June was a great month for me, mainly because I spent over half of it at my mom’s house. Though I live in Florida with my husband and two kids, my heart and mind are often at my mom’s place in Michigan these days.
I hadn’t been back since I left last November after my dad’s funeral. On my first afternoon back I sat in a chair and looked at the living room. In my mind I saw my brothers and sisters sitting in our nightly circle, eating dinner together the way we did during the weeks before my dad’s death. Nelson would be carrying wood in from outside to keep the fire going. Nicholas and Skylar, the only two grandchildren at that time, would be eating and chattering, making plenty of noise and a total mess. There’d be a lot of laughing and talking, though we’d all be thinking of Papa with sadness at the same time. And my mom would be serving my dad faithfully, getting his pills and ice packs, and encouraging him to eat something.
The house feels different now. It’s my mom’s house instead of my parents’. My dad’s chair is empty and there are no newspapers scattered on the floor next to it. It’s summertime, so instead of chilly fall winds and orange leaves on the ground, everything outside is bright green and the air is thick and humid. During my last visit I was pregnant; this time I spent hours walking outside with baby Micah in my arms. Being outside calms him down when he’s fussy, so we’d go for slow walks down the road, just the way my dad did during his final weeks.
Each day as I traced my dad’s steps, I’d think about the end of his life. I hate that he had to die and I hate that my mom is now a widow. But as I’d stare up at the tall trees lining the road, their leaves making a shady covering for Micah and me, I couldn’t help but remember God’s faithfulness and goodness to my family, even as He took my dad away. I’ll never forget the moment my dad died—the way my mom sat and held his hand, and how all of us kids were right there in the house when it happened. After he was gone, we stood around his bed, said our goodbyes to him, and cried. If any of us had been missing—out running an errand or walking the dog—it would have been different. God arranged the timing perfectly and that was a gift. One of many.
It’s scary to think that death can reach out and touch us without much warning, without our permission. We are not in control of our lives the way we like to think. In the end, all that matters is our faith in God. Do I belong to Him? If my answer is yes, then I don’t have to live in fear—not of cancer, not of being alone, and not even of death. God has promised to work everything together for my good. Watching my dad die was awful. I don’t think I’ll understand in this lifetime why it had to happen the way it did. But God has left the evidence of His love for my family all over our memories, and when He says someday He’ll wipe away our tears for good, I believe Him.
“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17b-18)