Five years ago my dad received his ultimate promotion. In many ways, it is hard to believe that it has been five years. His presence is still so pronounced, his absence is still so significant, that it is easy to think that he has merely been gone for a bit, but his return is expected soon. Conversely, a lot has changed since he has been gone. In just my little family, my husband has earned a master’s degree and started a new career; we have two wonderful children; we have sold and bought a house, and our lives have changed in a myriad of small ways that would be unfamiliar to my dad if he were to suddenly reappear. Along the way, families that we love have experienced searing lost and we have cried with them – not only because we grieve their lost, but because we have a new understanding of the ache that resonates in their bones and the hole in their hearts. Yet, it has been a good five years. We are older, wiser, and five years closer to joining my dad in eternity.
As I think back about how these five years have shaped me, what I wrote about grief one year after our good-byes still reflects many of my thoughts. And yet, there are additional lessons I have learned as my dad’s Homecoming is further in the rearview mirror. Here are some of them:
- Time Changes Wounds – As I previously wrote, I am a firm believer that despite the prevalence of the adage that “time heals all wounds” – it is just not true. The loss of my dad is still painful and I imagine it will be until I am in glory. He was such a force in the lives of all who knew him, that it is impossible to not acknowledge and mourn his absence. Yet, while the pain is still there, it is not as jarring as it once was. Sure, there are moments where it still takes me by surprise, but overall, his lost is like an extra appendage I carry. It is there, it is heavy, but I have adjusted to it. The wound is not healed (nor, quite frankly would I want it to be), but a “new normal” has risen alongside it.
- Make a Difference, Make a Mark – When my dad passed away, my mom asked people who attended his memorial sentence to write down words that described him. The goal was that the grandchildren would have a way to learn who their poppa was. What I have realized is that each of those words represents a story of how my dad made a difference in someone’s life. People don’t primarily remember someone’s character traits; they remember how those character traits changed things for them. We talk a lot about “leaving a legacy” when you are gone. I have come to learn that legacies by and large are not made be sweeping gestures or overwhelming personality. It is the moments of “tiny” impact – of being the person that God has called us to be and loving Him and loving others – that forge a legacy that will stand.
- Remembering Matters – Every year one of my friend texts me to acknowledge the anniversary of my dad’s passing. It is a relatively simple and unassuming gesture, but it means so much to me. In the months that followed his death, as people went on with their lives, there was the tendency to feel like our family was in our own little world with our grief. The text that I receive each year reminds me that others carry the burden too. They help me know that, while grief is not a shared experience, and our family is forever changed, our brothers and sisters in Christ are there to help us along the way.
- Keep Your Eyes on the Prize – A sweet friend from church recently buried her husband. In her blogs and social media posts, she often reminds us that we are one day closer to eternity. It is a great acknowledgement that regardless of what the day holds, we know this – for the Christian each day is one step closer to the day when we will be face to face with our King. This should prompt us to make the most of the day – knowing that the things that matter will be the things that matter in eternity. And it should cause us to look at the inconveniences and hurdles in life in light of the reality of God’s ultimate plan. The day may be difficult, the journey may be hard, but for the Christian, respite is promised and assured. This may not change our circumstance, but it should change how we consider and approach it. Our pain may not lessen, but we can cling to God’s faithfulness to as we grieve.
With all that has changed over the last five years, it can seem like my dad has missed out on so much. Yet I am confident that from his perspective the last five years have been just a blink. My dad’s passing was a loss for us, but a gain for him. He had finished what God had called him to do and heaven was his reward. Five years later we know that as long as God gives us another breath to breathe there is still work left for us to do. May we faithfully do so, until that day that we are with Him.