This is why He came...and this is why He died...to lift up the dead, to heal the sick, and to sustain the brokenness of those who grieve. The brokenness of those who were at the foot of the cross then. And those who find themselves at the foot of the cross today. The God who was present when Jesus died and tore the curtain at the temple is the same God who is present now in our sufferings.
I just got home from a funeral. I'm sitting in one of my favorite spots, the "plant room" at my boyfriend's house, listening to the hard rain and thunderstorm. Looking at the little seed tray I started of herbs and veggies, watching the rain fall out the window behind them. Thinking about how God created the tiny seeds I planted. And yes, created the rain to help the new life grow.
I also celebrated my first Easter without my dad. My dad and I never really spent many Easters together. He was usually working at the hospital, and I was very much into the routine of spending the day going to church and then my grandparents' house.
But nonetheless, it was my first Easter without him on earth with me.
I spent the week leading up to Easter extremely busy and preoccupied by work. I meant to write and share a blog post on Good Friday, but the day passed without me even looking up from my computer for 6 hours. And at that point, I needed a break.
But Easter...the holiday that completes Christmas. Completing Jesus' life and creating wholeness where man fell short. Filling the gap between us and God with salvation...a redemption and love like no other.
I remember the season of Lent 2 years ago really moving me, as it had followed the death of my brother's high school best friend. A life cut short too soon. A life that spent much time with my family in the years prior.
"I really do have a new perspective on how short life can be, the reason why we are here and what we should strive to reach for, how to treat people, how to live, how to love... To love at all takes risk. And even though through loving you can experience great pain, you can also experience great joy.
I guess I want to get to know more people, connect with more people, and love more people in this short time I am here on this earth. A human lifespan is a quick blink of an eye in measure with eternity. It can also be taken away in an instant.
I don't know what God's plans for me are, but I know how I want to live. I am not even entirely sure where I want to be, let alone how to get there. But if I can strive for love and connection and vulnerability, I will have no regrets about that. I shouldn't, anyway..."
God...God is so merciful and so good.
My pastor, Kenneth, really brought it home on Sunday. I even teared up at church thinking about my dad. Thinking about how Easter is the day we celebrate the greatest love story that ever existed. The day we celebrate the life that was raised up to bring us healing and closer to the One who created all things.
Closer to the one who didn't create death, but defeated it. And in defeating it, bringing us the hope that this life is not the end.
Because of Jesus, and because of Easter, I know my dad is safe in the arms of the One who created him and loves Him more than any of us here on earth could comprehend. His final moments here do not mean the end of his soul. We grieve and mourn, but not as those without hope.
Because of Jesus, I can look at this photo from my dad's visitation with hope that the Glory of God was at work and continues to be through all of mankind...connecting all of us to a greater love story.
Although the grief still consumes me from time to time, I try to remember that my dad is in the presence of God now and for eternity. That even though his life ending was one of the worst things I have experienced and probably will, his soul has never felt more freedom or love. He is where we all long and hope to be someday...if we believe that there is more. And I know that there is. There is always more. I can feel it all day everyday. That Hope and Promise bringing me more appreciation and gratitude for the life God has given me since my dad's passing...more than I could comprehend.
The Lord gives and He takes away. He brought my dad home much sooner in life than I could have anticipated. But through it God continues to fill any spaces in my own heart with His goodness and provision for my life. It continues to be beyond what I can understand. I feel so undeserving. Yet so humbled, cared for and protected.
I always try to remember that if God didn't love life, then He wouldn't have created it. And if He is able to sprout a tiny seed in just a week from soil, sunlight, and water, then imagine what He is capable of doing to our own hearts and lives.
There has been a lot on my heart lately... April being Autism Awareness Month, Easter approaching, and of course my dad. And the many dreams I keep having about him. Almost every night.
The thing that has been on my heart even stronger lately, and why I feel led to write this week, is the one thing that has been ever constant and powerful over my life: God. His Grace. His Timing. It's more than my heart can process or understand. I wish I could write God a thank you letter for all He has done in my life. All He did in my life prior to my dad's passing...and the amazing love He brought into my life immediately following.
Growing up, it was apparent that I had a passion for teaching. I was always creating some sort of classroom and worksheets at home...my brother and sister being my students. Marissa being the easy student, and Colin being the...challenging student.
I also had a passion for the medical field...my favorite thing to do when I got home from high school was make a bowl of popcorn and turn on the Discovery Health Channel (I know my mom remembers this well).
When I graduated high school, I immediately began my college education studying nursing.
It didn't take long for me to realize that it wasn't for me. To be honest, I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was stressful. But even then I believed that I was supposed to trust in God's timing.
During the summer of 2009, I had my experience teaching ESL to Muslim women in Hamtramck. Soon after I changed my college major to elementary education with a major in math and a minor in language arts. This is where I felt God leading me, although I wasn't totally sold on it.
Then the big day came for me to graduate from college in May of 2013. My parents were so happy. And I was ready to begin looking for a job as a middle school math teacher.
The teaching market was tough though, and I began to feel discouraged. I questioned if I had made the right career move.
Fast forward a month into a new school year, and I began subbing in the Rochester school district. My friend was/is a teacher at an elementary school there, so when a sub job popped up at Hamlin, I took it.
