Yesterday I received a phone call that I hoped to never hear: “Hey Kath . . . are you sitting down? Dad died this morning . . . .”
How does one prepare for the pain of losing someone you love? I have faced that question with many a Client and searched the Scriptures for glimmers of hope when darkness threatened to overtake me. When feeling lost in a sea of emotion, my thoughts inevitably run to the wisdom of Scripture,
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
“And God shall wipe away all tears . . . and death shall be no more,
nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more,
for the former things are passed away.”
My mind ran in snippets yesterday as I remembered my dad as a much younger man. He was number five in a line of six children, grew up during the Depression on a farm in Pixley, California. He was loyal, dedicated to loving his family, and was never afraid of hard work. My first “real” memory of Dad goes back to when I was three years old, after he returned from the fight in Korea. I remember the strength of his arms when he picked me up and held me close. The following years are a blur of Dad working hard to care for our family–even as he struggled with the aftereffects of war. A memory I especially cherish, is of walking down the church aisle on his arm, to marry my husband of (now) forty-four years. Even sweeter were the decades that followed, when he embraced his role as, “Grandpa Clyde”. . . priceless!
While desiring to find a a resting place for all the thoughts and memories that whirled through my mind, I could not come to terms with the harsh reality of being separated by his death. This morning, God’s shepherding hand touched my mind and heart through a post written by Heidi Viars. In her post, Heidi describes a scene that took place in a parking lot on a freezing cold day. After coming out of a store, she noticed a store worker, standing out in the cold without a coat. After loading her packages into her car and seeing the woman still standing there, this conversation ensued:
“‘Are you OK?’, I asked.
She looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, just cold.’
I realized she was watching the car next to us. A man in his eighties, maybe nineties, was occupying the passenger seat. His eyes were sad and his head nervously moving back and forth.
‘I saw him wandering in the parking lot. He was lost and I helped him get back in his car. I think he has dementia. I am just waiting for someone to return for him.’ the woman said.”
I was struck by how the lost elderly man reminded me of my dad in recent years. Age definitely took a toll on Dad as he fought to retain his independence. It was hard when he had to admit that he could no longer take care of Mom by himself. I wanted them to move closer to where I live. Dad rightly refused the offer, citing his desire to stay closer to his sisters and the rest of the family. The move proved to be a good one. Mom and Dad benefited from getting their medications on time, eating healthier food and enjoying visits from family. Even so, the bitter reality of dementia robbed him of the joy of being able to drive when he became hopelessly lost in what had been familiar places. When Mom died two years ago, Dad’s lostness increased. “I miss Mama,” were the words he most frequently uttered when anyone tried to talk to him. Even so, we noticed a sweet gentleness emerge in these final years, more in keeping with the farm boy he was when he gave his heart to Jesus at age thirteen.
Time has slipped away all too fast for our family, but the words of the woman standing watch over the elderly man in the parking lot brought a comforting perspective, “I am just waiting for someone to return for him.” In a sense, that is exactly what has happened these past two years with Dad. We have enjoyed him to the best of our abilities as Dad has waited in hope for the return of His Savior.
“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.
He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”
I Peter 3:18
(New Living Translation)
Of the snippets that continue to run around in my head, the words from John Newton’s, Amazing Grace, come continually to the forefront,
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Feeling lost? Desiring to be found? There is no one greater than the Good Shepherd of our hearts, to lead us safely HOME.
All to His Glory!