Tag Archives: grief

Good-Bye to My Second Daddy

I was a mess in college. I was away from home for the first time, reeling from my parents’ divorce, and very new to my faith in Christ. My first roommate’s family gave me a home and family away from home. Adoption_certificateI probably needed to know I was “officially accepted” more in those few years than in any time since.

Today I’m grieving with that adopted family and saying good-bye to the man who became my second “Daddy.” I think the day I will remember most is the one in which I went to the bank to deal with a bounced check, and, in my distress about being broke, locked my keys in my car. It was freezing cold that day, at least to a Florida girl. This was before cell phones, so I slunk back into the bank and called Mr. Mizelle. He happened to be home — just about a mile away — and he came to rescue me in just a few minutes. I remember that I expected him to be exasperated, but as I told him about bouncing the check and then locking my keys in the car, I started to cry, and he just smiled and hugged me. Even in the moment, I realized that he really did love me, and that helped me be a little bit less of a mess.

Bill_MizelleI’ll remember him listening to talk radio and arguing over the Sunday talk shows. I’ll remember his ball cap and chewing tobacco and East Virginia way of talking. I’ll remember visiting his office in the Coliseum and learning more about peanuts than I knew there was to learn. I’ll remember the twinkle in his eye as he laughed with his family. And I’ll remember the day this good man offered “official acceptance” to a cold, scared, sad girl who needed a Daddy.

 

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Hope

cross1Today is Easter.  I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that it actually happened and that it changes everything.  I’m also aware that sometimes it feels more like that Saturday, when every human being thought Jesus was dead, and nothing seemed certain.  It’s a strange mix for this glorious day.

Last year, Easter was exuberant and joyful, loud even, as my family rejoiced that a baby we thought had been lost was very much alive.  This year, a child I love is facing loss he hasn’t even imagined yet, and I’m desperately hoping for years of resurrection for his heart and mind.  This morning, I took B.C., my foster son, to be with part of his biological family for Easter.  He’ll have a great time, and we’ll have a great time later at one of my family’s celebrations.  Then we’ll come home and probably deal with what seems like the confusing transition between families for him.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into our normal routine of school and work, bath time and reading stories, and every strategy known to boy for avoiding brushing one’s teeth.

Even as we do our normal daily things, slow movement is happening with B.C.’s “case.”  Given the system, it could all turn out very differently than it appears now, but at least for now it looks like B.C. will end up with a new home with loving, safe, fun, stable family members, several hundred miles from here.  I already love his family members — if we were neighbors, I think we’d be great friends.  And yet…there’s always this “and yet”…I know that for B.C. to grow to be a part of that family, he will have to endure the shock of knowing he’s not going back to his old home.  In addition to that, he won’t be staying in this home, where he has seemed to come to feel safe and secure.  There will have to be these losses.  Death — of what he knows and thinks and experiences every day — will precede resurrection.

The hopeful part of all of this is that I believe, that I know, that death always does precede resurrection.  To wish away the loss for B.C. would be to wish away the coming good of life with two loving parents, and siblings, and dogs, plus an ongoing connection with his extended family, and…maybe…someday…the opportunity for healing reconnection with his biological parents.  The anguished part recoils from seeing someone I love so much suffer so much.  I’ve only been a parent for 6 months tomorrow, but this week I’ve wondered, how did Mary stand there and watch her Son hang there and suffer and die?  How did God the Father watch His Son hang there and suffer and die?  There is a dread of the loss that’s coming that completely takes my breath away.  Most days it feels like Saturday more than Easter Sunday.

And yet…there’s a deeper “and  yet”…what Saturday felt like to Mary, and John, and Peter, and all the rest, what “Saturday” feels like to me and what it will feel like to B.C., perhaps what it feels like to you if this is a somber Easter — all of that is the middle of the story.  There are glimpses of a better end, of a glorious resurrection.  Jesus said He would rise on the third day.  Today, when I took B.C. to his family, one I’d never met hugged me, kissed my cheek, and said, “Thank you for taking care of my nephew.”  He’s the dad of the one who may be B.C.’s second father.  There is a sense of promise to the whole thing, and it takes my breath away just as much as the dread, if I pay attention to the reasons to hope.  I don’t always choose rightly, but today I choose the promise.  Amen.

