It’s so strange…the methods I use in order to blog. I’ve been thinking about this second half of this blog all week. Unsettling dust in my spirit that hasn’t stirred in years. I sit sometimes for hours in silent reflection. Letting my mind wander aimlessly down hallways I haven’t visited in years. Somedays I open doors I have never opened, because I feel braver now, and want to see what my mind has kept locked away. Some doors I just softly rest my hand on in deep respect, fully aware what awaits inside.
Many things have happened since we last spoke dear friends. The aftermath of the shooting on Valentine’s Day, that took the life of 17 innocent souls has been in the forefront of our hearts and television sets. As with most things this horrific, we began to gradually resurface from the shock, and the anger slowly sets in. The heroic stories, their sweet innocent faces.
We all have within us a breaking point, some of us have shorter journey’s to get there than others, but there is a point that we just cannot bend anymore, we have no more give. That is the moment that we fall apart, and everything we have struggled to hold in pours out uncontrollably and we are no longer capable of containing the pain.
NOUN: capacity to bend or alter in shape under pressure; elasticity.
The word GIVE as a noun takes on an entirely different space that it’s companion the verb. (Part 1) Wherein the verb acts as an action word of sorts, that can do so many different things. It can be explosive, generous, imposing, permitting, awarding, bequeathing and simply hand over fist producing, yielding, providing and emitting…the verb can take on so many different faces and places and spaces. The noun only has a singular function. To remain strong and unbreakable as long as possible, to the very end if necessary.
That is my hope and prayer for many of those that are having to lay their families and friends to rest. That they can bend with the storm but not break, that they can shoulder this burden without it pushing them to the capacity they can’t hold it in a moment longer. That God blesses them with a strong resolve that they will not, under any circumstances give way. And if they do, may they have the abundant grace to cover them, and help them regain a new definition. That’s what death does, it redefines you.
I am very much like my Father in many ways. Many, I gladly embrace. Some, I’m not very happy with, and a few I truly detest. He was a very stoic man in my youth. You never really knew what was really going on inside of him because he wasn’t the best at communicating. Well, I take that back…he communicated on his level, on his terms. He wasn’t a “get down on the floor and roll around” kind of Father. He was a workaholic that very much believed that what he could provide for his family was a direct implication of his feelings for them.
His personality did not adapt to situations very well, and he was a hard man to love. I don’t mean love as a person. Of course, I loved him, he was my father…but he and I had so many walls between us, so many battles with no winner, so many similar stubborn traits, it was hard to have that crawl up in your lap warm snuggle kind of love. He just wasn’t capable of it, and that was my childhood. It’s amazing to think back to that time. We pushed each other to the brink of each other’s limits, almost in some strange dance of wills. At the time I resented it, as an adult, I recognize it as one of my greatest strengths.
Noun: The amount of bending without breaking that something undergoes when a force is applied to it. Ability to contain without breaking.
I made the comment to my sister a few nights ago as I was piecing this blog together in my head…had our father died five years before he did, I wouldn’t be so broken without him. Why? Because the Father that raised me, battled with me, infuriated me and built walls up between us and made it hard to love as a child…was not in any way the same man who passed away from us when I was an adult. The man that died was my Daddy, who I miss every…single…day.
Something happened between us that changed everything. I grew up, and he grew old. Suddenly the staunch, uptight, unyielding and never smiling man of my youth had morphed into a gentle, sparkle-eyed grandfather. I got to witness a side of him I had never known growing up. He smiled more and told stories that made you erupt in laughter. He would hug us, worry about us, call us weekly and joke around with the two daughters that for so long could do nothing right, now suddenly we were “his girls”.
He would schedule lunch dates with my sister, go on trips with my stepmother, bring us all together at Christmas and took such delight in my son James. He transformed into someone I had always long for as a little girl. He became a humbled and caring, roll around on the floor, warm, soft and fuzzy, climb up in your lap and snuggle Daddy. He had blossomed with pride and joy over his life and his family. And oh, how I loved him.
It was actually divine grace that brought me home to witness all of this. I’m a firm believer that God gives you what you need when you need it… however, he doesn’t always share those plans or decisions with you.
My husband Eric and I were living in Atlanta, Georgia with a new-born when Eric got a job in (of all places) Winston-Salem, NC. I found it hysterical and thick with irony that the one place as a child I couldn’t wait to leave was the place as an adult, a wife and now a mother I was forced to boomerang back to. A place I swore in my youth once free, I would never return to. An unexplainable twist of fate, completely designed by God.
We had two weeks to pack it all up and move. Two weeks to box up a life we had created over the span of five years together. It seemed rushed and daunting and crazy! The day we moved back home there was an incredible snowstorm, accidents everywhere on I-85. I had the worlds worst head cold, a nervous driver in snow by nature, now compounded by the fact that I had a six-month-old in the car with me. Cautiously I followed Eric in a U-Haul truck to a home I had never seen, that my sister had to find for us because time was of the essence. For some reason, they needed Eric to start his job as soon as possible.
We unpacked for 6 hours in falling snow, trying to get it in before nightfall. By the time we stopped, I had hit a wall. I was running a fever, had lost my voice and had a cough like a plague. Shortly after we fell asleep on the pullout couch surrounded by unpacked mountains of boxes, the power went out. Urgent care the next day confirmed that I had walking pneumonia, laryngitis, and a double ear infection, but I was home.
