Today is my anniversary. Yesterday my father died. Next week, a total of five of us will gather to celebrate the life of the most important man I’ve ever known. And any day now, my sister will bring her first child into the world; eclipsed by piercing family loss. Yesterday was my sister’s birthday, a few days before was my son’s. But every one of these life events are passing quietly, gracefully, because that’s how it’s always been done in our family.
That devastates me. It makes me feel guilty. And it makes me feel like all meaning is getting sucked out of life and my relationships.
Grace and beauty do not make me sad. I absolutely believe in celebrating, mourning, living, and hurting gracefully. It takes so much discipline to do so, and in doing so, somehow, I know it brings you closer to what God intended for that moment. What makes me sad is fear of vulnerability, fear of being human, fear of letting them love you.
I’m fearful to even share that yesterday I lost the man who believed in me more than anyone, second maybe to my husband. But the life of my father, passing in a whisper, because of grace, hurts. And yet, I struggle to let people who love me know. I struggle to be vulnerable.
My father has suffered from Alzheimer’s and Dementia for nearly twelve years. But we never told anyone. We walked that journey alone. It wasn’t until about two years ago, that one of my most precious friends seeing my hurt, invited others to surround me and to pray for me. Some from that small group of people have prayed for me every single day for years, and have held my arms up and held me accountable. Had I not allowed myself to be vulnerable to that, my heart and mind would have suffered in ways that I could never have recovered from.
Tonight, news has slipped out about my father’s passing, and sweet tender messages are slowly beginning to trickle in. With each message, I fearfully wonder how that friend found out. I’m fearful to admit that I’m hurting. But I need to let them love me. That’s really hard for me to do. And just the same, this morning I took a bus to take a flight, alone, from Europe, to go to my deceased father in Boston, leaving my husband and children behind, because I was afraid to let them love me. Hurting alone seemed better.
—I’m not convinced yet that it’s not. But I came back, to let them love me through this.—
I know what the Sunday school answer says, and at times like right now, that answer frustrates me. To be honest with you, I want to cross my arms and stomp my foot with stubborn indignation to the Sunday school answer. But then I remember a time that I was less vulnerable, and I was given a glimpse of the future.
It was a day in Uganda that we met a girl who was dying. At that time I hadn’t seen death before. Now, I’ve seen it twice, and there’s something frightening and precious about what I’ve seen, and I hope I never forget what it looks like.
Yesterday, from the top of a cold rainy mountain top castle, overlooking a 400 year old cemetery in Scotland, I said goodbye to my father. Dear God, what do you say? How is it possible to be so vulnerable in front of a room full of doctors, on a speaker phone. What do you say to your father minutes before he passes when you’re 5,000 miles away?
I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.John 16:12I remembered the girl in Uganda. I remembered what my friend told me: “no one wakes up one morning and prays they have the words to speak over a dying child”. I remember asking my friend WHY had God given me that moment. She told me that one day, when I was ready, she would tell me why. It’s like the scripture I continue to come back to:
In the same way, none of us wakes up praying to know how to pray the last prayer that will shephard their father past the end of their life. But sometimes, God gives you those moments.
I knew the time would come, and that I would be the person to pray my father’s last prayer. I almost didn’t, because I was afraid. But had I not, imagine what opportunity for true grace and beauty would have been lost.
I prayed for my father, and he passed moments later. I came back to my family in Scotland, even though I wanted to run to Boston. The days and weeks will be trying ones for my family, as we mourn loss and welcome new life. I share all this now to celebrate my dad, but also to hopefully open hearts. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this journey of trial and loss, it is to let them love you.