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Three Easter Wonders

God, Author of the greatest surprise ever in the resurrection of Jesus, has surprised, delighted, humbled, and reassured me in this Holy Week.  It’s been a week of wonders, big and small.  Here are three…

I spent some time this week with a person who is celebrating her first Easter as a follower of Christ.  Do you remember what that was like, when you realized for the first time that it’s really true, that Jesus really died for you, and really came out of that tomb on Easter?  I needed to be reminded this week.  All through Lent, I’ve turned over a blog post in my mind called, “Cynicism and Contempt:  Lenten Twins.”  A nice, cheery post, don’t you think?  Throughout Lent I’ve seen my tendency toward those two pits.  I’ve also grieved and been angry, perhaps like the disciples were on Friday night and Saturday of that first Easter weekend.  Seeing the joy and wonder on this new believer’s face was like watching Mary’s face when she realized Jesus was alive.  The new believer even said something like, “I don’t ever want to take this for granted, to not be excited about it like I am now.”  Yes, Lord, me neither.  Thank You for the wonder of a first Easter.

This next one will seem kind of weird, but you’ll just have to trust me that it’s true.  For several days over the past week, I believed that someone I love had died.  My heart was crushed.  I wept, I yelled at God in frustration and despair, and I walked around with an aching heart.  Then, on Tuesday, I found out that the one I love is ALIVE!  I fell to my knees and wept again, tears of gratitude and remorse and joy.  It took a few minutes for my stunned heart and mind to realize, “Hey, this is EASTER!”  What seemed like despair transformed in a moment to exquisite, even exuberant joy.  It was all I could do not to run out to the lawn by my office and shout, “YES!  (My loved one) is ALIVE!”  Easter, indeed.

Finally, this morning I was looking online to find a sunrise service to attend.  I was startled to see one being offered by a funeral home.  Then I found another offered in a cemetery.  Once again, it took a few moments, but then I thought, “Well, of course!”  I’m still turning that over in my heart.  The first Easter was in a graveyard/garden, so why not celebrate it there in 2012?  Death giving way to life, the power and love of a great and good God, sunrise dispelling darkness – the wonder of it all is just stunning.  Oh, yes…it’s Easter…it’s all really true.  Hallelujah – He is risen, indeed!  Amen.

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Bowed to the Ground

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  –C.S. Lewis

Last May 13th, I rode to the hospital in an ambulance with my grandfather, frightened by how frail he had looked as they loaded him in the back, and wondering if it might be his last day with us.  It turned out to be what we knew as the beginning of a long end, and he passed away last August 13th after three grueling months of fighting and then about 30 seconds of letting go.

Exactly two weeks after Papa’s death, a precious friend got married and left for her new home a few states away.  She is one of those friends who knows all of me and my story and still loves me, and trusts me to love all of her and her story, too.  We walked alongside each other in ministry that was usually not easy.  We prayed and rejoiced as God brought her a husband after His own heart, a new family, and a new ministry.

But then, both my grandfather and my friend were gone.  Through the whole summer, I had known the losses were coming.  I had shaken my head at how the joy and sorrow of life are mixed and inseparable as Papa moved toward Heaven and my friend moved toward her marriage.  I had wept with my family in the moments surrounding Papa’s death.  I danced and laughed and cried with my friends as we celebrated at the wedding.  But then, they were both gone.

What happens to walking alongside, being Sam, when the ones I was walking alongside go where I can’t follow?  Maybe not surprisingly, I found some answers from Sam himself.  Along the way to Mordor, Frodo appears to have been killed.  Sam comes upon Frodo’s body, and is undone.

