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Friday, September 9, 2016

When There Isn't Anymore...



The following is a guest post
written by my friend, Vicki Freeland,
whom I met through Nazarene Teen Bible Quizzing ministry.
Vicki is the local director of a growing quiz program,
a wife, and the mom of four precious little people.
She enjoys research and offers so much more than expected
as she teaches others passionately.
Vicki agreed to share a part of her story,
and because I know how important that is
to growing as a community,
I am so thankful for her post.
I'm also incredibly thankful for her friendship!

*****

There are days that you KNOW will be extraordinary … and you make special plans to capture the memories of those days. October 11, 2003 was such a day for me – to the extent that I hired a team of photographers to capture as many moments as possible so that I could remember every single detail. Every detail of this day from hair styles, to makeup, to the guest list, to the dress and tuxes, to the cake and the music, had been planned weeks and months in advance, and I didn't want to forget any of it.

And then, there are days that even though you don't know exactly WHEN they will happen, you know that they WILL happen, and so you make plans to capture the memories of those days… September 8, 2008, January 15, 2010, December 6, 2012, and April 15, 2015 are dates of this type for me—the dates that my children were born. The camera was fully charged with extra batteries packed and ready to go, everything in readiness to capture the memories in all of their newness and wonder and awe.

And then, there are days that start out quite ordinary—but suddenly turn extraordinary … and you find yourself with photographs seared into your soul, as clearly as you see the photos in an album or on the computer hard drive … except you can't erase them, photoshop them, or delete them … and you remember every ... single ... detail ... with razor-sharp clarity that stops you in your tracks with the searing pain that the photos bring to mind. September 9, 2011 is such a day for me. What started out as a fairly normal Friday took a very sharp turn into an extraordinary day when my husband met me at my in-laws' house and told me that my dad had passed away.  I remember forcing everything from my mind in order to write down a schedule and instructions for the care of my barely 3 year old and my 1½ year old for my in-laws. I remember staring at the pan of Rice Krispy treats I had made for the quiz party that evening and wondering how I was going to get them to the party. I remember calling my youth pastor and asking him if he could drive the bus to the quiz meet the next day because I couldn't be there. I remember seeing my grandma walk into my parent's house, shaking with the shock of the news.

The whole week became a blur, yet details remain seared into my soul: walking into church with my family on Sunday morning and my daughter innocently asking, “Where's Grandpa?” My sister stopping short at her question. I remember singing “In Christ Alone” that Sunday morning and lifting my hand in praise, tears streaming down my face. I remember seeing faces of friends that I hadn't seen in years, and never expected to see this side of eternity, as they came through the line at visitation. I remember being in such a daze that I completely blanked when my husband's boss (and company owner) came through the visitation line. I remember my brother beginning his sermon at our dad's funeral with the words, “I always knew I would be preaching this sermon, I just never knew when.” And I remember hearing Pastor Keith's voice as he read the eulogy letter I, my sister, and my sister-in-law had written, our attempt to summarize all that our dad had meant to us. I remember my husband explaining to our children that Grandpa was no longer here and that he had gone to heaven. When we took our children to see the casket, my 3 year old looked for a long moment then asked, “Where you going, Grandpa?”

I only learned later that my mom had found out that dad had passed away earlier in the morning but had forbidden anyone to call or text me, as she knew I was driving to Fort Wayne that morning with my two children. She feared that learning the news while I was driving would have caused me to lose control of the vehicle (it probably would have) and I could have caused an accident. I also later learned that my mom was unable to tell me herself, so she called my husband out of work, told him, and asked him to tell me, because she couldn't. I have always been “Daddy's Girl." She didn't have the strength to tell me that my daddy was gone.