Noun: ability to adapt or comply; flexibility.
So, what was the twist of fate…designed by God? Three weeks after moving home, we discovered my father was dying. Three years almost exactly to the day I moved into my little house during a snow storm, my father passed away. We had no idea he was sick, none at all. The hit us like a ton of bricks. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver had been quietly, slowly but surely destroying his liver like gangrene for many years.
There was no coming back from it. You could change your diet, you could give up everything you loved like green beans soaked in bacon grease. No more oysters or Vienna sausages, olives or French fries or his beloved smokie hot weenies in brine.
You could take a slew of medicine that constantly made you have to stay near a restroom to purge your system of ammonia. Lacta-Loosey was what Daddy referred to it as. You could stop driving places except very nearby to ensure you wouldn’t be driving and your ammonia rise and you fall asleep without knowing.
This could be your life…or you could take a chance, and try to live.
Three years later, on December 23rd, 2007, Dad got the opportunity to take his chance. He got the call about his new liver. He had waited for this call for a year. This was his chance to grow old with this new life he had created. Suddenly you are filled with this excitement and joy. Hope and Fear. So many emotions and plans of how things were going to be so much better now. We would have time with him, something we had felt slipping away. Something my sister and I were not ready to let go of just yet.
Back to the twist of fate. When dad was in the hospital in Charlotte undergoing his liver transplant, we had no idea how horribly wrong things were going to go. It was one thing after another and you feel yourself free falling. You hold on to that last image in your head. You replay the words over and over…You hang on to the desperate hope that it will all find a way to be okay again.
All we knew was that he believed it would give him more time with us, that was all that matter. His hope made it impossible to doubt. Oh, how far we’d come. Just after three something in the morning…After he had already taken his iodine shower, already taken the prior to surgery medicine… when they came in to tell us, “they’re coming for him” he reached out his hands and he asked us to pray with him. That moment changed my life.
We prayed together as a family. Standing in a circle, holding hands around his hospital bed. This memory is precious to me and I visit it often. It was a testament to me that Dad had truly become the best, most faithful and God loving version of himself and he was totally at peace. Moments later they came and we walked him to the hall where we had to let him go on alone. He gave us “smooches” and a tear glistened, earnest and heartfelt I love you. I never spoke to him again. You never know when it will be your last words.
You’re never promised one second of life, I learned through this experience to never live in regret, or to try to re-write your history leaving out all the bad times. They make you who you are. Your scars, both internal and external are the hieroglyphics to your life.
Which brings me full circle. Details of the rest of my story can be found here, but the next days to come played out like a movie in my head. I remember the feeling of wondering how much more I could take? How many more tears could I cry? How many times could I say the same things over and over again? How much give would God grant me? How many days could I go without sleep before my fortitude gave way?
It is at this moment that I needed a place to fall apart. I needed a safe place to cry those welled up tears, sit in silence with my thoughts and fears, and maybe, just maybe sleep. The SECU Family House reminds me so much of the refuge I found all those many years ago in Charlotte with Dad. That is why I am so ardent in supporting them.
The SECU Family House here in Winston-Salem, NC provides families that very same type of blessing I found in the family home next door to the hospital. It provided me a safe haven, a temporary place to exist in the in-between stages of redefining my life. When you have been absolutely pushed to the brink of your capacity to control, they take away a portion of that stress so you can recharge, rejuvenate, regain some small form of endurance. Whether it is to have a closer place to get treatment for an illness, a warm bed to be near to a loved one in the hospital, or a temporary sanctuary as you prepare to say goodbye, in the end, these God sends of Family Homes are such a blessing.
My husband Eric and I are participating in a wonderful event that is happening on March 17th, 2018 to help raise money to support the SECU Family House. It’s called Men Who Cook, and I am truly looking forward to it being a part of it for many reasons. I love to cook, although Eric will be the main attraction making his Low country BBQ shrimp and grits. But my main drive behind why I support this cause is that I know, first hand, how important having this shelter in the storm is. Men Who Cook Event
The story I shared with you today, hopefully, made you understand the magnitude of my loss, but it relates to everyone. Everyone has a story. Every person has a journey they have taken from here to there…mine is just one example of learning how to try your best to bend and not break, stretch to capacity with bursting. But the cracks are our scars.
This was my greatest loss, my biggest heartbreak, and the one person if I could have just one more conversation with…I would by any measure. Just to say thank you and how grateful I am we had the last five years to redeem and reclaim one another, to each other. It has made a difference in how I raise my children, but most importantly how I try to live my life with mindful purpose. I try so hard now to be forgiving of the moment, recognizing it does not symbolize the lifetime, it is just a mere chapter in an unfinished book.
Learning how to accept and find real joy that my father was ready to go, was such a blessing. We left one another in such a beautiful sweet place of pure love and acceptance of one another, with all of our many flaws and similar traits. In his passing he gifted me the grace I never had before, a strength I never knew I had, and the give that I need to endure the tragic day’s life brings our way and still rejoice in His glory.
To find out more about the SECU Family House and how vital it’s existence is to our community, please click here. Consider volunteering or donating to their cause, you never know when it will be the answer to a prayer for someone you know.