Today marks 8 years since my dad passed away. It was completely unexpected- we had no idea that he was sick or in danger of dying. Of course, looking back there are signs- morbid obesity, sleep apnea left largely untreated. But when you're just a kid you don't ever think that you might wake up one day and find that your father is just gone. I still remember the last movie we watched together, the last words that he said to me that night before I went to sleep. I'll cherish that moment forever.
I guess grief comes in waves, or at least it does for me. I'll go for months without thinking about him much, and then I'll have a month where everything reminds me of him. November's been like that for me. The first chilly day always makes me think of him- how much he loved the cold weather and breathing in the fresh northern air. Then, unexpectedly, the grocery store parking lot will be full of migrating birds, and I remember how we used to sit and watch them all sitting in the trees, the electric wires, the cars- and how he'd clap loudly and watch them all scatter. Thad told one of his jokes in a sermon last week- it went over well, just like his jokes always did. Of course that brings me to thinking about how proud I think he would be of us, for stepping out and planting a church, for the amazing pastor that Thad has become, for the strong a loving community that we're building. I have to believe that he'd be proud of me too- proud of how I've matured, how I've grown, how I've come to take a stand for what I believe in. I think he'd be proud that I've learned to think for myself, how I found myself, and even though I lost balance and love in the process, I found them again- and I think he'd be so incredibly proud of that.
Of course, November brings Thanksgiving- that was always our holiday. Our family didn't celebrate Christmas, so we made Thanksgiving just as big of a deal, gifts and all. Every year dad would wake up before dawn to get the turkey started in the oven, and every year I looked forward to helping him cook. We always made a feast that could have fed fifteen or twenty people, even if it was just the four of us. Even though it looks a little different now without gluten, I still love keeping that tradition alive and cooking Thanksgiving just like he used to. He died exactly a week before Thanksgiving.
Just a couple of weeks before he passed, my sister and I took a trip to Dallas for a dance conference. Before we left my dad took me aside and with all seriousness told me to, "Take care of your sister." I laughed, and he told me again, "I'm serious- you need to take care of your sister." How I've wondered if somehow he knew what was to come in just a few short weeks, and oh the heartbroken tears shed over my inability to keep my promise that I would, in fact, make sure nothing happened to my sister.
But there is redemption. My sister and I have been able to reconnect over the past several months, and I know dad would be so happy about that. Just last week I was making the drive and hour north to visit with her and her two kids. My introverted self was loving the so rare uninterrupted time to ponder- and my fun, music loving self was enjoying turning the radio up loud and introducing my children to classic rock and fine country music. Then it dawned on me- this is why my dad loved driving so much. When we were kids, he'd pile us into the old red bronco and we'd literally drive for hours- him listening to classic rock and us reading books in the back seat. I always thought it was a strange thing to like, a strange way to pass time. I never expected to enjoy long drives like he did, but now I get it. I feel just the same way.
My dad is buried close to where my sister lives, so on our way home I decided to take the kids to see his grave for the first time. Hayden and I had already been talking a lot lately about my dad and how he died. She knows that he got very very sick and died. She knows that his body stopped working, but that his spirit went up to heaven to live with Jesus. She still had some questions when we got there, and I explained to her that since my dad's body stopped working, they put it into a special box and buried it in the ground. He doesn't need it in heaven anyway. I was afraid it would be weird for them to be there with me, but it wasn't. It was very peaceful, and I think Hayden understood pretty well what I was explaining to her. I only wish they had actually gotten to spend time with him. My dad was so good with kids and I know he would have been just crazy about them.
Rest in peace, Dad. We're still here, doing well, and still remembering you. <3