Archives For Grief

Five Years Later

April 8, 2015 — 6 Comments

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.

 

Sweet Sorrow

February 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

It was William Shakespeare in his play “Romeo and Juliet” that popularized the idea that parting could be “such sweet sorrow.” The phrase, uttered between two lovers as they prepare to bid adieu to each other for the night, reminded us that while good-byes are necessary, they hold within them the hope of when we will see our loved ones again. The anticipation of being reunited can mingle with the despair of separation, and something that is at its essence sad, can be marked by promise.

The last few weeks have brought this phrase to mind repeatedly because, as God ordained it, three people that we know have passed away. Two of them were young men in their thirties who left behind young sons. Another was a mom, seemingly in good health up to the moment of her death. These were good-byes that you did not anticipate. These were deaths in which no “plausible” explanation can be given. Medical opinions aside, it has been hard to grasp the reasons that these individuals are no longer with us. From a human perspective, it just doesn’t make sense.

However,  despite the lack of clarity, one thing that has been made evident – all grief is not the same. There is a different kind of grief when a Christian passes away. The pain is no less real; the gaping hole is just as wide. Yet, despite this, there is an assurance, a confidence that this good-bye is one that can, on the perimeter, be characterized as “sweet.” The farewell is not permanent; the separation is not forever. In anticipation of when we will see our brothers or sisters again, we grieve, but not without hope (I Thess. 4:13). We know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), and we can boldly look froward to that time where we will be united with Him and reunited with those in faith who have gone before. Every day that passes is a day that brings us closer to that Day. There is sadness, and it is deep, but the grace and love of our Father can fill it with peace.

It is hard to say goodbye to those that we love. It is difficult to imagine a “new normal” – a life where they aren’t in it. But the Christian knows that life on this Earth is merely a vapor; hope is not to be found in it but in the One who conquered death to bring us true life with Him. And when He calls us Home, the pain of sorrow will dissipate as we experience the sweetness of being reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we rejoice together in the presence of our Lord.

 

Hope-is-not-to-be-found

The Seeds He Planted

December 17, 2011 — 14 Comments

Yesterday, my grandfather passed away. It wasn’t unexpected yet the pain still cuts deep. Even though we never had the privilege of living near my grandparents (except for the first nine months of my life, which I don’t really remember), we were close.  Growing up we knew that every other weekend we would be talking to them on the phone. After we went to college and getting us on the phone proved to be a bigger challenge, we introduced them to the world of email and the communication flow increased. Recently, we’ve gone back to the phone calls, but they became weekly events. Perhaps the wisdom of age teaches you that more frequent communication is better.

My grandfather was a great man although I doubt his name will ever appear in the history books. He served his country proudly as a Marine for 25 years, and in more conflicts than I could name. When he left active duty, he returned to his roots, buying a forty-acre farm and building a home. My grandfather grew up on a Maryland farm, and I tend to think that despite traveling all over the world for Uncle Sam, it was knee-deep in hay where he was most at home. I never realized until I was much older but I’m sure that his farm boy roots is why nearly every phone conversation we had there was at least some discussion about the weather. When the rain and the sun are key determinants of your livelihood, you learn to pay close attention to their status.

However, it wasn’t just in soil that my grandfather planted. It wasn’t by accident that even though we weren’t geographically proximate, we were still relationally close. My granddad did well to form and maintain relationships despite the distance. He used the regular phone calls to plant his words of wisdom. There were several lessons that I will never forget:

1) There’s no use in complaining – It became commonplace that when I would ask my grandfather how he was doing he would respond, with a smile in his voice, “there’s no use in complaining; no one wants to listen to it anyhow.” Despite my assurance that I would listen, my grandfather refused to complain. Much of my adult life he lived in pain, but he didn’t talk about it much. His pain did not define him; he worked to define it – often disobeying doctors’ orders and exceeding their expectations in doing things that they were sure he couldn’t. He was right – there is no use in complaining. Much better to be thankful for what you have, do the best with what you’ve got, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

2) Treat your spouse like a jewel – My grandfather hated shopping except for one thing – buying jewelry for his bride. He married my grandmother when she was just 16 years old and she would be his sweetheart until the day that he died. If you had seen my grandfather you would have thought that he was one tough guy, and he was, except when it came to loving his wife. She always melted his heart. He might have hated shopping carts and long lines, but he loved making my grandmother happy. If that meant buying her sparkling gifts, he would do it, gladly taking on the inconvenience and hassle of going to a store, in order to show her love.