“Don’t leave me here alone!  It’s your Sam calling.  Don’t go where I can’t follow…

“Then anger surged over him, and he ran about his master’s body in a rage, stabbing the air, and smiting the stones, and shouting challenges…

“And then black despair came down on him, and Sam bowed to the ground, and drew his grey hood over his head, and night came into his heart, and he knew no more.”

When I first went back to read that passage, I was undone.  It so echoes what happened in my heart last summer and in these last six months.  Fear and panic:  I don’t know how to live in a world with no Papa in it.  I’ve never not been a granddaughter.  I say Papa is in Heaven.  Is it really true?  Is Heaven real?  Is Jesus?  Did I miss my friend’s heart before she left?  Can we really still be knit together across states?  Will we just drift apart?  I can’t do this ministry alone.   Anger, too:  Why did You make Papa suffer so long?  I asked You, others asked You, to shorten his suffering and You wouldn’t!  And despair and emptiness, a dark numbness, that made the fall months in some ways a disorienting fog.  Actually, I didn’t even realize how thick the fog was until it began to lift in January.  I found myself like Sam again:

“When at last the blackness passed, Sam looked up and shadows were about him; but for how many minutes or hours the world had gone dragging on he could not tell.  He was still in the same place, and still his master lay beside him dead.  The mountains had not crumbled nor the earth fallen into ruin.

“’What shall I do, what shall I do?’ he said.  ‘Did I come all this way with him for nothing?’”

There was the question piercing through the fog.  Did I come all this way with (them) for nothing?  Does loving God and people really mean anything?  Is it worth the long ache of grief?  What shall I do?

Today I find myself still in the same place, vaguely aware that the world has gone dragging on, no mountains crumbled or earth fallen away.  Tears have come with these questions, and with the answers a gentle Lord whispers.  “Yes, it means everything.  Yes, I’m real.  Yes, it’s worth it.  Keep being Sam.”

Amen.

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Missing Papa

My grandfather, David Cold

Six months ago this morning, my grandfather, whom I called Papa, took about five short, halting breaths, and then left his cancer-stricken body for Heaven.  The strong, kind, generous man was gone, and we stood around his body, stunned and spent from walking beside him as he fought right to the last breath.  A few minutes later, my step-father called us all outside, to see a beautiful full moon setting over the lake.  “Papa would have loved that,” we said, and then we laughed a little as we realized that Papa died about the time he would have been getting up for coffee.  He got up for much better than coffee that day.

I’ve been putting off this post for weeks, overwhelmed with too much to say and not enough words.  This week, I hope you’ll hang in here with me as I try to wrestle my love for Papa and grief at his passing into words that fit.  For today, this half-anniversary day, here are the thank you’s I read at Papa’s funeral.  For today they’re the only words I have.

Thank you, Papa…

  • for teaching me to bait my own hook.
  • for really believing I could be an astronaut.
  • for giving me a tool set for my birthday, and engraving my initials on each piece.
  • for helping me having a home that I love.
  • for taking me to RV driver’s ed, and teaching me the difference between the gray tank and the black tank.
  • for loving Nana.
  • for buying me bottles of Mr. Pibb when I came to visit at Cold’s Machinery.
  • for letting us hang onto you in the Gulf while you found sand dollars with your toes, and then letting us dive down to get them.
  • for the way you would just barely stick your tongue out when you were thinking…and how some of us picked that up without ever realizing it.
  • for delighting in me…for delighting in all of us.
  • for having lifelong friendships with the McGowans, the Fudges, the Howzes, and so many others.
  • for being there – at ball games, graduations, school openings, weddings, dance recitals, and promotions to Captain.
  • for dozens of breakfasts at the Breakfast Nook, Perkins, Richard’s, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, and Nancy’s…and for being kind of disappointed that IHOP was so far away on Dale Mabry.
  • for loving children, dogs, this country, and your in-laws, a combination not always seen.
  • for loving us first.  We loved you back, and we will keep on loving, just like you taught us.

Papa was a gift to my family.  I miss him terribly.

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