In my last post I talked about how amazing and awesome my life was. I talked about how much fun we had in August, enjoying the sunshine, the water, my family. I hadn’t published a post on this blog in over a month because I was too busy enjoying my super wonderful, happy life. I finished the post with this:
A new season is beginning, and I think it’s going to be a pretty good Fall.
And then, five days later, my dad died. Completely unexpectedly, very shockingly. He went to bed and just never woke back up in the morning. Or the cliche is that “he went to bed and woke up in paradise”, but I’m still too deep in the angry stage to feel like that is an accurate description for what happened. He might be in a better place, he might be running and jumping and cheering. But my heart is crushed. And I wish he was here. He isn’t supposed to be gone.
It’s been about twelve days now. The initial shock has worn off, the searing, heart-wrenching pain has dulled slightly. I no longer feel the need to glare and curse at strangers who cheerfully great me with a “Hi, how are you today?” I went to the dentist today and when the dental hygienist asked how I was (completely oblivious to my life the last two weeks) I was able to say “Fantastic”. I’m not, but sometimes a fake response is better than unloading our grief on innocent strangers.
I’d even go so far as to say that I’m having a good day today. The kids were ready for school early this morning with very little drama, I got my run taken care of early this morning, the weather is gorgeous, and I’m finally getting caught up on my work after being out for over a week.
Life is settling back into normal. A new normal. It’s not the normal that I want, but I’m starting to realize that we will make it through this. I was really close to my dad. My family had dinner with my parents almost every Friday night. And this summer we got together nearly every other weekend to go boating with the new boat my dad just built with my grandpa.
As I think about the future it’s hard to picture a life without my dad, without his laugh and his smile, without his corny jokes. I’m crushed by the weight of seeing my kids work through their first experience with death. Their grandpa was one of their favorite people in the world. They loved him so much and I don’t have answers for their questions.
But in the last day or two I’ve started to feel glimpses of hope. I feel like I can breath again. I’m somewhat stuck on a pendulum. I feel really good and positive one minute and then a noise, a color, a smell will remind me of what we’ve lost and I feel shattered again. But the pendulum is staying on the positive side a little bit longer now.
I’ve always been one to encourage people to “Choose joy” and I still think that’s important. But I’ve always recognized that sometimes joy isn’t the right choice. And at first I was really confused about how to balance grief with joy. I allowed myself to laugh freely in those first few days, but it often felt so wrong and inappropriate. But my dad was a funny guy, so when talking about him, laughter just happens. And now, at almost two weeks later I realize that I need joy, even in the midst of my sorrow.
And so I’m learning a little more about how to live in the present moment. There is a time for joy and a time for sorrow. And sometimes just an hour can have many times of both.
When I’m tickling my kids and laughing with them as I tuck them into bed, I am present, I am joyful, I am loving every moment of my blessed life. And I won’t deny myself the ability to experience and feel the fullness of that joy and love with my kids.
Later, when I’m settled down with my daughter and talking about her day in the bedtime darkness she mentions that they talked about the flag at school today. Her teacher explained that we fly the flag in the middle of the pole when someone dies. I’m grateful that they had this discussion on 9/11, because when she looked at the flag on her way out of school that day, it flew in the middle of the pole, and she tells me that it’s flying in the middle for her grandpa. Tears pour into my eyes. This is a pain I wish my little girl didn’t have to face. This is a time for sorrow, for love, and for holding my baby girl tightly because I realize now, more than ever, that tomorrow is never promised. We only have this moment.
And it sounds so cliche. You hear that all the time. But let me assure you, people sometimes die and they don’t wake up tomorrow. It’s not a cliche. This moment really is the only thing you have. Be present. Don’t waste your life living in the past or in your dreams of the future. Notice your right now. Be grateful for your right now. It may not be perfect, but it is good, it is blessed, it is enough.
You, your life, right now, is the only life you have, so live it well.