3) The ‘little things” matter – When we were younger, my grandparents always made sure that they brought us Smarties – sugar candy wrapped in cellophane. I’m not sure how it started, but we called them “little things.” Without fail, seeing my grandparents meant getting these candies, and I’m pretty sure that they’ve continued the tradition with their great grandchildren. It was a simple gesture but a meaningful one; a small symbol of the fact that distance might separate us, but they thought about us all the time.

But it wasn’t just the wrapped candy that signified the importance of the little things. My grandfather demonstrated this in how he treated others, and in his expectation for how those in his charge would treat one another too. He knew the power of saying please and thank you, and the last message I received from him was one expressing his gratitude.  He realized that a simple act of kindness could mean the world to someone else. It’s because the little things mattered that he regularly called his sisters to make sure that they were o.k. They may have been hundreds of miles apart, but he wanted them to know he would still do whatever was in his power to take care of them. It’s because the little things matter that my grandfather would break out the homemade ice cream machine, or stop on the side of the road at a train museum just because his granddaughter thought it looked interesting. He may not have had much, but what he did have were kind words and simple actions – and he used those generously for the sake of others.

4) It’s better to be busy than to be bored – When my grandfather would ask about things that were going on in my life, and I would recount all of my commitments, his response was “It’s better to be busy than bored.” My grandfather was a hard worker, and he knew that being diligent and having a good work ethic were important characteristics. He never was much for wasting time. If he wasn’t doing something out in the field, he was reading, or fixing something inside the house. My grandfather recognized that idle hands often led to trouble. Hard work might not lead to riches, but if you worked hard enough, you would accomplish something. Make the most of the moments, because they will pass you by before you know it.

5) You’re never too old to change. You’re never too young to learn. – Many years ago my grandfather quit smoking despite the fact it was a habit that he had for over 50 years. As I understand it, he made the decision and just stopped – cold turkey. I don’t think he ever lit his pipe again. This is a testament to my grandfather’s stubbornness, and his determination. To him, age wasn’t an excuse not to do something; if anything, the expectation for doing the right thing increased as the years piled on. I’m sure it sounds odd, but I remain immensely proud of my grandfather for the courage to change in this one regard because it exemplifies his courage in so many other areas as well. Do the right thing – regardless of the consequences or personal costs.  It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

In a similar vein, however, my grandfather also knew that you were never too young to learn. He had a library full of books and when we went to visit him, they were always at our disposal. When someone would ask a question about why things worked a certain way – he was always happy to explain, regardless of their age. We spent countless hours on a tractor learning to mow the hay. The first time I drove a car was in his fields. My grandfather didn’t have the opportunity for much formal education but he knew more about a wide breadth of subjects than almost anyone else I know. He fed his curiosity and inquisitive nature with information and knowledge. He fostered this same habit in others – teaching them what he knew and encouraging them to go out and learn more.

I still smile when I think about all the conversations I had with my grandfather about the weather, and how long it took me to realize the importance of those talks. To a farmer, the weather isn’t just a way to make small talk; the weather is a critical component in determining when to plant seeds and how they will grow. What my grandfather may not have realized is that in all those talks, he was planting seeds of his own.   I’m so grateful for the seeds of wisdom that my grandfather planted in my life, and in the life of those that he loved. I know that they will continue to bear fruit for years to come.

 

 

One Year Later

April 8, 2011 — 33 Comments

As some of my readers may know, one year ago today my life was forever changed when I received the news that my dad had went home to be with Jesus. When my parents left on their trip to Maui, we never suspected that they wouldn’t come back together, and while we remain grateful for all that God has accomplished in our lives during the past year, it’s been an unbelievably hard one.  A few days before his passing, my dad had dropped off my parents’ best friends at the airport. His buddy turned to him and said “see you at home.” It became true for all of us; the next time we see my dad, we will be at Home.

