Kevin asked last night if I was going to write on my blog. I told him I might not ever write in it again. But then I decided that there are still stories to be told and that this one is probably one of the most important ones in my life. And so I will try.
I started 2011 with this post on Facebook:
SO looking forward to 2011. My heart says it's going to be a year of great change for our family and I'm really looking forward to it. Our family motto for the year: REVIVAL: (thanks, Jackie!) Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Financial. Bring on a NEW YEAR!!
In my heart I felt God had something really big planned for our family this year (of course, in my mind it was a new job for Kevin, a new school for Josh, or something along those lines). I had decided this would be the year I would work to become closer to God, lose weight by taking better care of myself physically and emotionally and for us to make better financial choices in our lives -- our REVIVAL year.
Then January 10 happened and in the space of a few hours my life changed forever -- as did the lives of my mother, husband and children.
I was in Lexington, KY doing some commercial inspections. I had called home to talk to Kevin about the impending snow storm forecasted for the next morning in Lexington. We had already gotten a large snow storm at home and the kids were out of school. Kevin's mom had come to help take care of the kids and Kevin as just one week earlier, he had been in the ER diagnosed with a kidney stone and was still suffering pain from trying to pass it.
Kevin asked if I could just come home and reschedule them later. I told him that was a lot of time and gas and hotel fees to pay for me to come home and then have to come back and that I thought I could probably do them. I had no clue where he was or what he was doing -- until an hour later.
My phone rang at a little before 11 (a little before midnight there). I was still awake but just about to go to bed. Kevin told me he had hated to keep it from me but they had taken my dad to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing and he was currently in the trauma unit. My mom had asked him to wait to call until they knew what they were dealing with. No one had a clue what we were about to be dealing with. As I type this, the pain is as fresh as it was that night.
While I was talking to her on the phone getting details, someone came and told her they were having to start CPR on him. WHAT? The next hour is both a blur and vivid beyond belief. I spent time listening to the goings-on in a hospital room some four hours away and simultaneously BEGGING God to let my father live. It was surreal.
This COULD. NOT. BE. HAPPENING.
Before I left, he had come home early from work on Thursday and Friday saying he didn't feel well. Based on his symptoms, mom thought he might have pneumonia again, but stubborn man that he was, he said he didn't need to go to the doctor. With Monday's snow, he stayed home from work anyway. Mom tried to get him to go to the doctor that day as well and even said she was going to call 911 once prior to actually doing it. He said he was feeling better and went to bed before he had the incident that led her to call for an ambulance.
My father went home to be with Jesus on January 11 at 11:45 pm while I was on the phone in a hotel room in Lexington, KY and while my mother and husband stood by watching his departure. It was a massive heart attack. The ER staff did CPR and everything else they could do to revive him -- for over an hour. It was his appointed time. (Psalms 139:16 - All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.")
And my life was changed forever.
I made the four hour drive home and went home with mama. We went through the rituals of preparing for a funeral, attending visitation, having a memorial service and a graveside military service. We went home afterwards. We have cried, grieved and written thank you notes.
But so much more has occurred in between. I don't have the words to write them all. God has held us both.
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
"Held" by Natalie Grant
His hands have captured all our tears.
When grief has left you low it causes tears to flow
When things have not turned out the way that you had planned
But God won't forget you His promises are true
And tears are a language God understands.
"Tears are a Language God Understands"
But it is a process like nothing I have ever experienced before. I am a changed person with the loss of my daddy. His absence, even though it might be weeks between seeing or talking to him, has left a huge void in my life.
Some days seem normal and then it hits out of the blue: the thoughts that he won't see my children grow up, he won't be there to help them along the way. He won't be there to share the "golden years" with my mom. All the holidays that we always shared together as a family, he will be missing from the table. I won't have him piping up in the background as I talk to my mom on the phone. I won't walk into Home Depot and find him standing behind his desk. I won't need to go over and fix his computer or printer again. I can't tag photos of the grandkids to his Facebook page. So many things changed in an instant.
I'm reading a book, "What Happens When we Die?". I have several more in the pile to read. My eternal perspective has changed. While I knew that I had accepted the gift of salvation years ago by agreeing that Jesus Christ died on the cross instead of me for my sins, I now know of heaven as a real place where my daddy lives.
I wonder how long, if ever, it will take before he is not the very first thing I think of when I wake up each day. I wonder when the feeling will stop that my stomach has flipped over at random times throughout the day. It may be forever. I don't know. I've never experienced this before. I could have lived happily having never experienced it.
We've uploaded photos of my dad to an album on Facebook to share with friends and family of some of the fun times we had with him while he was alive. It was nice remembering. I hope that one day, it will just be nice remembering. I suspect there will always be the hole in our lives until we are reunited one day in heaven.
This photo was taken in October when we were celebrating his birthday and Ellie's Homecoming Day, which were only three days apart.
My heart hurts.