“It’s a fearful thing, to love what death can touch.”
In March, we will enter into the second anniversary of dad’s unexpected death. Death has taught me a lot in many areas of my life. I feel like such a fool that before losing a parent, I never fully grasped the attachment, need and the depth of love – because I never thought that losing was an option.
If loss isn’t an option then love isn’t a sacrifice.
The deep and continuous feeling of loss feels like a burning from the inside out. It’s fueled by an abounding amount of love and remembrance, a side of guilt for not spending more time and speaking more truth, and a dash of anger toward those who unintentionally say unhelpful things when they still have what you have lost. And not that I would ever wish anyone dead, but I admittedly have wished that it hadn’t had been my family. The thought of almost two years without seeing dad’s face, hearing his voice or hugging him is impossible to accept as reality. And the thought of living the rest of this human life without him, somedays, seems unbearable and impossible. I hate it.
My oldest son, Bram started football this past fall and I couldn’t help but envision what dad’s presence would have meant to Bram. There were points during practice or games that I could physically see where dad would be standing and what he would be saying. He was not the type to prop up his chair and watch quietly while chatting with his neighbor. When Bram started basketball, dad would give him pointers before and after the game. I can specifically remember a moment where he was helping Bram tie his shoes, and deep down I know that moment wasn’t for Bram, because a 7-year old can’t remember, but I can. That memory might have been just for me. I keep reminding myself that my dad isn’t missing out, but I am just missing him.
In full transparency, I have not only questioned the heart of God, but I have also questioned what he wants for me and from me. I have questioned if he just sees the world from afar or if he actually sees and considers each person's suffering and if it matters to him.
If I couldn’t see the good in it, it became irrelevant and made me angry. When you lose someone close and hard decisions have to be made, families become irritable, broken and upset. I can’t remember what led me to the church parking lot, but I had one of these moments of family breakdown, and I remember sitting outside with the sun beaming on me and I spoke over and over, “You aren’t good. Who takes a husband, father and grandfather away…strips him away from his family? You are not a good God.” I remember exactly where I sat outside at the church.
The past year or more of grasping for the goodness of God has been difficult. His existence was never a question in my mind, but I questioned his goodness, grace and mercy. I struggle(d) to see those pieces.
There’s a verse in 1 Corinthians that is read at most weddings. It reminded me that the depth of God’s love is something I will never fully grasp in my humanity, and that I am free to have my moments. My moments of discouragement, disappointment, and deep, earth shattering heartbreak—the kind where you for a moment worry where your next breath will come from. Those moments are normal and embraced, held together by a supernatural force – those moments are molded in grace by a God that sent His son to experience the depth of love and loss.
I have lost deeply, traumatically, without apparent reason, without time to say “I love you or I’m sorry.” It was the loss that happened as quick as flipping a switch. The light went dark on my family, with no explanation. In Hebrew, love means “I give”. The same word that equally brings deep joy and pain is also a deep gift given to someone else.
The verse reminds us that we may see glimpses of this love throughout our lifetime, but we will never truly or fully understand the love that was intended for us, the lens of love that God sees us through. And that even when we question or feel uncertain or alone, His love is consistent, powerful, present and deep.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.