The Day My Hero Died – On Releasing Grief

Ten years ago, on November 17, 2007, at 8:30 a.m. I got word that my dad was unconscious and at death’s door. By 11:10 a.m. I was on an airplane headed for Sebring, Florida, arriving at the nursing home at 6:30 p.m. Dad was unresponsive but alive. God gave me a special gift that night. I was 53 years old and had never before witnessed the dying process. Kay Breid, an MK friend from boarding school in Africa, was one of my dad’s caretakers and had been sitting by his bedside all afternoon. Kay coached me on what to expect. At 10:30 p.m. my precious daddy slipped quietly, peacefully into Jesus’ arms. I could almost feel the brush of angel wings. A holy moment.

Wednesday, November 21. I’ve shed no tears in the last three days. I don’t know why. Too much activity, too many decisions, visitors, family. Or is it that the suspense and waiting are finally over? I remember talking to a friend one time shortly after her husband died, and she called this initial season of grief “the blessed numbness before the pain.” Or is it God’s peace that’s carrying me?

We buried Dad on the day before Thanksgiving. I made sure there was a hanky in his outer pocket and a toothpick in his inner one (two things Dad always had in his possession). My mother was distraught. My own tears began to flow at last, but my sorrow for Dad was pain-free because of the hope we have of seeing him alive in his heavenly body. He was at peace and so was I.

The next day we flew Mom home to Tennessee with us for a while to rest and recover from the trauma. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of Chinese food in the Orlando airport.

That first week, I couldn’t seem to get back into a routine. It was like I was deep in the ocean with choppy seas above me.

November 26. As long as I stay well below the surface of the ocean, things are calm, peaceful, serene, and beautiful. But isn’t that escapism? How would it feel to rise to the top? Overwhelming. Bumpy. Desperate. How long may I stay down here? Emotionally, it feels too hard to surface. I’ll have to struggle and kick and survive and gulp seawater and flounder. Down below I can breathe and enjoy the fish and the coral in the pristine water.

What am I afraid of, Lord? I am willing to go to the top.

Quickly the scene changes. I find myself in shallow water. I can stand up, walk or wade toward shore. The sea is no longer threatening. There’s beauty in the sky and on the beach. I’m on solid ground.

Reality is not so scary after all.

November 28. I’m memorizing my mother’s face. How long does she have on this earth? One year? Ten? How precious this time is with her. Can I sear it into my brain? Is it only a week ago that we buried my father? [Mom died 14 months later.]

November 29. A priceless gift—or is it a gift from a Price?! Jim and Jean (Price) Cail sent Mom and me a breath-taking gift—a framed photo of my dad and mom taken a week and a half before he died. Mom and I cried together.

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“You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved – Lionel

November 30. I took a walk in my neighborhood, trying to release more grief. My Daddy was gone. I was excited for him; not so much for myself. And in my grief, a curtain parted slightly so I could catch a glimpse into “heaven.” There stood Jesus and my daddy (in his vigorous youth) in bright white light. I wanted to run to his big strong frame, to my earthly hero, and throw my arms around him and tell him how much I missed him.

But he looked at me and said, “I’m not your daddy anymore.”

Startled, I turned to Jesus and asked, “Is that true?!”

“Yes,” He responded. “In heaven there is no marriage and giving in marriage. Relationships are not the same up here.”

“But I need my daddy!” I cried.

And my earthly father turned and pointed to Jesus. “He’s your father now. I was given to you only for a short while—your stay on earth.”

“But what about your daily prayers for me?” I protested. “I NEELionel SegerD them.”

“It’s okay,” responded Jesus. “They’re all safely stored up here in boxes. I know where each one is, carefully logged and categorized. And now it’s time for you to become the next generation of prayer warriors.”

Quickly, I deposited prayers of my own into each of my own boxes: for my children and their spouses and their children and my great-grandchildren to come. My prayer for each of them is III John 4 that my daddy used to pray for me: that his children would walk in truth.

On Dec. 9 Mom celebrated their 60th anniversary with a special cake. I think Dad would have liked that. It made me smile.

The Responsibility Backpack

Responsibility (n): a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of; a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation

Responsibility is a backpack. It’s light if nothing is in it. But if another person inserts a nature-climbing-backpack-mountain-cloud_1320-154load of rocks, it feels like there’s nothing I can do, except carry it. I may release resentment, but I’m still carrying the load because the person is unable to do so right now. Tired. Tiring. Willing—because I have no choice, but hard nonetheless.

