September 23, 1998. 3:00 a.m. Dad breathed his last as we stood together around the hospital bed just hours after he was rushed by ambulance to the ER. We prayed softly and read his favorite Bible passage – Psalm 23 – and kissed his forehead one last time. Then we headed back to Mom’s house and stayed up with her the rest of the night telling stories and laughing over some of his silly ways and our fondest memories. Yes, laughing in the midst of our tears and pushing back the gloom that would overtake us if we let it. Gloom would not overwhelm us – at least not fully – for this family has hope. Hope in the God who defeated death by His own resurrection. Hope that Dad was no longer suffering in a body ravaged by cancer, but free. Whole. That night doesn’t seem that long ago.
But seventeen years later, here I am. Right after my dad died I purchased a journal thinking I would write about my dad, about the cancer that took him in the prime of his life. I would write about my feelings and work through my grief on paper. I picked up a pen and scrawled a few lines and found I could not. I couldn’t put down on paper what my heart and mind were wrestling with. There weren’t any words. There weren’t any answers. Several times over the past 17 years I have picked up that same journal and opened to the place where words stopped mid-sentence and have closed it again without adding another word, another thought.
Maybe today is the day. Maybe now I’m ready to write about it – here. Maybe God has someone out there who understands exactly what this experience is all about. Maybe someone else’s story is unfolding even now and they need a dose of hope. I don’t know. I do know, however, that seventeen years is a significant amount of time to ponder grief, pain, unanswered questions, but it is also a time to heal, grow and to share hope. A lot has changed in seventeen years. I’ve changed.
Today I only share part of the story. Tomorrow or the next day, I may share more. But for today, as I remember that September 23rd night and the loss of a dad I still love and miss so dearly, I will remember God’s faithfulness. I will remember how blessed I was to have an earthly father who loved me. I will remember how blessed I am that my Heavenly Father is enough and that my faith has grown stronger because of my loss. I will remember the hope we have in Christ. Knowing my father was a child of God assures me that I will see him in Heaven when it’s my turn to go home. Today I will remember to show kindness and gentleness and pray for those who are suffering today. Today I pray for many who have lost a loved one to cancer. Today I pray for a friend who is just beginning treatment. Today I pray for a family with young children who are even now preparing to say goodbye to their dad. Today I remember the comfort I’ve received and do my best to share that with others. Today. Today is all I have.