Losing Someone I Didn’t Know I Loved

It’s been four months today since I lost my dad. Two more of these, and it’ll be a year.

I had a dream about him last night, the first one in a long time, the first one where I actually spoke to him.

He was tired, in a wheelchair, and we were in my church. I was telling him about how he was going to get better, about all the plans I had for the coming months. He could barely stay awake, but he told me he didn’t have the strength. I begged him to at least wait until my brother and sons came, so he could tell them, but he just shook his head. I looked at him, I embraced him, and with tears all over my face and tears on his, I gave him a kiss, and said “I love you so much.” I said it a few times. And then I told him it was OK to go, and he did. I walked into the sanctuary to meet my husband there, filled with grief and peace, recalling that I had felt the same way last time I said bye to him.

The dream opened up wounds that had been healing over the past few months. I woke this morning, crying. I got to hug my dad. I got to tell him I love him.

I never really got that in real life. I didn’t even know I love him.

Years of hurt turned to bitterness in our relationship. I couldn’t even give you details, because I really don’t remember any. The bitterness overcame my heart and my relationship with him. Even when I wanted to be loving to him, I found it nearly impossible. I simply didn’t know how to approach him.

He was diagnosed with cirrhosis in February of this year. I knew it was a natural consequence to an addiction he had (he took his last drink that month). But, still, I was hopeful that things would change, that we can work with what he had, that I can cook healthier meals for him, that he could grow stronger, and possibly have a liver transplant right around this time.

That’s why I never really worried about his worsening jaundice. I knew his condition. I just figured

img_0210

we would emphasize more whole foods and cut out all the stuff that his liver couldn’t process.

He went into the hospital on April 14. One week later, he was officially diagnosed with cancer. I knew he didn’t have long and was sad, especially for my boys, who loved their Abuelo, but I still had hope that we could have one last family barbecue, one last trip to the beach, that he could enjoy his final weeks and months in the presence of his family.

 

He took his final breath less than a week later, in the bed where I attempted to hug him the night before. I told him I loved him, I gave him a kiss, but his body was already unresponsive. I can only hope he knew how loved he was.

img_0200

The initial grief and peace I felt matched what I felt in the dream. Grief, because I had just said goodbye. Peace because he was in no more pain.

But the hardest thing I’ve had to learn in the following weeks was just how much I loved him. I never knew while he was here on this earth. I never showed him. 

And it sucks to realize how much you love your own father only after he dies.

Four months later, and life has a new normal. I still think about him. Sometimes, in the back of my mind, I think he’s in his room or in the garage. I still see him clearly in my mind. Most days are not hard. Most days are not like today, when my grief feels fresh. And yet, I don’t mind these days, because they validate my love for him, even if it is too late.

I write this for me. But I also write this for you — don’t wait until you lose someone to realize that you love them. Realize it now.

 

Advertisements

Life is Precious II

As Christians, it’s easy to make a big production of being perfect before we come to the throne of God. It’s easy to feel like we need to be worth of God’s grace and blessings. It’s easy to put on the right clothes and a smile before going to church instead of addressing what’s really going on. 

But the throne of God is there for the imperfect, for the lost, for the hurting and broken. We don’t have to do anything to come before Him. 

The same God who loves us in our high moments loves us in our low moments. 

This is what kept me going today. This is the promise I held on to. This is what I repeated in my mind when I heard of the sudden death of a dear old friend. 

It still doesn’t feel real and I am in shock. I’m sure I will grieve more as the week draws on, but for now, in between waves of some tears, I am in a place of peace. These are the things I want to remember. 

I thanked God that my boys were with me, alive, well, healthy. Only hours later, I learned that a mother lost her beautiful 25 year old son. A family I knew lost one of their own. 

There was always a special spot in my heart for this old friend. We grew up in the same church but I think we only became friend as late teens, but he spent many Sunday afternoons at our (my parents’) house for family dinners. Over time, I stopped seeing him as much but I always tried to be encouraging to him, whether by text or in person when I did see him. I saw him a handful of times in the past year and was always excited to hear about his life and how he was doing. He was a young man with a wide smile and contagious laugh who was trying to find his place in this world. 

He had his ups and downs in life. I had seen him more in the “up” parts, but the downs became obvious around the time of my wedding. He made mistakes in his life, and one of those mistakes cost him his life. 

But my God is the God of highs and lows. His grace isn’t reserved for those who are always righteous. His grace reaches down to the depths of the earth, to the lowest points. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rom.8.38-39.esv

I do not know what happened in his final hour. I believe that’s something that his loved ones can only guess about. But I do believe that he is free today. That he is living out his eternal life, away from this broken world and any battles he has faced. 

We who are left behind are in pain. We feel that someone was taken from us too soon. He was loved by many and is therefore missed by many. I cannot imagine the pain that his family is in in this season. I pray for rest for them and that, with rest will come peace and comfort. I pray that they will one day be filled with the hope that they will see their son/brother/father again in a place where there are no more tears. 

Rest well, friend. You’re home, you’re free. You’re in your Savior’s arms now. 💙

You're home now.
Alive • All Sons and Daughters

Life is Precious

I had one of those restless nights last night. It’s usually on those nights that I pray (or at least should pray), “God, what are you trying to tell me? What do I need to pray for?” But last night, I just hummed worship songs. 

The songs I sang to myself reminded me of Ethan’s stay in the hospital. Normally the songs remind me of when he was in the PICU at the second hospital. But this time, I pictured the room at the first hospital. 

I saw the window that overlooked the playground, the same one where I thought “Joshua would love to play there while he visits” forgetting about the blistering cold January weather. 

I saw the room where I sat with my infant son, convinced that he was getting better.  I was so excited that I would hopefully be able to take him home that night, if not the next morning. 

It was the same room where I saw my son struggling to breathe only hours later. The one where I wept when the resident doctor told me I have to seriously consider him being transferred to their sister hospital where there is a PICU for him to stay. It was a truth I was unwilling to accept. She gently told me that babies, like the elderly, go fast, and she didn’t want him to get any worse where they did not have the equipment to transfer him. All I heard was “your son may very well be at death’s door at this moment.”

I didn’t see it. 

The decision for Ethan to go the PICU should have been an easy one. But it took a while for me to realize “even if he isn’t so sick, he will get better faster there.” I was so set in my own idealized thinking, that Ethan was getting better, that I did not see him getting worse before my eyes.

When I finally accepted his condition, I turned on All My Sons and Daughters. (I put a link to their entire YouTube page. I couldn’t even name a favorite song. All of their songs got me through that difficult time, and any difficult time since. I encourage you to listen to worship music like this if you are going through a difficult time yourself.) I was so tired and sick that night but I hardly slept by the time the EMTs came to take Ethan to the second hospital. 

I watch my son get strapped into a stretcher with a makeshift car seat made of blankets. I listened to his weak cries and whimpers, as he was not strong enough for anything more. Up until that point, I was his entire source of life, and yet there was nothing I could do to help him on that day. 

There is no worse thing than to watch your baby suffer and to not be able to do a single thing about it. 

I had to rely on God that He will be the source of life for my son. “Speak life,” I repeated to myself, numb as I was. 

As I thought about all this last night, I thanked God that He had brought us out of that dark time. Many people have experienced even harder times, but I wouldn’t wish those feelings on my worst enemy. I thanked Him for the life of my boys, that they are both strong and healthy. I thanked Him that, although not perfect, I have all of my family right here. I praised Him because even when I’m not sure of the way, He guides me and we make it out, thanks to his sustaining grace. 

Life is a sweet, precious blessing. Embrace it.