Although I’ve written some about my dad over the past year, I’ve written very little about the grief that we’re going through. To be candid, it’s because I haven’t yet processed it, and one thing that I got from my dad (among others), is that I process before I speak (or write.) To try and write about something so painful, so raw, while at the same time experiencing it, isn’t something I’m prepared to do, mostly because I’m concerned it would come out in ways that don’t make sense.

However, as we acknowledge the anniversary of my dad’s Heavenly Homecoming, I think it’s worthwhile to share a few things I’ve learned:

1) The power of simple words – In grieving, it’s a blessing to have people who surround you who care about you and want to say things that will assuage your hurt. However, very few people know what to say, because frankly, there really are no words. What I’ve learned is that for me the most powerful words were the ones that acknowledged there was nothing to say. They simply told me they were sorry, that they were praying, and that they would be there if I needed them. More than any others, these words were the ones that I cherished.

2) Grief is not a shared experience – When people try to find words to comfort, they often want to compare experiences of grief. The hard thing about that is that no one else can really know what I’m going through. Even in the unlikely situation that their dad passed away in the exact same way, in the exact same circumstances, they didn’t have the relationship I had with my dad; their relationship, their history was theirs.  This isn’t to make a claim of superiority; it’s just that by its nature, every relationship is one-of-a-kind.  We compare because we want to empathize but unfortunately, oftentimes when we do we seemingly minimize the pain that the person is feeling, especially if we make a less-than-equitable comparison. As much as we may want to, grief is not an experience that can be shared; each must experience it on their own.

3) There’s no prescribed roadmap – People talk about the stages of grief, but I’ve yet to see that pan out in reality. There’s no set way that you grieve. Because everyone’s experience is unique, so is the process that they go through.  Grief comes in waves and cyclones. Sometimes it slowly builds and washes over you. Sometimes it strikes suddenly with intense precision.  Give yourself permission to grieve as you experience it.

4) Time (temporally) does not heal all wounds – Along with making seemingly inequitable comparisons of grief experiences, probably one of the most damaging things people have said as I’ve grieved is something that implies that “time heals all wounds.” The truth is, for the Christian, ultimately time does heal all wounds, because there will be a time where we’ll be in heaven with Jesus. But on this Earth, there are losses that you never “get over.” That doesn’t mean that these losses define you, but they do shape you, and you carry the pain of them with you. Thankfully, for believers Christ shares that sorrow, however it doesn’t ever go away; pretending like it does only makes it more painful.

5) There’s good grief. – I know “good grief” is something normally associated with Charlie Brown & the Peanuts gang, but I’ve learned that there really is such a thing. The reason that pain of losing my dad is so acute is because our family is so close. I wouldn’t trade the tightness of our bonds if it meant reducing the hurt. However, we were blessed in that our grief is not coupled by words that were left unspoken, fences that were left unmended or relationships in need of repair. As I’ve written previously, my dad was intentional with his living, and that meant being intentional in his relationships. None of us have doubts about how much my dad loved us, and we know he was fully aware of how much we love him. We grieve, yes, but we grieve with the comfort of relationships that were whole. This has become perhaps the biggest lesson of my grief. To live in such a way that when God calls me home, there is nothing left “undone”, and there are no relationships “unfinished” that remain.

Since my dad has gone to be with his Maker, my heart’s cry has been that we would grieve well; that our family would be true and honest with our pain, but that in doing so we would point people to our Savior. Hopefully, we have and will continue to do that.  As we do so, we eagerly look forward to seeing my dad at Home.

Shared Sorrows

April 6, 2011 — 4 Comments

Of all the monikers for Jesus in the Bible, the one that always struck me was “Man of Sorrows.”  Growing up, I just didn’t get how the Messiah, the Holy One and Savior, could be characterized by sadness. After all, one would think that the Ruler of All would have very little reason for a heavy heart.

However, throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry we see this heaviness penetrate His life time and time again. We see Him weep over Jerusalem and over the death of His friend. We see His heart grieved for the people’s unbelief. Repeatedly He is rejected, not only by the religious leaders, but in the end, by those with whom He was closest.

As I’ve grown older, “Man of Sorrows” has become less strange to me, and has in fact, gradually become a comforting way to think of my Lord.  As I’ve experienced new and deeper sorrows, it is encouraging to know that my Savior knows what it is to be grieved. It is helpful to know that when I turn to Him to carry my burden, this is not something He is unfamiliar with. He’s walked the road before.

