Saturday, August 24, 2013

Make the most of the "dash"!

This has been an incredibly emotional week!  On Sunday afternoon, I got a call that one of my colleagues and friends had fallen while at a friends house.  I was then told that this young, vivacious 36 year old mother of 2 was on life support. Monday was a "looking down day" - no one made eye contact with others for fear that the tears would break through the dam. We received the tragically devastating news that our friend and colleague had been called home to spend eternity with Jesus.  It took my breath away!!!  That feeling of "this can't be happening" hit me all over again...that same feeling I had when we were told my precious Dad would not survive.

Since losing Dad, I have been consumed with my own grief and the ensuing journey through that grief but this tragedy has jolted me.  All I can think about are those 2 precious boys (10 and 7).  I know how difficult the loss of my Dad has been for me as an adult...I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of grief that these 2 sweet toe-haired boys will walk through.  I was lucky enough to spend 46 years with my Dad and he was blessed with 73 wonderful, productive years.  And still the absence of him in the physical body is almost unbearable at times.  I think about the fact that this boys will have a much longer grief journey than I...they will grieve the loss of their mommy as children and then as they become adults the grief will take on a different dimension. My heart breaks for them because I know a little bit about the kind of grief they will experience.

As I have read and listened to people talk/write about Jennifer, I can't help but to begin to reflect on my life an how I'm living it.  Jennifer's "dash" has been full of adventure and joy.  She always flashed that dimpled smile to everyone she met.  She was perky and friendly and full of life...which makes her tragic untimely death all the more difficult to wrap my mind around.  As I listen to people speak lovingly about her, two things come to mind: 1) Why do we wait until people are gone or ill to tell them how much they've touched our lives? 2) How will my life be remembered by those whose paths have crossed mine?

I hope that in my 46 years and the years I have to come...that I've made (will make) an impact (however small) on someone's life (just one life).  I pray that people see me as a person of integrity, with a deep abiding love for my family and friends and a spirit of joy.  I realize we can't be "happy, happy, happy" all the time but I do hope that I don't have the reputation as a "Debbie Downer" or a "Negative Nelly".  I'm the first to admit that there are times in my life when I've been less than pleasant.  It's my desire, going forward, to be certain that I'm making the most of "the dash". Seizing the days and making them count!  Loving my family and friends and bringing hope and joy to those I encounter. My Dad and Jennifer had quite a lot in common. They both lived life to the fullest and touched more lives than they or I will ever really know.

Heavenly Father, be glorified in my life.  Make me an instrument of your love, joy and peace. Help me to carry out the legacy of my Dad with the same mercy, grace and generosity that he demonstrated.  Provide opportunities for me to minister to Jennifer's boys.  I ask you to reignite in me the fire of your Spirit...draw me near to You.
Lord, tell Jennifer that we will all watch over her sweet family and help them in any way that we can.  Tell her she is missed and held dear by all who knew her.  Heavenly Father, give my Dad a big ol squeeze and tell him I love him so very much. I thank You for Your mercies in disguise, Your grace sufficient and blessings in the midst of grief.  Hold us all close to You as we walk this earthly journey and help us all to make the most of the "dash".
In Jesus' name, Amen

Dignity Memorial - Jennifer Niday Obituary: View Obituary for Jennifer Niday by Eternal Hills Funeral Home and Cremation, Snellville, GA

The Dash Movie

Saturday, August 10, 2013

This time last year...

Made it through the first "week" of school.  It's always soooo tiring - getting used to rising at crack o'clock every day of the week. I'm grateful to have a job but boy, do I wish they'd pay me to stay home.  I have a new teaching position this year.  I am the Title 1 math teacher for K-2 so it's a school year of "firsts" to accompany my life year of firsts without Dad.  Yep, it always comes back to that...

This time last year my folks had been given the news that Dad had prostate cancer and they were waiting to tell me knowing that the start of a new school year brought its own kind of stress to my life.  I had gotten off to a late start with not being at pre-planning due to our trip to the USSSA 12U Fastpitch World Series.  That in and of itself had me all befuddled to a certain also produced a feeling of unsettled feeling.  This time last year, I was calling in to report how fall ball was going - Garrett was playing rec ball and Sara Beth was still with the GA Jinx 12U team.  I was blissfully ignorant.  This time last year, my Dad was mowing grass, planting and tending to his flowers, running errands, reading books, preparing and preaching sermons...LIVING LIFE.  There was no outwardly visible sign to tell the world that this man had cancer.  He was strong and full of life and laughter. 

Funny how life can change in the blink of an eye.  This time last year, I could NEVER have imagined that he'd be in Heaven...gone from us in the physical body.  This time last year, I didn't have this ache in my soul...this "fussy" unsettled feeling.  

On my worst days, I'm angry and giving God the cold shoulder...wondering what we ever did to deserve the pain of this journey.  On my best days, I remember my Dad's laughing eyes, his wise counsel and the love he had for all he knew and I still believe that there's a plan...that God's not finished and if I will wait on Him the plan will be fulfilled.  

