“I keep looking for my dad’s physical body, his physical voice, his physical embrace, but I don’t find it. It isn’t here, and as hard as that is, as much as it feels like there is a void, the absence is a beautiful thing. To the wisdom of the world, it would seem that absence is lack; to the longing in my heart, it would seem that the absence needs to be filled. But “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” My dad’s physical absence can be beautiful and is beautiful because his spiritual presence is being made perfect, his body and soul are being readied and are even closer to their eternal resting place in God’s kingdom. So while I may still have times where I seek his physical being, I can trust in the righteousness of God’s wisdom. His wisdom being Jesus Christ and His saving death and resurrection. The awe of the Savior has already filled my heart. Thus, in my dad’s physical absence, there truly is no void, as much as my feelings and emotions may try to convince me there is. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” A heart positioned in the world does not accept that suffering brings life and grief can ultimately be good. However, a heart positioned in Christ, a heart in which Christ is enthroned, endures the suffering and perseveres through grief because that is the way of the cross and only in the way of the cross is there eternal hope. Dad’s spiritual being lives on because his heart was kept by Another, was in service to Another. This is the reason why he endured and persevered for so long, in loving obedience to the One who commanded his heart and abides in his spirit, to the only One who could save him, Jesus Christ. Only through Christ could dad’s labor be fruitful and not just fruitful but abundantly so. And now that the seeds have been dispersed, both in places we do see and places we do not, God will cause the growth and dad can rest peacefully at His right hand, enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a fresh scone.”
It is not easy to willingly go back to the places or things or people that evoke pain and hurt in us. The above is the eulogy I wrote for your funeral. From the day I wrote it, it has remained tucked away in my Bible, along with a collection of postcards I have yet to send and messages I haven’t quite been able to discard. Every once and a while, it falls out or I look through all that I have collected between the front cover and first page of the Word. I read it and relive the three minutes I stood at the podium of St. Anthony’s with Adam by my side, speaking to family, friends and all touched by your life in attendance. Sometimes when I go back and read what I have written, I truthfully wonder who indeed wrote it. There is no way this was me the week after you died. There is no way that my thoughts were this hopeful and pious. Though I believed everything written then and still do now, I have had to throw my weight on those truths constantly. As I learn more about myself and move from one season of life to the next, I am confronted with circumstances, desires or feelings previously unknown, but the questions remains the same. What does abiding in these truths look like in this time? How do I throw my weight on them specifically in this moment?
I was browsing on Instagram the other day and came across a video of Jackie Hill Perry. Shout out to Jackie, I am a big fan, and y’all should check her out. The post was a short video of her speaking about the effects of sexual abuse. I have not experienced sexual abuse and cannot testify to the specific trauma inflicted by it. But something she said applies to all wounds. Jackie discussed that as a Christian she knows Jesus is healing her, though she is still haunted in her nightmares. She knows Jesus is healing her, though she sees how her marriage is still affected. The wound left by the sexual abuse is being healed but is not yet healed. As she continues to walk through life, she confronts new situations evoking past ghosts or maybe awakening new ones.
When I went down to Orlando to visit Adam for Thanksgiving, we watched “A Place Beyond the Pines” one night. I think I had seen part of it before but not the whole thing. Quick synopsis without spoiling is it tells of the lives of two boys intertwined by the deeds of their fathers. Both forever imprinted by their actions and inaction. It honestly left me a bit unsettled. So much in the story is unsettling itself, but it occurred to me the next morning after we went for a run, what in particular left me on edge. While we were stretching, I looked at Adam and said, “you know, losing dad messes us up in ways we may already know and ways we may not yet know.” I think I caught him off guard because he let out one of those confused laughs. He asked why I was thinking about it, and I told him the movie left me not only reflecting on how I have seen the effects of dad’s absence already play out but also wonder at how they may continue to do so, unexpectedly and possibly frightfully.
In the four years and eleven months since your death, the week leading up to the funeral will at times feel as raw as it did when it was the reality and other times feel as a distant memory. The numb week it ought to be called. I remember existing in it only as a spectator, someone in the audience. I watched myself as we went to the funeral home to pick flowers and things for the ceremony, writhing in silent anger with every part of me screaming on mute why the hell this mattered. Mom looking at Adam and I for approval on what we thought you would like, and all I am thinking is you’re dead. Why are we even here?
The numbness, anger and indifference soaking that week still show up unannounced. It catches me off guard as I wonder have I been healing at all? I thought this was one of Your promises, Lord, to always be with me and to bring rest and peace? If so, how can this pain still feel as world-shattering as it did the morning it actually did shatter my world? Is and not yet. There will always be triggers to resurface the pain and rub salt in the wound. Holidays, hearing about the loss of a parent in general, dating, marriage, Tom Petty, etc. These things are often biting reminders of your absence. However, they too, are a part of healing. It is a delusion to think healing is at one point finished, in this world at least. Believing in Jesus and knowing Him heals me, but I am not yet healed. The wound left by your death, dad, may at times feel as raw as the day after, but the healing has come by way of understanding this does not mean I am not being healed. The pain will come unannounced again and again. I will throw my weight on how I have experienced beauty and goodness from the sorrow and grief just as the Lord promises again and again. There is no guarantee it will be easier to do so, but there is a guarantee that one day, healing will fully come.
Until then, is and not yet.
I love you,