I started grieving my dad’s passing three months before he left us. As much as I wanted to convince my dad to fight, I yielded to the grace of God and honored my dad’s wishes to go home and enjoy the time he had left. I was with dad when the doctor came in and explained what he was dealing with. Not only did he have a very rare cancer, he had the rarest and most aggressive cell-type of Mesothelioma. My dad was not afraid to die and he let everyone know it, including the doctor who gave us the report. Dad was at peace with God and he was ready to meet Jesus, whether I was ready for him to or not.
Shortly after we got settled into our routine at dad’s home, I researched clinical trials. I figured it was at least something we could try. I spoke with one of the doctors and she felt he was too far advanced but said we could bring him to MD Anderson to see. I explained it all to dad. He didn’t want to go. It was apparent to me that only God knew how long I was going to have with my dad. There were a few times he had a very hard day and I would go to bed wondering if he would make it through the night. I did not feel ready to say bye for now. Anxiety would slip in and on a few occasions, panic. My prayers sounded something like, “Please, Jesus, no. I am not ready…please let me have more time with him.” The next morning, after these desperate prayers, dad would wake up doing much better. I recognized God’s grace and the kindness to give me more time. The doctor initially told us two weeks to six months. My daddy’s girl heart was devastated.
My plan was to take dad back home so he could recover from surgery and then take him to do things he enjoyed. Though he never fully recovered, he did recover enough to get out of the house a few times. When I asked dad what he would like to do, his only reply was, “I want to take all my family out to dinner and I want to go to Roaring River.” If you followed our journey, you know we did both before he passed. Both outings wore dad out but he so enjoyed being with his family. We treasure those memories we had with him.
Throughout this journey, I had access to a nurse in the Chicago area who had worked with Mesothelioma patients for twenty years. She became, not only a source of knowledge and understanding, but a sweet comfort. When I brought dad home from the hospital, I asked her, based on what she knew, should I put him on a strict diet OR let him eat whatever he wants. Looking back, that’s a funny but irrelevant question. Though she answered that I should let him eat whatever he wants, if that’s what my dad wanted to do, that’s what was going to happen anyway. My heart was set on honoring dad’s wishes and for him to direct his own care. Which he did, until the last day.
Dad’s last day was not what I expected. It is something I’m still processing. Because I no longer feel compelled to gloss over painful situations with “you shoulds,” I will confess there was a moment I wondered where God was. I felt disappointed. Though dad was at peace before he passed, he had a moment on the day he passed when he struggled deeply to breathe. I was at a loss as I held my dad in my arms wondering if he would be able to breathe again. It took time but he settled into breathing again, though it was still a struggle. My comfort in processing this moment is, God has moved in closer. My questions and struggle have not made Him step back and shame or accuse me of having little faith. I am not running away from Him in this, but I have asked questions.
I am very grateful dad had a few more hours after that incident. We gathered around him to pray, read Psalms 23 and confess our love for him. We were initially told he had days, then it went to maybe not through the night, and finally only minutes. It was all hard to process, but this I know, I was longing for my dad to be delivered from his body and be present with the Lord. I was not praying for more time, I was praying for the Lord to have mercy. I wrote in my journal on the morning of dad’s passing, not knowing it was that day, asking for the Lord to bring him home.
When Nathan and I walked into church yesterday, I had no idea what the message was about other than it was the passage of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When our Pastor began, he reviewed what we had been learning and then said the message would center around being disappointed in God. In that moment, my husband leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Jesus loves you so much.”
You see, in my almost 50 years, I couldn’t recall a time I felt disappointed in God. That feeling felt scary to me. My disappointments of the past could be pinpointed to either myself or others. Being able to identify who dropped the ball helped me know who I needed to forgive…this was different.
I’ve had the honor of being with and offering comfort to many people over the years who felt disappointed in God, including my own husband. I never once felt they needed to be corrected and understood God Himself invites us to reason with Him. He is not intimidated by our questions. In fact, it’s in being honest before the Lord that we are opened up to receive greater truths than what we experience or feel. It doesn’t always mean we come to complete understanding or even like what has happened, but we find rest again…in trusting in who He is and His promise to make all things new, to right every wrong and as my dad would always emphasize “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.” Complete and eternal redemption.
Nathan and I talked over this blog this morning. We agree God did not cause certain things to happen in our journeys where disappointment has risen up, but questions come when we ask, “Why did You allow this, God?” It’s in this place we believe with all our hearts that for now, “We see in part…” And though God will often times give us understanding, even if He doesn’t, we will not put Him on trial. Even as God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth…?”
Though I long to know God more and love Him more, my history convinces me that He knows me and loves me more…that when I struggle, He does not. That if I question or you question, He will not leave us or forsake us in those moments. I’ve never been more thankful for this truth.
As Nathan and I walked out of church on Sunday, we stopped to talk to our Pastor. I confessed to him my disappointment and how the timing of his message helped quiet my heart. He had no idea when he was preparing his message that I would lose my dad only one week before…but God knew. Some may cry coincidence, but my heart screams “God sees. God knows…and God cares.”
I pray there might be a piece of my journey than can offer some peace to yours…I’ve heard from some of you who are struggling in this season and I’m asking the Lord that we will continue to move towards Him with our questions and struggles…moving away is not an option. Peter knew there was nowhere else to go and we know that too.
Will you press in with me?