Oh, I could take the backpack off and lay it down, but that’s not really an option. Remember: “He’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” But that thought doesn’t help. The rocks are still heavy on my back. “Let Jesus carry it” doesn’t cut it either. I believe He’s the One who put them there in the first place! It’s my responsibility.

Why do I feel like I need to bow my soul in sympathy when a hurting person bares her heart to me? When a natural disaster occurs? When someone is dying or sick or depressed? I don’t want to be blasé about it, but I also can’t carry the weight and the pain for another person.

But it’s when I feel something that I spring into action. If I don’t feel, does that mean I don’t care? If I don’t care, will I spring into action? Is it a trigger or a prompting of the Holy Spirit?

What am I believing? That I need to curb my emotions and inner joy when I’m working with depressed and wounded people? It would be like joking at a funeral parlor—disrespectful of the mourners. But in the process, I weigh down my own soul.

The Scriptures say, Carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) AND Each one should carry their own load (Gal. 6:5). So which is it: carry my own or carry another’s? When I’m praying with someone, I’ve agreed to take their load for a bit, but it can get heavy after a while.

So . . . when a person I’m ministering to hands me her burden, it’s okay if it’s only a backpack or a lunch basket. But when she hands me a boulder that I’m unable to lift, I can’t just walk away and say, “Sorry, that’s your problem.” Instead, I can stop, ask the person what she wants to do with her boulder, and then pray for God to lift it for her.

Or . . . if a person hands me her backpack, after a while I can hand it back to her and say, “I can’t carry it for you anymore. You carry it, because when it’s in your hands, you can then make the choice to hand it to Jesus instead.”

As soon as I come to the end of the trail, I can put this backpack down. But then I must pick up another and start down another trail. There’s no break; no rest in between. And not many rest stops along the trail.

Jesus says, “I can carry you as well as your backpack.”

And so, dear Lord, I ask today that You carry me. I am weary, tired, worn out, weak. I need a blessing today, a miracle, some cool clear water to refresh me.

Jesus says, “I am your Sabbath rest.” And that is enough.

(From my 2007 Journal)

A Caged Bird – On Rights and Privileges

Alone time is a precious commodity for an introvert like me, so when it doesn’t happen, I can feel resentful—like it is a right or something. But I know it’s not. So what’s the difference between a Right and a Privilege?

A right = something universally available (ex: oxygen).
A privilege = a luxury (ex: pure water).

Luxuries can quickly turn into perceived rights. Take cell phones, for example. Before we had instant connections with our loved ones, we had to wait until we returned home from the grocery store to make that landline call to Mom or Dad. And in my grandparents’ day, they had to walk next door if they wanted to communicate with their neighbor. Is a cell phone a right or a privilege?

My mother did not care for pets. It was only after much pestering by her kids that she consented to having a dog or a cat in the house. But one day she decided she wanted a bird, captured from the wilds in Africa. It was not a domestic bird. It didn’t deserve to be confined after living a life of freedom. It had lost its rights. Did it resent being stuffed inside a confined space, unable to extricate itself?

Am I that bird when I don’t get my desired solitude–resentful toward those who box me in, interrupt my schedule, or crowd my  emotional space?

Jesus asks, “Are you willing to be caged if I ask it of you?”

I want to say yes, but I’m uncomfortable all scrunched up in a ball, confined by a metal cage.

Jesus freedom_318-116635asks again: Are you willing to be uncomfortable for Me?

“Yes,” I say, “I’m willing. . . If that’s what you’re asking of me.”

And I watch in amazement as the metal bars drop away. The cage was my own sin of resentment for not getting what I believed was a right.

Now I’m free of the cage, but I’m still confined to my own home. Like the bird that escapes its cage, it’s free to fly around the house, but it still longs to be outdoors, free to fly and roam and explore or at least free to make the choice to stay in the house if desired.

I find I’m in a double-bind. I want to open a window and let the bird fly out of the house and return to its natural habitat, but I know it would make my mom mad if I did. Lord, I need help here.

And I watch as God’s large hand enters the home and the bird rests on His finger.

I sing because I’m happy;
I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

So I now know the process to peace:

1. Release resentment.
2. Relax and let God take of my worries, problems, or pain.
3. Relish His care and sing!

But there’s a residual emotion: I still long to be free. Responsibility is sometimes a hard or heavy load to carry. It would be easier to lay it down than to carry it. But that’s a topic to explore on another day.

What privilege do you mistake for a right?