to make room for the new bed and move things around. I smile at my nephews and they quietly smile back. Something is just not right with this picture. There is no bed to bring in. My brother in law looks at me with all the love and compassion he could have and tells me my dad is gone. I am wondering, "Gone where? He is suppose to come home." I don't cry. I can't cry. I tell him I will get dressed and he tells me he is driving me to the hospital. I move in the house as though I am lost.  I  pick up the phone calling my boyfriend at work. I hear his voice and the tears begin to fall. He knows before I say a word. See, he and my dad were close. They fished together. I think he was that son my dad never had.

This day just seems really slow. Everything is in slow motion. The sun is bright. I squint my eyes from the glare in the window. At this point I don't even know if I am crying. I enter the hospital again. Walking through the familiar doors and onto the floor where my dad was. This floor smelled like death. It was a floor that seemed to hold no hope. No hope for the ones there in the beds and for those sitting next to them. I not only watched my dad wither away, but my mom too. I am not sure she ever recovered from this day. From this whole year.

The last time I saw my dad was the day before. It was Easter Sunday. My uncles had brought him fried fish for dinner and he ate and had a lovely day. I remember this day, because it was the last time I saw my dad. I sat by his bed many days. I slept on the floor in his room many nights just listening to his breathing. Wondering if it was his last, and hoping he would just get up and come home. Before I left for home this day my dad looks to me and says, "Rob, you take care of your mom." I made a promise to him that I always would. But then I told him, "You will take care of her yourself when you get out of this bed and come home."

My dad called me Rob. It was a name that just seemed to stick. Those people who love me the most call me Rob still today. It is a name I carry with a humble heart, remembering just how my dad said it. I wish I could hear him say it again just once more.

So, I enter the floor where my dad is and see family standing around with tears falling freely. I see my mom, and hear a nurse say, "There is his daughter." They were waiting for me. What a strange thing to be waiting on. I am the last to get there. I don't think my brother in law was really in any hurry to get me there. I don't think I wanted to be there anymore than he did. I look and I see my boyfriend. It is his face that brings me comfort. But I know what I must do. I must enter in his room. I didn't have to, but I knew somehow this is what I was to do next. My aunt offered to go in with me. I don't know where my strength came from, but I knew I had to do it alone. Maybe another attribute from my dad. He seemed to be the strongest man I ever knew.

My aunt walks me to the door. I turn the knob and walk through the quietness of the room. Silence is deafening, but somehow healing. I am not even sure that makes sense. I go to my dad's bed and see him. Now the tears are there. Nothing is stopping them. It is as if reality has hit me in the gut. The princess wants her king to come home. She wants him out of this bed and out in his boat. She wants her mom cooking the fried catfish he brought home and hearing the football game on. I want to see his boots sitting by the front door. I want to hear the dog bark again when he knows my dad has pulled in the drive way. It's funny how we seem to take all these little moments for granite, never realizing there will be a last time.

All the tubes are left hanging free. No oxygen turned up high. No muffled sounds of breath. No television to drown out the silence. Only me and my dad. My thoughts and empty heart. God? I knew there was a God, but I sure didn't know where He was. I didn't think He was in this room. I did not carry the deep faith in Christ Jesus then as I do today. I held anger and resentment. I was mad at the world. Why? Why did my dad have to die in this way? Why did he have to go at such a young age?

Those were questions I sat and said through my tears. I touched his hand. I kissed his forehead and remembered the dad that was. I remembered him strong. I remembered his huge arms that scared boys away. I remember his cowboy boots and endless amounts of shirts. He liked to dress that is for sure.
As this girl sat beside his bed I felt like a little girl all over again. I was confused and hurt. Why didn't someone tell me? Why didn't someone prepare me? I thought he was coming home. I thought he was fine. I knew he was sick, but no one was ever honest with me. We just never talked about it. But, then again, can you really prepare to lose your father?

I spoke to my dad and told him thank you. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him. I told him all the things I didn't when I had the time. Maybe that is where part of my hurt was from. We didn't have a family that shared. I walked out of that room without ever turning my back to my dad and gave him a thumbs up. I never said good bye. Just that I would always and forever remember. I stayed until they took my dad away. There was no funeral. He was cremated. No tombstone to visit. Only ashes.

Little did I know then, but before my dad died he accepted Christ as His Savior. A family member had a pastor come and visit my dad. He accepted the Savior that I would find later in my life. Now, I know why good bye words didn't seem to fit. We were not saying good bye, but see you again one day.
Sometimes hurt comes in our lives and we just don't know what to do with it. We think we protect others by not talking about it, but we are wrong. We think by not saying anything somehow it covers up the pain, but all silence does is open it up bare. I look back now and wonder, "Could anything have really made that day better?" I am not sure how to answer that. I think no matter what I would have been mad. I think anger would have taken over no matter what.

That night I went home and after my mom crawled into bed I crawled into my dad's boat. I spent hours in that boat just thinking. Just letting the tears flow. See, I had to be strong for my mom. I could not let any other see my cry. I couldn't show any weakness at all. But inside, I was dying. I didn't open up to anyone. I closed up. No one was getting close to my heart again, because I wasn't losing anyone again.

It took me years to let go of my anger and pain. Today if I let my flesh get to me I can still draw from that anger. I still miss him. I still remember like it was yesterday. After the memorial service I took my dad's ashes and walked down to the river. I opened them with great care and I remember even praying. Praying what I don't know. With tears I let his ashes slip through my hands into the wind, blowing into the river where he spent his evenings and weekends.

Even though I didn't know the Lord then, He knew me. I have no doubt in my mind He was in that room that day with me and my dad. The Lord was watching over me even when I didn't know Him. That is how great His love is. Where my earthly father is no longer here, my heavenly Father is. There is one thing about Him. He is never leaving me. Nothing can tear Him away from me. Not the sin of this world or the evil in it.

Why share this story with you? I know many are hurting with loss of all kinds. Through my dad's death I learned much. Through that journey I learned to love again. I learned to open my heart. I learned to say, "I love you and I am sorry." I learned never to take one day of life for granite. Through that journey I learned my weakness' and my strengths. The Lord is my strength today. I know with Him I can face anything. Just as this girl sat in front of her daddy and faced my fears, I can face today and tomorrow knowing my Savior is near. He was near that day and He walks with me daily now.

If pain is in your home, talk to your children. Talk to your family. Don't hold back truth. Be honest in those deepest struggles and move through the journey's together in love and faith. We don't have to walk through anything alone, we can reach out to others. Ask for help when you can no longer stand. Reach out for others to meet your needs. Don't worry about the right words. Just put your arms around each other and lean on the Lord. He will meet your greatest needs. Don't let your fears keep you from healing and living again.

I have kept my promise to my dad. I pray he can see me from heavens gates and look at me with pride. I know he is cheering me on. Oh, how I wish he were here. I would love to walk this journey of faith with him. One day we will sit together at the feet of Jesus and you know, just that makes it all worth it in the end. I don't have all the answers. I can't even begin to figure it all out. But, I know the One who can. I know He has a plan much bigger than I can see. He can take those hurts and turn them into healing. He can take our anger and turn it into peace. He can take our confusion and give us hope. Hope eternal.
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