The sting of my Dad’s death is still, at times, seemingly unbearable.
We had a public viewing for him on Thursday, August 20th, which also happened to be my mom’s birthday. We were allowed into the funeral home two hours before the public arrived in order to get ourselves together and have a little bit of time alone with him. Seeing him in the casket that we had picked out, in the suit he had planned to wear to his and Mom’s fortieth class reunion party, was one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life.
I have loved this man from before I even knew or understood who or what I was. My sister and I made sure his hair was perfectly coiffed (he would have wanted that :-), and took turns between the three of us having our breakdowns.
My son, my sweet boy, was Granddad’s best friend, and Granddad was his absolute favorite person. He cried, held Granddad’s hand, and stood at his side with his hand in his for a long time. Nobody told him to move. I let him stay with his Granddad as much as he wanted. I felt the same way he did. It was hard to leave his side.
Yet, I kept trying to remind myself of one key Scripture (the one I put in bold type) that pertains to believers, and thanks be to GOD that my Dad was one:
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.“
(2 Cor. 5:1-8)
With that being said…
When my Dad was hospitalized, I would stay awake at night and pray for his comfort and rest. But I realize now I was praying based on my terms, on my limited understanding of God’s plan for Dad’s life and his overall health. I know my Dad was in poorer condition than he allowed us to know, and I understand why he did not tell us. In one of his last pictures at home, Dad is outside, wearing his portable oxygen. Now that I look at the picture I cannot believe I selfishly paid no attention to how ill he actually was. He had dropped a lot of weight, the glow in his eyes was dimmer, and he just did not look like his happy, jolly self. Yet, I was so happy just to have him physically here that I looked at him through blinded eyes. My prayers, in the same manner, were based on what I wanted for him.
Part of my prayers also talks about accepting God’s will and wanting it to be done. If I truly love God that acceptance has to be universal. I have to trust God and accept His will even if I don’t like it.
What is there not to like?
Well, there’s the obvious. I miss my Dad so much it hearts.
But here’s what’s to like:
As I have mentioned before, I have been studying the Old Testament again (as a matter of fact, I need to start putting my review of Numbers up). In all of the prophecy books, I see God telling the nation of Israel that if they do not get it together, he will allow them to be destroyed, but there is ALWAYS a promise of restoration. Why would God restore such a wicked people? Simple. Because he promised that the nation would be great, and unlike people, God keeps his promises.
So what other Biblical principles correspond to death?
- Far more important to me in my time of grief than anything else is the fact that when my time is up, I will see my Dad again. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 states that “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (bold added in by me).
- When I do see my Dad again, he will be, as he is now, free of that earthly body that betrayed him. The earthly human body is susceptible to decay due to sin. Upon death, we get a glorified spiritual body that will NEVER become corrupted by sin, thus no more congestive heart failure, kidney failure, sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension, right ventricular failure etc., etc… Our heavenly bodies will have some of the same attributes as our earthly bodies, but notably absent will be the possibility of illness and, of course, death! When Dad and I reunite, it will be FOREVER, and we will be able to spend our time with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. WOW what a concept. Can you? Days with no tribulations, stress or strife. In Job, which is one of my favorite books (I say that about all the books of the Bible, don’t I) there is a powerful Scripture especially apropos to my feelings: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). This earthly life is troublesome! But luckily, that trouble is short-lived. Our days with Jesus, the reward we receive for accepting His gift of salvation on this earth, will make this struggle worthwhile.
- I have to understand that my understanding of God and his work is limited. I have learned a lot from my Dad’s death. My salvation was already secure. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior long ago. So that part is okay. But what I see now is that my acceptance of God’s will was limited and I have to adjust that. I will forever mourn my Dad, until I see him again. But I cannot proclaim to have faith in God only when things go my way. I was upset when Dad died, because I had been praying for him to be healed and return home. I prayed with the understanding that God definitely has the power to do just that. But for whatever reasons, he decided to relieve my Dad of his suffering by calling him home, instead of healing his body. Now, I realize that even if God had healed my Dad this time around, there was still the possibility of him facing even worse health circumstances in the future. For example, instead of my Dad simply passing away in his sleep peacefully, who knows if God had healed him and allowed him to live another twenty years, he may have ended up in an even worse situation. Dad was too free and independent to live hooked up to machines, even something as simple as portable oxygen. He had sold his beloved motorcycle, given up his beloved bowling, and was looking at a future that offered him a very limited lifestyle. Attempts to travel had been thwarted by his poor breathing and mobility. It was heartbreaking for me to watch, so I can only imagine how heartbreaking it was for him to live it.
At the end of the day when I am in bed crying, trying to go to sleep, I have to ask myself some key questions. Does it mean more to me to have my Dad here suffering than to find some way to accept that he is happy and in great health where he is now? Earlier, I had a thought that I stopped halfway through. I was on my way to saying “If only I could come downstairs (in his house) and see him sitting there” (in his normal seat in the basement, where he spent a lot of time before he died)…
But I did not complete the thought. I am working on being selfless when it comes to my Dad. If he were sitting downstairs, he would probably be having difficulty breathing. His body would probably be hurting. He would not tell me because he wouldn’t want me to worry or be sad. But that wouldn’t change the fact that he would be hurting. Do I want that for my Dad? Nope. Not at all. He deserved better. And he got it.
Stevie Smith, I love you more than I ever could have told you or expressed. You meant the world to me and still do. I will miss you until we see each other again, but I am not going to grieve your spirit and destroy myself or allow myself to be consumed by my feelings. You would have wanted better for me, and I am going to give you exactly what you would have expected of me–strength. Resilience. Determination. Faith.
I’m the little one in Dad’s arms. My favorite spot. At Chuck E. Cheese in Ann Arbor, mid-eighties.