April 6, 2013

Reflections on a Father's Passing---Eleven Years Later

My father died eleven years ago, on April 5, 2002.

It was a staggering loss for me, because although I grew up with both of my parents in our home, my mother had been ill with multiple sclerosis for many years of that period. (She died the following year, in 2003). As a result of my mother’s illness, my father often played the double, “two parents in one body” role.

To help me process his passing, I started what I called a “grief workbook”, a small blank book in which I wrote memories, feelings about his death, poetry, and into which I also pasted published proverbs, poems, etc. related to grief and parental death. Having that little book helped me immensely, and I often referred back to it to measure my progress in adapting to the loss of my father.

Last Friday, April 5th, I went back to my little book and was amazed at how deep the grief was, how hard it was for me to envision a world without my father, and how much I struggled to get through the basic routines of daily life.

Coming through to the other side of pain and grief taught me many lessons. I offer you a few of them…

From my grief workbook, entry dated April 5, 2013:

“As I have spent time this evening reading through this little volume, I am feeling gratitude and gratefulness and grace.

Life has changed so much since the years when Pop--my father’s nickname in our family-- was here. Some of those changes have been experienced as loss and pain. Others have been experienced as incredible spiritual heights and the widening and deepening of my entire life experience.

The pain and losses refined me. They strengthened me for the new challenges and opportunities that awaited me. Without the growth that arose from absorbing and managing the pain and losses, I would not have been prepared to move forward, nor would I have been able to sustain my forward movement on new horizons.

The pain gave me an emotional freedom, an independence that helped me rely more fully on God and on my own character and my own life’s purpose. I became less dependent on  ”good” circumstances and the approval of others to make me happy. I learned through experience how to live without those things. I realized God could show me joy in any situation.

I also realize how living and moving forward through and beyond the pain gives me credibility and authority when I speak with others about God and God’s goodness. I can give specific, real, and compelling testimony of God’s love and power in every situation. When I speak of these things, I am not repeating someone else’s story. I am telling my own story. Nothing is more powerful and nothing is more honest.

Pop was a good example for me in so many ways. I am sure his life did not end in the time, place, or way he’d anticipated as a younger man. Still, he went through it all with grace, and that expression of God’s grace in my father has remained the most inspirational showing of God’s power I have ever witnessed.

For me, his legacy points to a life well lived and a finish worthy of emulation.”

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