Walking the Shadows

Time is ticking and I want to make plans. I want to write on my calendar what happens what days and every time I lift my pencil, I think of what I do not and cannot know. I do not know the path of my father’s growing brain tumor. I do not know when he will die. I am not in control.

I long for certainty. Certain of attending a graduation event with my daughter. Certain of attending a dinner with my small group. Certain of chaperoning my son’s field trip. Certain of something.

The only thing I feel certain of is death.

My hand stalls in midair but I press through and fill blank space on the calendar knowing death may interrupt every thing I write.

I do not know the times God plans for my father and his brain tumor. I cannot know the measure of days for him, for myself, for my husband and children, for anyone. So much uncertainty and I want to know, to make a plan I feel certain I can fulfill.

But I cannot. God forces me to open my clenched fists and receive what He gives for today. To sacrifice plans I make if necessary to accept the ones God hands down for today. He forces me to release so much so that I can take hold of what He gives.IMG_1410

I do not like what He wants to give me. I do not want to release my plans, because I think they are better than grief and mourning. They certainly feel more comfortable.

Years of practice and many difficult farewells overseas and I know a shadow of grief. I know it’s pain and  I’d rather not. I’d just rather not write grief, mourning, sadness on my calendar in ink for the next few years. But, that is God’s plan for me.

He’s walked me through the shadows before. Can I trust Him to walk me through the reality of a more final farewell with my father?


The Sting of Death

Time is a gift. I know that today more than ever. My father’s tumor spreads as I write, moving us closer and closer to the end of his earthly, physical days. There are few treatments and they only promise an extension of days. Apart from miraculous healing, we know the end is coming. It always was, death comes for us all, but knowing a time frame brings life into focus.

This is the time under heaven and each moment swells with importance. A time to weep over the missing and laugh over memories past and the foibles of the present. To uproot from life as we knew it. A time to embrace what matters and avoid what doesn’t. A time to search out disconnected family members and reconcile those we can’t find. Times of silence together and times we speak.

Sacred time is what I call it. Not everyone experiences these moments. There are things worse than death. Things that make death a jagged sword that rips out flesh after it pierces the heart.

It’s inescapable. Death does pierce the heart with grief. It keeps me up at night, it makes my heart pound. I physically hurt. But, death doesn’t have to sting the way it can.  It doesn’t have to drag a pound of my soul on the way out.

The red trees are called poison wood trees. The red trees are called poison wood trees.

Some things are worse than death. I’d take a brain tumor over my parents divorcing any day. I’d take this over parents with a contentious marriage fraught with selfishness. Unreconciled relationships and unforgiveness are sins that infuse death with a harsh sting. Before that, unforgiveness kills the soul and binds the heart tight and small. Those that encounter such hearts sustain injury to the deepest places in their soul. We’ve all met them and we’ve all been them, too.

I see my parents holding nothing against each other, though I’m sure they could find something. They spent the fall looking deeply into their relationship in a small group. It was painful at times, but I see that it washed their relationship from resentments. They feel closer than ever.

My parents and I sure have our moments we’ve needed to forgive, too, but this time together assures me we hold nothing against each other. And, lest you think we don’t have opportunities, you are wrong.

The freedom this brings to my soul is unspeakable. The freedom this brings to my father is beautiful. Though I see his sadness, I see that death has lost its sting. He says it himself. He woke my mother up one night to tell her. He is forgiven, and he has forgiven. He experiences freedom from fear and crushing regret and flaming anger.

I want this for myself. I want this for others too. The sting of death is sin (I Corinthians 15:56-57). Victory is through Jesus Christ.

Be reconciled, my friends. To God first, then to parents, spouses, children, friends, and co-workers. Even the person on the road that cuts you off in a blatantly offensive way. The politicians that get under your skin. The doctor that does the paperwork too slow.

Sow the seeds of forgiveness and uproot the weeds of resentment and bitterness. Let it not be on our shoulders, the crushing burden we do not have to carry. I long for the freedom that comes through receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness.

Day after day, as long as it is still called today, don’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).