"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
As the new year is officially upon us, I find myself reflecting on God's timing. There was a certain timeline underway (going back years) that I could not see happening at the time, but when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in September 2015, it all made sense. God was in control, and He made Himself known over and over.
I spent many years on and off in therapy throughout my life--starting in high school after a falling out with my dad. I didn't always know why I felt led to go, but I knew it would ultimately be healing to me. 6 months in high school, 2 years in college, and 2 years post college (fall 2013-summer 2015). The last 2 years of therapy were definitely the most significant to the healing in my relationship with my dad. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of emotions, a lot of grieving, and a lot of learning to accept reality. I will write a post more about this at a later time.
Also during the last 2 years I was in therapy, in the summer of 2014, my dad received a new full-time position at Beaumont working in bed operations. He was ready for a change after 15 years as a nurse in CCU (Critical Care Unit). His new job was a desk job, so I was able to visit him often, or as often as my schedule would allow. I would bring him dinner or just hang out and check emails or do work on the computer next to his.
And then, in February of 2015, one of the most significant things to happen in my life...happened. After over 20 years of challenges for various reasons between my dad and mom, they finally apologized and forgave each other, both agreeing that I was the best thing they did and how proud they were of me. Reading my parents' texts back and forth brought tears to my eyes. I can't describe what it is like to carry the weight of knowing things were never quite right with your parents....2 people that you loved most in the world. It weighed on me more than I even understood until the weight was gone. My mom decided during a bible study on "Life's Healing Choices" that it was time. My parents had finally made amends. Such a beautiful thing. One of the most special gifts that my mom has ever given me (and there have been many).
Because I was so moved at this, I reached out to my dad just to tell him that I loved him. Since I didn't do that too often, he asked me why I would say that out of the blue. I told him about the conversation that I had with my mom and how special it was. I felt my heart beginning to really open to him for the first time in a while.
This was the first of many turning points in my relationship with my dad. And because of the therapy I had been receiving up until this point, my soul was ready to finally begin building a healthy relationship with him.
Shortly after, about a month later, my car stalled on the way to work. In a panic, I wasn't sure who would be able to help me out at 7:30 in the morning. But then I remembered that my dad would likely be getting off work at that time. I called him, and to my surprise, he was only a mile away. We spent the morning together. I savored this time, though I wasn't really sure why at the time. Maybe it was just nice having 1:1 time with my dad outside of work. I kept apologizing to him that he had to go out of his way to help when I knew how tired he must have been after working a 12 hour night shift. He kept telling me to stop apologizing and that he was glad he could help me.
One week later, I met my dad and grandma for breakfast at a diner. I had the morning off work, and my dad wanted to see how my car was running. He offered to pay for some additional repairs as an upcoming birthday gift. I am not exactly sure why, but this was the very moment that I realized for the first time that my dad loved me as much as he could and as best as he could. He truly wanted to help me. He wanted me to be safe. His words made me feel cared for and protected. The reality was that even though he was broken and responded out of fear many times in his life, he really, truly loved me as much as he was able. And for that, I was thankful.
A few short months later, in July of 2015, my dad and I had difficult talk that was incredibly crucial to mine and his healing (I may write about this at a later time as well). It was the most meaningful and vulnerable talk we had ever had up until that point. The talk that the 2 years of therapy had been preparing me for. A complete breakthrough in our relationship. We were both a little sensitive after getting things out in the open after so long, but in time, our relationship began to grow, and I learned to be even more deliberate in mine and his relationship. Things weren't perfect. But they were good.
And 2 months later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Nothing really prepares you for something like that. But somehow, God did. Because of the healing that had taken place during 2 years of therapy, there were no longer any "elephants in the room". My parents were at peace. And my dad had a full-time job that he could keep up with that was separate from the rest of the hospital as he went through 12 rounds of aggressive chemo.
I took more trips to Beaumont to hang out with him, texted him more, and made sure to tell him I loved him whenever I had the chance.
My dad even went into remission for a few months. Something I never expected, but continued to praise God for. I knew his diagnosis was not good, so I never felt it was realistic to pray for healing for him. I knew what was going to happen. The thing that I prayed for most was peace. I did pray, however, that he would feel well enough to go to Florida at the end of July. And he did.
I believe that we are given a certain number of days and breaths on this earth that only God knows. And though I wish my dad had more time here, God knew what was coming. He knew, and I firmly believe that He did absolutely everything in His power to prepare my heart for it. For 13 months, I trusted in God's timing while grieving an impending loss. God brought the most amount of healing into my heart and life that was physically possible given the complicated relationship my dad and I had, and his short time here.
It is so bittersweet for me when I think about it. The grief comes in waves. When I do grieve though, I continue to with praise for God for all that he did for my relationship with my dad in this life, and I hold on to the hope that I will see him again. And when I do, he will be totally healed, and that will be another beautiful thing to praise God for.
I am so thankful to serve a God who promises us that this life is not the end, but the beginning of an eternity with Him.
St. Pete's Beach, Florida/August 2016. Our last family photo...something told me this photo would be special to us when I asked a stranger to take it.