2016 was one for the books, y’all…and that ain’t in a good way. In February, my uncle Hasselle died. On Sunday, July 17, my dear friend Tiffany lost her battle with triple negative breast cancer. And then, just three days later, on July 20, my Daddy suddenly and tragically died from a massive heart attack and strokes. With each death, I experienced terrible sadness and heartache; but with my Daddy’s death, I was introduced to GRIEF.
I looked up a couple of different definitions of grief. Here are a couple:
-deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death
-deep mental anguish
-a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed
While those definitions do give a pretty good example of what grief entails, I’m going to tell you what my personal experience with grief has been like and continues to be.
Grief entered my body around 2:00 am July 20, the minute the doctor came out of my Daddy’s room with tears streaming down his face and said, “I’m so sorry. We did everything we could to save him for you. And he fought so hard for y’all.” The grief caused me to scream and holler so loudly over and over that I jacked up my vocal chords. Grief literally caused me to fall to the floor, to gag uncontrollably, to wail in agony, to slam my hands on the ground, and to be stifled with a migraine. Grief made me feel like my eyeballs would fall right out of my head from the burning of the tears. It felt like the doctor reached inside me, grabbed my heart, stomped on it, pile-drived it, wrung it out with his hands, and set it on fire. I have never, in all of my life, felt that emotion before.
Grief is not a word to be used lightly. It should not be confused with sadness or heartache…it’s SO much more intense than that. It racks your entire body. Every fiber of your being is filled with it. I think a good word picture would be this: grief is like a toddler…for you parents out there, you’ll get this. Like a toddler, grief always lets you know it’s there. It’s with you in the kitchen, while you’re trying to get dinner ready. It’s with you in the car, screaming at the top of its lungs. It pulls on your shirt, reminding you of its presence. It’s knocking on the bathroom door, saying your name over and over, as you attempt to use the bathroom. Grief is like the toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store while you try to ignore it. It’s ALWAYS.THERE. There is no place to go to escape it. It has become part of me, just like any other organ in my body, ready to be stirred at any given moment, and in any given place.
So when talking about grief, here are a couple of questions: Where was God in the midst of my tragedy? Where is He in my grief?
I have to be completely honest here. I’m a child of God – I’m a Christian. And those things are easy to say when things are going good, aren’t they? But when tragedy strikes…when grief enters, WHAT THEN? Listen, when I walked into that hospital the night they called and told us to come over, I entered into prayer the minute the doctor told us he was trying to “bring him back”. I was begging God to save my Daddy, literally begging Him. I’ve never prayed for anything so hard in my entire 42 years. I just wanted one more hug, one more “I love you”, one more “thank you”, one more giggle or smile. I wanted a little more time, AT LEAST a little. And I honestly thought I was going to get it. I had screamed at Daddy from the hall (they wouldn’t let us in the room) and told him that I had made it from Tulsa…I was there with him. “I’m HERE DADDY!” I screamed at him to fight. “You HAVE to fight Daddy! FIGHT! FIGHT!” I screamed at him to hold on. “PLEASE DON’T GO DADDY!!!!” And all the while, I was begging God, desperately pleading. So I really thought it would work out. I was picturing myself standing over Daddy’s hospital bed and saying, “Sh*t Daddy!!! You scared me!” But it didn’t end that way.
I didn’t talk to God for a while…a long while. I just couldn’t. I wish I could say that I went straight to Him, but I didn’t. I wish I could say that I knew He was with me, that I felt Him, but I didn’t. And I’ll tell you why…I felt like He let me down. I rarely ask Him for anything, honestly. And so this one time, when I was begging him for just a little more time, why couldn’t He have given me that? I was so disappointed. When I was at church for the first couple of months after Daddy died, I couldn’t even open my mouth to sing His praises. It was hypocritical of me. I didn’t feel like praising Him one bit. I wasn’t MAD at God…I just didn’t have anything to say to Him. But here’s what I’ve come to realize through this process of my disappointment in Him. It’s like as a parent when I have to tell my child ‘no’ to a request of theirs. They may see it as unfair, or just flat out mean, but they don’t see it through my eyes or from my perspective. They don’t know the whole story, just like I don’t know God’s whole plan. I also know that as a parent, when my kids are disappointed or let down, I don’t turn my back on them. I understand that they have limited knowledge and a different perspective; therefore, I still love them the same, even though they feel that I’ve let them down. My love for them is unconditional – and I know that God understands my disappointment and loves me regardless.
So, this is where I am now…living a different life without my Daddy, but knowing that it’s still gonna be a great life. Daddy’s life and our relationship is worth the grief; in fact, it’s because of the amazing man that he was that I have this grief. With intense love comes intense grief, and I would much rather have that than to have nothing to grieve. God broke the mold with my Daddy. He was the very best. And although this grief will be with me for years and years to come, so many wonderful, beautiful, amazing memories flood me even more than the grief now. I can finally lift my head above the water and take a breath…and see the beautiful life ahead of me. And I know that Daddy will be watching, smiling and giggling with pure joy.
Here’s to 2017.