“Are you sitting down?”
The words that follow this question do not usually deliver good news.
I’ve never heard this phrase before. That is, until November 17 at 12:30 pm.
My dad had been sick with the flu for a week. His sister had been worried about him all week because he wasn’t responding to texts and calls, and wasn’t calling off work.
November 17 was the day she went to his house and found him.
No one dies from the flu. I didn’t believe it, my sister didn’t believe, and my aunt didn’t believe it. But he had gone to the doctor and had been treated for the flu so we just figured he was malnourished and dehydrated.
The next day we went to the medical examiners office and his work to pick up his personal items. At his work, we were greeted by his coworkers who had known us since we were toddlers. Tears flowed and hugs were given.
When we finally got to his house, we were overwhelmed.
My dad had just bought a condo so he had barely unpacked. However, he was planning on hosting my siblings and I for Thanksgiving, so it was obvious he had started cleaning and unpacking. He had even ordered a turkey and bought the fixings.
I stood in the living room in disbelief and shock as tears flowed down my face.
The mantle was full of pictures of my siblings and I as babies and toddlers. He even had pictures of us in the pantry.
My dad was the best dad I could have asked for. He loved his kids more than life itself, and looking around his house showed that.
But no one dies from the flu.
It is extremely difficult to believe he is no longer here on Earth. It still feels like I’m asleep and about to wake up from my worst nightmare.
We were already bracing ourselves for the holidays because my mom’s mom (my grandma) had passed away in January. Now, the holidays are a wash. Part of me wants to skip them.
However, as I sit here on Thanksgiving Day thinking about my dad, I remember the reasons why we celebrate this day.
To give thanks.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
In years past, I have given thanks for various reasons: being healthy; having a family who loves and supports me; having the opportunity to go to college, and now law school; the list goes on.
This year is different.
Today I give thanks because God blessed me with a dad who loved me more than I could have ever imagined.
Today I give thanks because I knew my dad, not as a dad, but as the great human being his friends and family knew him as.
Today I give thanks because my dad is in Heaven and is no longer with me. He is surrounded by his parents, his stepparents, his brother, my mom’s mom & brother, and his family and friends who had passed before him.
Over the past week I have struggled with weeding through so many emotions: grief, anger, loss, regret, and joyfulness.
Every time I make a phone call telling one of my dad’s friends he had passed, I struggle to get the words out. Every time I make a phone call to make service arrangements, I am in disbelief that I am doing this so young. Every time I walk around my house and see pictures of my dad, I feel every emotion I am even capable of feeling.
My heart now has an emptiness that cannot be filled.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I know, as well as my siblings, that there is only one way to make this all better:
to bring him back.
It’s hard to wish he could be back here on Earth, because I know the second he got to Heaven, he would never want to come back to Earth again.
So in the midst of my grief, I try to rejoice.
I rejoice that I knew him.
I rejoice that I loved him and he loved me.
I rejoice that he tried to be the best father he could ever be.
I rejoice that he is now in Heaven with our Heavenly Father and Jesus.
The ME did a full autopsy since no one was with him when he died: bilateral pneumonia.
Pneumonia in both lungs where, if left untreated, it would become fatal.
In some ways, I feel better knowing exactly what caused my dads death. It wasn’t the flu, it wasn’t a heart attack, he was just sick.
But then it dawned on me that knowing his cause of death is not as satisfying as I thought. He had seen the doctor. It was treatable. He could have been saved.
These thoughts have flooded my mind for the last week. He could have been saved. He was too young, only 66 years old; he could have been saved.
But dwelling in the “what ifs” is no way to grieve, no way to remember him, no way to live.
Every day I have prayed that Jesus lift this heartbreak and grief from my shoulders, that he cradle me in his ever-loving arms as I mourn, and that he blesses my dad in Heaven.
This past week has been the most difficult thing I have ever been through.
To lose my dad at 66, and then turn around and have to plan a service and figure out the details of his estate, is overwhelming.
This is something I didn’t think I would have to go through for another 30 years.
So instead of focusing on the fact that we had so much unfinished business, like my law school graduation, the bar exam, my wedding, and my children being born, I will focus on Jesus, giving thanks, and rejoicing.
I will give thanks in knowing & loving my dad, and I will rejoice that he is now with his Heavenly Father!
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I love you, Dad, and I miss you a lot. I’ll be sad for a long time that you’re gone and I can’t call you anymore when my car breaks down. But I know you will always be with me wherever I go, I’m just so sorry you have to watch from afar.