It’s been a while. It’s been a l o n g while.
When I began writing this blog it was was with reluctance. (For a reminder see my initial post.) And it was only after multiple confirmations I believed it was a journey to which God had called me. From the onset my one caveat was, “I’ll only write when I feel God has truly given me something to share.” I’ve stuck to it. And for some reason he’s allowed me a long dry spell. But there can be growth in even the most arid seasons.
It has been almost one year since I felt the nudge to share. Even today I do it somewhat hesitantly, unsure if it’s me behind these words. Or is it indeed the Lord. So much has happened during this sabbatical that I haven’t the words to frame it. I struggle to try and compose a piece that would adequately reflect the events and give encouragement to those that find themselves upon a similar path. I don’t think it’s really possible to tie it all in a neat tidy bow.
The months have been messy, painful, beautiful, hard, tender, difficult and peaceful.
June of 2017 stirred an uneasiness within me. An anxiety, an unsettling, an awareness that something, somewhere wasn’t right. Not as it should be. Something simmered just below the surface, outside my vision. Yet I could feel it, much like the tingling of our skin before the lightening strikes and illuminates the sky. My concern eventually rested upon my Dad. Even though he professed to be fine, within me I knew that he was not. His routine didn’t vary neither did his tenacity in accomplishing his goals and completing his list of innumerable projects. Yet something didn’t feel just right. I spent the next four months relaying messages of concern to my sisters, consulting my mom on her observations and attempting to convince him to see a doctor. Dad continued to assert that he was fine, he’d see his cardiologist on his regularly scheduled appointment, nothing to worry about.
I am fearful. My Dad is 83 years old and I know that some day I’ll lose him. I’m just not ready for it yet. I spent my entire summer anxious, worried and borderline panicked wondering what I would do when something happened to Dad. I cried myself to sleep a l m o s t E V E R Y night. Messy. Very messy. I began to fret, ‘if I’m acting this way now, when he’s still here – what will I do when . . . ?’ I was overcome.
I prayed Dad would be o.k., that nothing serious was wrong. I prayed God would give me peace and acceptance whatever his situation. I prayed God would heal him, that those 15 year old pig valves would keep pumping away in his heart.
My dis-ease continued.
The dog days of August are typically a slower time on the farm. Crops are laid by, the harvest is not yet ready, there is a less frantic pace. One evening as we’re about to enjoy a few moments of relaxation on the deck the hubby is struck with dizziness, cold-sweats, palpitations and almost “hits the deck” – literally. That little episode landed him in the hospital overnight and on a six month journey to find out he required heart bypass surgery. More anxiety.
What typically would be discovered in the first round of testing took five doctors and multiple trips to four different hospitals. (The hubby never does anything in typical fashion.) It was agonizing. No one agreed as to whether there was a problem with his heart. They agreed there was a problem, just not sure what. So he carries on working on the farm, harvesting, working cattle, maintaining the farm equipment. And I am holding my breath each day. Praying that he will be o.k. Twice while driving he had heart episodes. The second one, while we were en route to vacation, actually brought us to the doctor that solved the mystery. Beautiful. Merciful relief.
But Dad, what about Dad? Dad did as he said, he went to his regularly scheduled cardiologist appointment. In November it is apparent that he is struggling, the consensus is AFib. The doctor evens tells him to come prepared to stay overnight following his procedure to restore the rhythm. He is having difficulty walking very far because he’s out of breath, but with dogged determination he makes every step even if it means taking a few rests along the way. It hurts my heart to see him labor to breathe and it hurts even more to know that his independence is taking a blow.
Dad is admitted to the hospital for his procedure and it goes well. In a matter of minutes his heart is back in rhythm. Great. Everything is fine. For now.
Later that evening the cardiologist returns to share the results of an abdominal scan ordered days earlier by his general practitioner. No one was prepared for the news, except Dad. Advanced stage pancreatic cancer.
Where did that come from?
Nine days. Nine days. We had nine wonderful, beautiful, tender days with Dad. We were blessed with the gift of time to say good-bye. Time to say all those things that people too often wish they HAD said. All of his family was able to come and share their private moments with him, those who live near and those across the country. He rested at home comfortably (thank you Hospice) looking out over the land he so carefully tended throughout his life. Beautiful moments. Tender moments. God moments that only He could have orchestrated. Moments that are so precious because you know they will never happen again. Peaceful moments even as death looms over our shoulder.
How did I hold it together? How did I manage to greet a seemingly never-ending line of guests at the visitation? How could I calmly relay information to the funeral director, the pastors, relatives? How did I smile as friends and strangers shared their stories about Dad?
Peace. Grace. Mercy. God’s provision.
On my own, I was a puddle. Through Christ I was more than a conqueror. God graciously allowed me months of preparation. He gave me a rock solid faith-filled husband that held me as I sobbed at night. Even though I did not understand what was happening during the summer, God prepared me in some measure for what was ahead. And in those nine days God’s strength surrounded me, lifted me when I could not stand, soothed my broken heart and rattled mind.
Did I experience joy in the morning? Was the crying over? No, not by a long shot. The tears still fall all too easily. My heart will never be the same. But I am grateful. So grateful. Grateful for my Dad; he was the best dad for me. Grateful for the time for family and friends. Grateful for the gift of peace. Grateful for God’s mercy. And grateful that I will be with Dad again.
Dad’s legacy is one of love. Love of the land, love for his family, and most importantly – love of God. If it’s true that we fashion our concept of what God is like based upon of our earthly father, you can be assured that I serve a really, really good God. Even in the midst of a drought, we grow.
His mercies are new every morning.
In his grace,