There were 11,532 days between the date of my birth and the date of my father's death. I can't say that we were on the best of terms every single one of those days … but I do know that he loved me fiercely, protectively, and with the best that he had. When you're a daddy's girl, and daddy is suddenly gone, lots of little things disappear, too. There are no more long “whenever” chats because he's not driving his truck all over the country. There isn't someone to just call up and ask a random theological or Biblical question. There isn't someone to “come fix this” because you've exhausted all your knowledge and he's probably done this 400 times before. There isn't someone to purchase the collectible key chains for when you see the one he doesn't have yet.
There … just … isn't.

And yet, I have been blessed far more than others. I had a dad who I talked to more than a lot of kids talked to theirs. I had a dad who not only knew the Bible, but opened up his vast library to me and taught me how to use the research tools in his library, so that I could find the answers to the questions I had. I had a dad who not only “fixed it” but taught us HOW to fix it, so we wouldn't be stranded by the simple things. (To this day, patching nail holes in drywall always reminds me of my dad teaching me how to “do it right.”) The keychains …. I still haven't gotten over that one. I saw one just a few weeks ago and reached for it out of habit and impulse … then realized that there was no one to add it to their collection.

I was able to place the first two of my four babies in his arms and watch him be the most amazing grandpa to them. He got the biggest kick out of playing with them and just delighting in them and they adored him. I KNOW that the last words I said to him were, “I love you,” because that is how my family has always “signed off” either on the phone or in person. I KNOW that my siblings and I were the last people on his mind before he passed away, because when we finally got his belongings from the trucking company, in his leather portfolio where he jotted down all his notes and random thoughts were our names, as if he had a final thought for each of us:

Marcus

Vicki

Brian

Sarah

Lynette

Josh

He wrote down each of his kids' names—his three biological ones and the ones he gained through our marriages… they were never “in-laws” to him, they were “his kids.”  I had a dad who modeled for me a life of obedience and devotion to God and family, a dad who never gave up, and a dad who did his best. I had a dad who showed me what hard work and perseverance could accomplish and one who showed me that, no matter what level of education I had, to never stop learning. 

And then, the man who had modeled all these things for me, just wasn't there anymore.

Nine days after my dad passed away, my senior pastor announced his call to a new area of ministry and announced his resignation to our congregation. I felt like a double-orphan … abandoned and left utterly alone. … and yet, I learned a lot of things during this time of my life, too.

I learned that the prayers of friends can literally breathe life into your lungs when you feel like you can't take one more breath. Those same prayers can propel one foot in front of another when you don't have the strength to move. I learned the power of a promise kept can overcome the pain of the moment.  And I learned that, throughout his life, my dad was doing his best to show me what my heavenly father was like:

My heavenly father delights in me, like I saw my father delight in his grandchildren.

My heavenly father rejoices and celebrates me, as my father did when he flew across the country to     attend my honor society induction at Purdue.

My heavenly father loves me, as my dad showed me in every way he could imagine to do so.

But even more than all that my dad was, my heavenly father is more. He has shown me that, even though my father could not know where I am every moment, He does. On the first anniversary of my dad's death, I was at church—but not mentally “in” church, if that makes sense. Our (new) pastor opened up service that morning by reading Scripture … not un-heard of at our church, but slightly out of the normal … and I listened with half-an-ear's worth of attention … but was snapped to attention when I realized that he was reading my dad's favorite verses … proving that even if no one around me knew my heart that morning, God KNEW where his little girl was, and he KNEW how heart-broken she was.

A few months ago, I was in church following our worship pastor through the lines of a very familiar song, the lyrics of which contain the phrase, “Everlasting Father.” Now, this phrase is very biblical, and taken directly out of Scripture (Isaiah 9:6-7). I've always understood this phrase to mean that God is the Father of everything and cares for everything he created as a father oversees his household, and I don't think that's an incorrect interpretation. However, to the hurting heart of this little girl, I saw something very new and different that particular morning. “EVERLASTING” - from my first breath to my last … “FATHER”—I have a DADDY! 

2 comments:

  1. Oh Vicki, I hear your heart in every sentence. Very well put, Sam would be/is so proud of you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Vicki, I hear your heart in every sentence. Very well put, Sam would be/is so proud of you!

    ReplyDelete