And yet Christ offers that when I give Him my burden, I can carry His. Some people may be tempted to think that this means that the Christian won’t have any hard times, yet Scripture and experience obviously teach us that this is not true. But the burden that He offers us is a shared one. We don’t have to bear it alone; in fact, He’s the one who’s doing the heavy lifting.

Just like the Man of Sorrows bears our concerns, so we are commanded to shoulder the burdens of others. Because He is holding us up under whatever may be trying to weigh us down, we are then strengthen to help others withstand their trial. He bears us up, and we in turn can bear them up. The Man of Sorrows shares our grief, and He expects us to turnaround and do the same for His kids.

I’m looking forward to the day where sorrows will be a thing that only resides in the past. Yet, until that day, I’m glad that whatever sorrows I experienced, are ones that are shared.

Washed by the Rain

February 7, 2011 — 3 Comments

Living in Southern California, you learn to be wary of the rain.

It’s not that the rain is bad – more often than not, we are in desperate need of more precipitation. However, if it rains too hard, for too long, all at once, we quickly have problems. That’s because our cities aren’t built to handle the rain. Mudslides and flooding ensue. What at first seemed like a minor inconvenience, quickly turns into a catastrophe.
The same can happen in our personal lives. The storms seem to build on top of each other and before you know it, the downpour you thought you could handle, spirals out of control. The water floods our lives.

However, as I was recently reminded by a Need to Breathe song, the same water that can cause the floods and mudslides, can wash us. In other words, God often uses the tough times in our lives to purify us, to sanctify us, and to draw us closer to Him. The rain may be overwhelming, but His grace is even more so. And it’s often during the torrent of tears that we experience this most profoundly.

The rain can sweep us away, or the rain can wash us clean. It’s in our response to the bad times that this is determined.

We can choose to let God use the pain, or we can choose to let the pain consume us.

We can choose whether to praise Him through the storm, or oppose Him because of it.

We can choose whether the storm will refine us, or whether the water will drown us.

Our response may not change whether we experience pain, but it will determine whether we draw closer to God as a result of it.

May we increasingly allow the rain to purify us, sanctify us, and make us more like Christ. May we not be awashed in it, but instead, may we be washed by the rain.

 

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A Year-End Report

January 2, 2011 — 10 Comments

In business, it’s custom to write an annual report – the purpose of which is to let your shareholders know what happened the year before and what the plans are for the future. Although, my work experience was primarily in privately-owned businesses (and therefore an annual report wasn’t necessary) the year end was still an important time for us. It was a time that we would rush to complete orders to help make the year as profitable as possible.

Since I no longer work in a corporate setting, I took a different approach to the end of this year. Although it’s not something that normally characterizes me, I finished this year with a burst of inactivity. As you may have noticed, I didn’t post new blogs, and I also didn’t fill my calendar with things to do and places to be. Instead, I spent some time reflecting on this last year year and my hopes for the future.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you probably know that this past year wasn’t an easy one. This was for a variety of reasons, including the massive stroke that my father-in-law experienced, the passing of my own dad, and other grief, plus the “normal” travails of life.  It was a year that I don’t long to repeat. As my sister so eloquently tweeted, “If 2010 had a face, I’d punch it” – it’s a sentiment I can definitely appreciate.

Yet despite the hardships of 2010, it was a good year. It was good because I learned lessons that maybe can’t be learned through anything but hard times. And while I don’t relish the hard times, I do appreciate the lessons. So, to start off 2011, I wanted to share these lessons with you:

1) God is near the brokenhearted. – The truth of Pslam 34:18 was shared with me by a dear friend after my dad went to be with Jesus. It was a truth that I clung to in the days and months that were to follow. And it was a truth that I saw manifest in my own life. I experienced God’s presence and His provision in ways that I hadn’t appreciated before. I saw His hand at work – whether through the comforting word of a friend, the remarkable way in which my mom’s needs were taken care of while she was still in Hawaii after my dad passed, or simply in the confidence He gave me of my father’s new Home. He was near to us. And while we don’t understand the reasons why this year was so tough, we are incredibly grateful that He walked through it with us.