When Dad was first diagnosed, a dear friend told me that God wasn't taken by surprise by any of the news that had literally brought our world to a screeching halt.  He had seen the beginning to the end and His Word was true.  He's incapable of lying. Even after Dad died, she repeated those words to me many times.  And now, on my VERY best days...I'm starting to believe again that that's true.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Letting go of the way we were...

It has been a little over 8 months since we lost my Dad.  Eight months into this journey and I find myself, on most days, still not quite willing to believe that he is gone.  I long for the way we were...the way we were before his death.  I long for "normal"...the "old normal".  I'm finding it difficult to cultivate my "new normal".  There are days when I think, "hey, I'm think I'm/we're gonna be okay" and then WHAM!! That empty feeling engulfs me, that sinking feeling in my gut returns and I feel like it's day 1 again.

This time last year, I was calling my folks to give updates on our USSSA 12U World Series experience.  We were in Orlando with our daughter's travel ball team having a great time with friends and watching softball.  I was missing pre-planning which was weird for me...I've NEVER missed pre-planning but I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to "catch up" that first week of school. However, not being at school and starting back the same day as the just felt weird...not at all normal.  From day 1 of the 2012-2013 school year, I felt off kilter - not quite right - out of sorts. Little did I know at the time that this feeling was a foreshadowing of things to come. I was getting ready to receive a curve ball that would change the course of my life. In September, my Dad shared the news with me that he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had been given a Gleeson score of 8 (which in most cases indicates that the chance the cancer has spread is greater).  To say the least, I was floored!  After hanging up the phone, I got in my van and drove and yelled/screamed at God.  "WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN, LORD? MY DAD HAS LOVED AND SERVED YOU FAITHFULLY! IS THIS HOW YOU SHOW YOUR LOVE TO YOUR FAITHFUL SERVANTS? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!"  I was angry, confused and very scared!

Typically, I talked to my parents several times a day, but after that September afternoon, without realizing it I had stopped talking to them as frequently.  I was afraid I'd say something that would "mess up" Dad's healing or speak negativity and I didn't want to do that.  After a lengthy and tearful conversation with my Dad, I went back to the normal communication routine but something was different in me.  I felt a shift from being fearful to being faithful.  I found every scripture I could related to healing, faith, trust and blessings and posted them everywhere so that I could speak healing over my Dad and speak faith words all the time. And then, the unthinkable happened and my world came crashing down. My Dad died in spite of trusting and believing and I was left in a mournful heap ashes.  Where was I supposed to go from here...what was I supposed to do or believe now?

I still struggle everyday with why and how this happened.  I also ask myself if perhaps my prayers weren't right or my faith wasn't deep enough or I didn't trust enough. I think, perhaps I'll always have those questions but as I move along this journey, I'm beginning to understand that letting go of the way we were doesn't mean forgetting...nope, it means letting go of the "old normal" to make room for the "new normal".  I'm not forgetting my Dad or his love for me or the fun we had together.  I could NEVER forget - it is embedded in my heart for all time.  No, I think letting go is just the opposite because by striving to carve out my "new normal" I'm honoring his life and legacy.  I think in letting go we are better able to hang on (sounds crazy, right?)...hang on to our past without allowing it to press us down. Letting go provides renewed strength to help us hang on to our present so that I/we can live in the moment. I know that Dad would want me to move forward in faith - "letting go of what is past and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Phil 3:12-14 paraphrased).  I think the word "straining" describes perfectly where I am right now.  I'm straining to get through this- to get where the Lord wants me so that I can be who the Lord wants me to be.  It will continue to be a "strain" for me to move through the rest of my days on earth without my Dad's physical presence.  He was a HUGE part of my life and the lives of my children and the void in my heart, I think, will remain until I see him again in Heaven.  I know that there are still many difficult days ahead and as we get closer to the anniversary of his death...well, I'm already dreading that and wondering what that day will look and feel like.

I miss my Daddy every single day.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him several times throughout the day.  People tell me that gradually, that will change...but I don't want that to change.  I want to hold him close in my thoughts and in my heart...ALWAYS. I wish that I could talk to him...wrap my arms around his chest and squeeze him tight (I'm too short to put my arms around his neck) - he did give the best hugs.  I wish I could see that warm, friendly smile in the flesh or hear that boisterous infectious guffaw of his just once more in person.

My sweet friend, Lisa Johnson, shared this song with me.  If my Dad had been a songwriter...I think he'd have written this for me for such a time as this. I've only been able to listen to it a couple of times but it's a haunting melody with a beautiful message of hope.

Dad I'll see you someday " away down the river" but until then...I LOVE YA ALL THE WAY TO HEAVEN...FOR ALWAYS!!!

Baby, dry your eyesThere's no need to cry‘Cause I'll see you againIt might be a while before you understand
I'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or moreCrossing over JordanTo the other shore
I'll be standing waitingWith all who've gone beforeI'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or more
Now the pictures on the wallWill help you to recallThey're not there to make you sadBut to remember all the good times we had
I'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or moreCrossing over JordanTo the other shore
I'll be standing waitingWith all who've gone beforeI'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or more
When it's time to leaveYou're gonna feel the mountain breezeAnd the snow will fill the streamAnd carry you to me
I'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or moreCrossing over JordanTo the other shore
I'll be standing waitingWith all who've gone beforeI'm just away down the riverA hundred miles or more.