Because of the subbing experience, I found myself falling totally in love with working with children with autism. It surprised me how much I loved it actually. It was a natural fit.
I never had any intention of beginning grad school as soon as I did, but I listened to my heart and this new passion and ran with it. I applied to a master's program and began taking graduate courses the summer of 2014.
Even though I knew what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise, I still hit some road bumps along the way. I was rejected a lot (both in the work field and by men). But deep down inside, I held tight to the dream and vision of being able to teach in Rochester as a teacher of students with autism. It was also during this time that my dad and I began to make peace, so he began to reach out to me more.
At the time I had this conversation with my dad in May of 2015, something inside me told me that I needed to save it. It was so special to feel my dad wanting to connect with me and encourage me along the way.
Before I knew it a year and a half went by...
September 13th, 2016: The day my dad found out his cancer was growing again.
September 17th, 2016: The night I had my first date with Jared (after not seeing him in almost 5 years).
September 18th, 2016: The day I got a call from the Director of Special Education for Rochester Schools saying they had a potential job opening for an elementary ASD teacher. They asked if I would come in for an interview the following day.
I had my interview in Rochester on September 19th. Had my follow up interview on September 26th. Signed my contract with them on September 27th. And started teaching in my very own classroom for students with autism on September 30th.
My dad lived long enough to see me get my dream job. He left this world just 5 short weeks later.
He always wanted the best for me. Through all the pain, of this I am sure. He always wanted me to be happy and successful. He wanted for me and believed I would get my dream job someday and find happiness with a man who could take care of and love me.
Although my dad never got to meet Jared, he did hear about him. When my dad was in the hospital for his biopsy on November 4th, the Friday before he passed away, I told him about how I had a date the next night with a good man that I really got along with well.
I think my dad's prayers for my life were all answered in just the right time so he could go in peace knowing that I was taken care of, loved, and would be loved.
Good things take time.
I started seeing my therapist again...about every 3 weeks. It makes me feel better knowing I have someone to check in with as I walk through the different stages of grief.
I have dealt with a mixture of emotions lately...including anger, disappointment, and frustration. Not just with my dad, but with other people in my life. Not understanding why things had to be the way they were. Not understanding why it didn't always feel like my dad could protect me. Feeling abandoned by the fact that he is gone now...forever.
I don't like feeling those emotions though. Especially when everything is done and over with. Maybe that's why some emotions are beginning to surface. Because he's gone. I can't just text or call him to get answers. I can't ask him why he did or didn't do certain things.
In fact, one day I spent 2 hours in tears feeling totally confused and forgotten by him. And it hurt. Especially since I spent so much time the week he passed away trying to really be there for him and plan everything for his visitation and funeral so that it was perfect. Perfect for him and perfect for everyone to remember my dad by.
So I let myself feel the anger and pain. It hurt to let myself go there in my heart. It felt wrong. But I trusted that it was another level of grief. And it was okay.
After crying for about any hour at my boyfriend's, I thought to get up out of bed and do some dishes.
When Jared got home, I was at the sink trying to hold back tears until I couldn't anymore. He pulled me away and just held me. I told him some things made me wonder if my dad ever loved me. Jared just kissed me and reminded me of how much he loves me. I let myself cry it out. But kept in mind how truly blessed I am. My dad may not have provided for me in all the ways that I had hoped. But God did. God provided a thousand times over. More than.
Remembering this helped my heart to soften--softening the pain I had been experiencing. I let myself feel the anger and disappointment. And thus learned to go to new levels of forgiveness with with my dad in my heart.
As I started to forgive my dad at an even deeper level than before, I began remembering the moments when he did come through.
I remember being in middle school (6th or 7th grade), and I was set on becoming an architect or interior designer. I bought a bunch of magazines with home plans in them and began doing my own home designs and layouts.
One day, my dad decided to take me out to buy my very own drafting board and stencils to trace in doors, appliances, and furniture. I also needed a specific kind of manila paper for my drafting class. We searched high and low until we found just the right paper. In that moment, my dad wanted to make sure I was taken care of and provided for.
I also remember back to about 4/5 years ago being a struggling college student trying to make her way through student teaching. Any teacher can relate to that time of paying for 12 credit hours to teach full time. Through student teaching, I faithfully worked every Saturday at Beaumont. But it wasn't enough to get by at the time. I shared my financial struggles with my dad. And though he was going through his own, he still offered to help me out with gas. So ever so often when I would see him at work, he would give me whatever money he could to make sure I had a full tank of gas when I needed it.
Remembering this honestly brings tears to my eyes.
Even though he couldn't always emotionally provide for me in the ways that I needed, I know he did his best. And through the grief, that brings me comfort.
So don't be afraid to experience all the different stages of grief. It just might help you to reach new levels of forgiveness and healing. And that will make it all worth it.
As an aside, today I had the courage to revisit Troy Beaumont again for the first time since the night my dad passed away. I was there visiting a relative who happened to be in the same unit my dad passed away in, who was also recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
But I did it. I had the courage to visit her. And the courage to walk by dad's hospital room.
Although it was hard being there today and not being able to visit him at work, I am continuing to trust that God's grace and love are sufficient. And maybe my dad was even there with me today.