2) A community of committed believers is a precious gift – Through the daily and the momentous trials that we experienced over this past year, we had believers who walked the road with us.  Some of these were dear friends, others of them were people we barely knew. Whether it was the thousands of prayers that were lifted up on our behalf, the phone calls and text messages of those who checked in, or the people who would come to our home to share in our grief with us, we experienced what it meant to be part of the body of Christ in new ways. And we are so grateful that in the midst of the pain, God provided people that were willing to help shoulder the burden.

3) Never underestimate the blessing of a meals ministry – This may seem like a trite response, but really, this was a huge lesson for me. I had participated in the meals ministry of the church we attend, but had never been a recipient. I realized what a practical and appreciated gift the provision of a meal is for those who are in need. It meant that there was one less thing we had to be concerned with; it meant we had more time to deal with the myriad of details that came with each trial we endured. To all of those who have ever provided a meal for someone in need – thank you. And let me just assure you – it makes a tremendous difference.

4) Prayer is powerful – This may be one which seems obvious to committed Christians, and although I already knew the impact of prayer, we experienced anew during this last year. And this wasn’t because we were given everything we asked for – in fact, most of the time, we weren’t. But it the midst of our heartbreak, we received the blessing of knowing that we were being prayed for, and that what was happening in our lives was the result of God’s design. I’m convinced that the reason our family was able to continue to praise God in spite of our grief and hurt, was because of the prayers of other people. If you are a follower of Christ, please keep praying. Not just for our family, but for those who you know that are hurting or in need. You may never know how God is using those prayers, but trust me, He is.

5) God is good. All the time. – This year has been a hard one, but God’s goodness has been seen through it. This year has been challenging, but God’s faithfulness has endured. His character does not change because of our circumstances. And in the midst of despair, He is there – actively working to bring about His purposes for the good of His precious children.

I don’t wish to repeat 2010, but I’m grateful for it. And I’m grateful for the lessons that God continues to teach me, until the day of His return.

Twice Grieved

November 11, 2010 — 29 Comments

As many people know, earlier this year my daddy unexpectedly passed away. What few people know is that a few months later, my husband and I lost our first child to a miscarriage. Perhaps it’s unusual to experience these types of painful losses so close to one another. Perhaps it’s more common than we are aware. Regardless, it has been a tough road; one that I would have never planned, but that I’m walking just the same.

As I’ve mourned these losses and tried to figure out where to go from here, I’ve been reminded of a few things:

God is in control.

I am not.

God is on the throne.

I am not.

God knows the way.

I do not.

And while I’ve learned and re-learned the truth of these words, God, in His providence, has made this time of sorrow into also a time of comfort, a time of hope and a time of grace. Comfort, because I know that while I might not understand, I know the God Who does. I’ve often reminded myself that no one knows this pain like God does. Christ was a Son separated from His dad, and the Father knows the pain of a Son’s death. He’s walked this road, on both sides, and is walking it again with me.

It’s been a time of hope because while I don’t understand the reasons for these losses, I know that God has promised to use them. He will use the tears to water the seed of His will. He will use the grief to bring about grace. While I choose to believe that it grieves God when His children suffer, I also believe that He redeems these times by working through them to bring about His will. I wish I didn’t have to experience the sorrow, but I’m grateful that God uses even the painful things to bring about His good.

And it’s been a time of grace because in the last few months God has been demonstrably present. He’s put people into our lives who need to hear His Word, and through these experiences, we have been given the opportunity to share it. He’s provided in both seen and unseen ways to meet the needs that we didn’t even know we had.  He’s arranged timelines and schedules to make our burden lighter. And He’s given us comfort and hope that can only come from Him.

In my humanity, I wish for my dad to still be here, and for my baby to have safely arrived on this Earth. I do not presume to know why they aren’t, but I know that these losses did not catch God unaware. A song [affiliate linkby Kerrie Roberts often serves a reminder to me that “Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands.” He could have stopped these things, but in His sovereignty He didn’t. But in His graciousness, He’s using them to still accomplish something good. And while I grieve, there are no better hands to wipe away the tears.

