I went and saw my Dad yesterday. His headstone is now set up, which just seems to make his death that much more official. I don't think I'll ever get used to being there in that place, knowing his body is so close to me, yet also knowing he could not be further away. I found myself tending to his little plot, picking up an errant piece of paper that had blown over, wiping away the leaves and pieces of grass that had fallen onto his stone marker, making sure all the grooves and crevices were free of debris. Just still trying to take care of him and show him that I love him in the only way that's left for me to do.
I sat down upon his headstone (is that frowned upon? Sacrilegious? I don't know the in's and out's of graveyard etiquette. I just didn't want to get my pants wet.), and started talking to him. It felt good, telling him of the things that were going on in my life. I talked to him about Cora, and how much he would have loved watching her grow into the beautiful little baby that she is. I told him how just that morning Eliza had looked at a picture of him and said to me, "I love Papa so much". (She has never said this to or about anyone else that I'm aware of.) I informed him that Dana had been given her first bow and arrow set, and told him how hard he would have laughed at seeing her shooting her little suction cup arrows at her little plastic target. And every one of these recollections made me cry as I came to terms with the knowledge that our dialogue would forevermore be one way.
I cried alot. I wept like I wept the first day we lost him. And like I did at the four month anniversary of his death. And on his birthday. And when I held Cora and for the first time realized that he never would be able to know her snuggly, sweet-smelling newborn perfection. And the million other times I have cried in the last seven months when I thought of him, and remembered him, and longed for him to still be a part of my life.
And then today I watched his memorial service video. I haven't been able to play it since I watched it the week after he died. It seems as if the pain would have made more sense then. It was more raw, it was more recent, it was more wrenching. Until today I just couldn't bear to be so close again to the agony of those first few days. I was afraid I would get caught up in a downward spiral of depression, be suffocated by his absence, and become unable to breathe when once again brought face to face with that initial onset of his loss.
But I watched it anyway. It was just as hard as I thought it might be. I sobbed inconsolably as I saw pictures of him which I haven't seen since those first few days after his death. I literally felt my throat close up for a second as he was brought so close to me again, so close I could almost hear him, smell him, feel him, and then realized again that he was gone. My heart ached as I saw footage of our family from the service, almost unrecognizable in our grief, just trying to make it through to the next minute knowing that it was one more minute we would not have to live through again.
It was hard to watch, hard to sit through, hard to go through again. Now I feel spent, and worn, and sad. But there is one thing that I realized when it was over. I realized that I have been trying so hard in the last few weeks to feel close to my Dad again. I have been terrified of losing sight of the man he was, the father he was, and the servant of Christ that he was. I visited him at his graveside, looked at old pictures of him, and watched his funeral because I just needed to remember who he was to me, to others, and to his Lord.
And then another thing hit me. If I want to feel close to my Dad again, what I need to do is continue to love the person whom he loved the most. I need to follow in his footsteps, those footsteps that day after day took him to the foot of the cross. If I want to continue to know and remember my father, I just need to continue getting to know his Savior. Because that's who he was, that's all he ever wanted to be. A man after God's own heart. The times when I feel most near to my Dad are the times when I get a glimpse of the Christ he knew so well. Because he tried so hard, every day of his life, to be just like Him. The more I strive to learn about our Lord, and the more I delve into His Word and get to know His heart, I will be reminded of my own father's heart. My father's tender, compassionate, gentle heart, which so closely resembled the One who he tried everyday to model it after. This heart which loved me unconditionally, which concerned itself with every aspect of my life, which took joy in me, and encouraged me to find my purpose in life is not lost to me forever. It is found in the One who is the embodiment of Perfect Love, of Love Everlasting, in the Love of the One who loved my father, and continues to love me.
And loving Jesus like my Dad loved Jesus is something I can do. There are so many things I cannot do anymore. I can't call him on the phone, I can't email him, I can't hold his hand, or give him a kiss, or smother him with a hug. But I can love how he loved, and love Who he loved. And I know that this will bring me closer to him than anything else. It will remind me of his heart, it will remind me of his mission here on earth, and it will most of all remind me of where he is, that I can get there too, and that our future together is far from over.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray today thankful for showing me that my father is not lost to me, but rather can be found again in You. You continue to be so faithful to me, revealing truths to me when You feel I am ready to embrace them, learn from them, and appreciate all You have to teach me.
Thank You, Lord, for continuing to teach me. With every bit I learn, every new aspect of Your character I see, I realize how much more there is for me to be taught, and what a wonderful lesson is in store for me.
I see more clearly now than I have in a long time just how much You loved my father. You took such good care of him, until the very last breath he took. But it was because he loved You, too. It was because he took the time, everyday, to invest in his relationship with You. He showed up to listen to You, and read about You, and learn from You, because he knew it was worth it. He knew You would never disappoint, never not be there, never not be willing to bless him with Your wisdom and grace.
Help me learn to love You like he loved You, Lord. Give me the discipline to set aside time everyday to spend with You. Give me the desire to work on our relationship, knowing that it is the one investment I can make which is sure to give back eternally. Give me the drive to study You, and study what was important to You. Help me decide to make what was close to Your heart close to my own, and the dedication to put what I have learned into practice.
I am thankful, Lord, that You gave me an earthly example to observe and follow for so many years. He did a good job loving You, didn't he? Help me as I learn to love You like that, too.
In Your Name I pray,