I'm writing to ask you for your prayers for me and my family tomorrow, as it would have been my Dad's 66th birthday.
I'm starting to get used to the anxiety and trepidation that precedes any big day that would have normally included him. By "getting used to", I mean I have become an expert at avoiding thinking about it and dealing with it until either the night before, or the day of, and then being hit with it like a ton of bricks.
Tomorrow's going to be a bad one. It's so hard knowing in advance the sorrow you're going to have to go through. Knowing how much you're going to hurt. Knowing how hard you're going to cry. Knowing there's no escaping the pain, no tucking it away for another time.
Tomorrow I will have to face it. I will grieve. I will weep. I will suffer. There's just no other way.
I can feel the tightness in my chest already, the burning in my nose that always comes right before a big tearshed. The thought of going to church in the morning fills me with foreboding, as that is the place where his absence can always be felt.
Tomorrow should be a good day. I should be able to walk into church and give my Dad a huge, huge hug, holding on tighter and longer than normal as I wish him a very happy birthday. We should be able to joke around about old he's getting, how young he looks, and how he can still outrun, outbike, out-anything me even though he's 34 years older than me. We should all be getting together as a family to celebrate his birth, and celebrate his life. He should be opening up a present from us, one that would be useful to him either on the golf course, or on the Appalachian Trail, or on the bike path. I should be able to watch his smile light up his eyes, as it was always the small things that made him the happiest, and just being among family would have counted as one of those things. There should be tons of grandkids running past him, crawling all over him, and laying kisses on him, one by one offering him their own versions of "Happy Birthday". We should all be with him, wishing him many, many, many more.
Instead, tomorrow I will be getting together with my Mom and my sisters for lunch and carrot cake (his favorite) for dessert. I will be listening to Hymns By Request, his Sunday afternoon radio ritual, waiting for a song to be played over the airways dedicated to him by my heartbroken mother. I will be going to Kollen's Park, a place that him and my Mom used to frequent on nice Sunday afternoons, and I will picture him there soaking up the sunshine, engrossed in his latest read, holding hands with his wife. I will be going home, longing to see him for just a moment on this day that has belonged to him since before I was born. And I will cry more tears, realizing that his day is now just one more day we have to survive without him.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day already feeling the sadness that tomorrow will hold. I simply ask today, Lord, that you be near to all of us. Be near to my mother when she wakes up alone, be near to us kids as we remember the years of his birthdays past, be near to us in those minutes when all we can do is mourn him, and miss him, and make the most of the memories we have left of him.
Give us laughter tomorrow, Lord. Amidst the pain, give us reasons to smile as we remember him. Bring to our minds stories we may have forgotten, which will bring us untold joy when we think of them once more. Let us have him back in this way that allows us to feel close to him again. Grant us images of him healthy, and happy, and here with us. Fill our time together with the warmth and happiness we felt when he walked among us.
Be near to us, Lord. And bring him near to us with You.
In Your Name I pray,