(While it was heartbreaking to experience both of these losses so close together, it is even harder to lose someone and not have confidence of their salvation in Christ. This is what it truly means to be “twice grieved.” Please, if you don’t know Christ, don’t spend another day without Him. If you don’t know what it means to be a Christian, I’m happy to answer any questions. This is also a great place to learn more. May God bless you as you seek and serve Him. ~ N.A. Winter)

A Tribute to My Dad

May 17, 2010 — 20 Comments

As family and friends know, my prolonged blog silence was prompted by the sudden and unexpected death of my dad on April 8, 2010. While vacationing with my mom in Maui, my daddy went home to be with his Lord. We miss him terribly, but are so grateful for the confidence of his salvation. Below is my tribute (from his memorial service) for a great man, and the best dad a girl could ask for. I look forward to seeing him again.

They say that experience is the best teacher. In the last week, I’ve learned a lot about grief. One of the first things you do is try to define what was lost. You think of words and phrases, memories and occasions that help people understand exactly what is now missing in your life. As we have grieved the loss of my dad, five words have come to my mind time and time again: faith, family, fun, fan and freedom. For me, these five words describe my father and help others understand the nature of our grief.

The first thing my dad would want people to know about him is that he was a man of faith. My dad loved His Savior and he strived diligently to do the things that God had called him to do. It pained him deeply whenever he faltered because he always wanted his life to be a great representation of Christ. My dad spent countless hours memorizing Scripture so that whenever he, or anybody else needed some advice he would be able to tell them what God’s Word said. He also spent untold hours in prayer. It wasn’t uncommon that when my dad was faced with a situation where he was unsure what his next step would be, he would wake up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, read the Bible and talk to God.

As his child, I knew that I was regularly being lifted up to our Heavenly Father’s throne. I know that this side of heaven, I will probably never know the effects of those prayers on my life and others. James wrote “the prayers of a righteous man has great power.”  Those words could have been written about my dad.

After my dad’s faith, the second most important thing to him was his family. The love of his family started with his love for my mom, his high school sweetheart and wife of 34 years. Recently I wrote a blog about my parent’s marriage in which I wrote “Growing up, I always knew that if I disobeyed my dad I would be in trouble. But if I disobeyed my mom and my dad found out about it, my punishment would be much worse because in that case, not only had I disobeyed, but I had hurt my mom, and my dad was intent on protecting my mom from hurt. It was very clear that taking on my mom, meant taking on my dad too.” My dad always had my mom’s back. He took great pains to set up a godly home for me and my sister to be raised in and that started with following the Ephesians 5 command to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

In another blog I wrote about How My Parents Made a Difference, I talked about perhaps my father’s least favorite part of fatherhood; the part where he had to discipline his children. My dad loved having fun with his kids, and it tore him apart when he had to punish us. However, he still did it. As I wrote about my parents, “I always knew they loved me, and I always knew that if I went against their directions, there would be consequences. That may seem counterculture in today’s world, but it wasn’t in my parent’s home. Regardless of how they punished me, it never diminished my understanding of their love. And because they loved me, they never shied away from correcting my misbehavior.” Perhaps that’s why my dad loved being a Poppa to Riley and Declynn so much. He got a lot of the joys of parenthood but he didn’t have to punish the kids. And even though my dad might not have always enjoyed all the responsibilities of fatherhood, he fulfilled them, and more, even welcoming his sons-in-laws as his own kids.

Upon hearing the news of my dad’s passing and friend wrote to me, “You had the best daddy in the world.” And he was. Another friend told me, “most people would trade a lifetime of their relationship with their dad, for a year of the type of relationship that you had with your father.” And she was right. And I think it’s a testament to the type of father my dad was that other people recognized this. It was a joy of my dad’s that as we grew older, he was not only my parent, the person that I turned to when I needed advice or insight, but that he was one of my best friends, and he could also share his joys and difficult situations with me. This friendship meant that many weekends you could find me and my husband hanging out with my parents, going to dinner after church, playing tennis or talking about our next Hawaiian adventure. My dad loved that we loved spending time with him.

It wasn’t only with his family though, that my dad liked to have fun. I don’t know anyone who loved to make anything a good time as much as my dad. He could take a simple dinner out and make it a riot. I have a tradition that on Friday’s I tell my students very silly jokes. No one appreciated these ironic puns as much as my dad did. In fact, I still owe him an e-mail compiling them all together. Whether it was playing on a softball team, a rowdy game of Spades, an impromptu trip to an amusement part, snorkeling, or working together to build something, my dad loved to have fun. My dad loved to have fun so much that sometimes it was to his detriment. He would play softball after pulling his back in bowling. One time he played fooseball so much that he got tendonitis. On the few occasions where my dad took a break from work, he loved to make the most of it. We were the only family I know that had a typed agenda sent out before we went on vacation. My dad wanted to make sure that we didn’t let any opportunity for fun pass us by.

And my dad was generous with his fun. As many of you know, at one point my dad finally got the red sports car that he had talked about for nearly as long as I remember. Shortly after, the college-aged son of my dad’s best friend got Hodgkin’s disease. My dad took his Corvette keys and handed them over so that a kid that was suffering pain could experience the thrill of driving a fast car. Later when he and my mom were talking about the expense and maintenance of the Corvette, my dad said that it was worth it all to see Ben’s smile. My dad loved using the gifts, talents and things he had to make other people happy.

Nothing was more fun to my dad they when he could get a group of people together to accomplish something. As one of our friends said, “Everywhere Brad went he built a team” and it’s true. It thrilled my dad to work alongside people to accomplish a goal. Perhaps that’s why my dad was such a fan of almost any sport. Whether it was the Saddleback Valley Christian high school football team or the Super Bowl my dad cheered just as hard for the team’s success. My dad was an unusual sports fan because he never really had a favorite team. He just wanted the players to do well, wanted it to be a good game, and wanted to be able to give his two-cents as to what the team should has done. My dad was so passionate about doing a good job and he was equally as passionate about encouraging others to do the same.

Lastly, my dad loved freedom. As was mentioned earlier, my dad served 12 years in the Marines after being graduated from Annapolis, and then went to work in the private sector where he spent the majority of his working life at General Atomics. My dad loved that he got to spend his time doing something that helped both protect our freedoms in this country and provide freedom to people who were oppressed.  He loved telling the stories of how the Predator provided the video feed that allowed two missionaries to Afghanistan to escape tyranny. Or how it flew overhead to help ensure the successful rescue of a solider. Whatever frustrations my dad experienced at work, they were outweighed by the fact that he thought he was doing something important. I recall once as he described to me with tears in his eyes the weight of responsibility that he felt for protecting our soldiers. He was so proud to be a part of it.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my dad knew that true freedom could never come from any government, political treaty or even as a result of the work of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Instead, my dad knew that any freedom experienced here on earth was a poor representation of the freedom that is found in Christ. He worked hard here on Earth but it wasn’t for Earthly treasures. He wanted his entire life to point others to Jesus.

When you lose someone like my dad, it’s easy to ask why. Why would God take someone so soon who was so good? However, my dad did well to teach us that what happened here on Earth never diminished God’s goodness. As Job wrote “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” This is how my dad would want us to respond.  A favorite song of mine says “Questioning the notion that God is full of love is a tempting road to take when you forget about His blood. I choose to still believe Him – His heart is kind and just. I’m only seeing half the picture for the other half I trust.” My dad clung to the sacrifice of Jesus knowing that regardless of life’s difficulties and pain, God too had experienced pain when He shed his blood on the cross. And while I do not know why my dad’s Homecoming was so much sooner than I expected, I do trust that God was not surprised by it. He can see the other half of the picture and I know He welcomed my daddy with open arms.

Upon hearing of my dad’s passing, a dear friend who is a missionary in Budapest wrote to my mom, my sister and me.  He said “The hardest thing we trust the Lord with is who goes and who stays. I am glad for the sake of the glory Brad enjoys and that his dying wasn’t long and drawn out. I am sorry for your sake for the suddenness and for the who knows how many years without a dad or a husband….This is hard providence. That’s part of what it means to be God. To be able to exercise a prerogative so painful for others while still being perfectly good and wise.”

Our friend continued “Brad finished well. Your great husband and father is safely home. You will see him again.”

You did good, Daddy. I love you. I will see you again.

A complete video of the service can be found at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/6251254. This post contains an affiliate link.]