My daddy went home to the arms of Jesus just a few short days before Christmas. My family was given the greatest gift of time with him individually to speak the words they needed him to hear and to listen to the words he wanted to tell.
It was a gift we are beyond grateful for because we know not everyone has that time with their loved ones before they go, especially now.
So, yes, I am grateful, but I miss him.
I awoke this morning with a dance happening in my heart:
The dance of grief and joy
I can’t explain to you how they can be one. How can both exist synchronously? The mind can’t comprehend what only the heart understands…
But what I can tell you is this, I feel it: this sacred dance.
There is a celebration in heaven where my dad now stands, while simultaneously we spill sorrowful tears here on earth where he once lay.
How can I rejoice in his homecoming and bitterly weep for the hole his absence has left here in my heart? I miss my dad—terribly. My heart is broken. And yet, there is unexplainable joy in knowing without a shadow of a doubt that he is finally home in the arms of his beloved Jesus.
Jehovah Rapha (the Lord that heals)—one of God’s many names—is holding my now healthy dad, while Jesus, the man of sorrows collects my tears. He is both a healer and comforter. My dad has been healed of all the pain he has ever endured, while my comforter continues to sustain and strengthen me so I can endure the fight of this life a bit longer.
Jesus, the one who came over 2,000 years ago, is still here in this painful existence. He is near to the brokenhearted and a mourner with those who weep. He is my father in heaven holding my daddy in his arms. He is both there and here all at once, he is everything, mighty and gentle—a lion and a lamb.
Jesus: the baby born to be a man that died.
For my dad.
My dad knew the God that became man that we just finished celebrating in December. The baby born in a manger became the man of sorrows that stretched his arms out on the cross.
My dad knew Jesus Christ.
He is with Jesus now, of that I am sure. Not because of anything he did, but because of what Jesus did. My father believed in his need for a savior and so he was saved. He would’ve been the first in line to tell you he was far from perfect and yet, he stands right now, a saint, in the presence of the almighty God.
It’s called grace. And it’s a gift, undeserved and freely given.
Grace: It’s the other sacred dance I feel this morning.
My friend, I’m going to say something that you won’t hear at memorials or written in a hallmark card when someone dies; my dad didn’t deserve heaven—I don’t deserve heaven—and he would have told you that if you’d asked him. Although he didn’t deserve it, I guarantee that’s where he is. But not because he earned it.
There is a truth about who we are as humans; We are unworthy and yet, worth more than gold all at once.
Grace is what fills this cavernous space between the two.
An undeserving sinner is ushered into heaven on the wings of an angel all because Jesus did the work. Something for nothing. He did that for my dad. He did that for me.
And most importantly, I wanted to tell you today that He did that for you.
I don’t know your story, I don’t know where you stand today. Maybe this sounds crazy to you because I believe in a God I can’t see. Or maybe it’s equally crazy because you think you should have to DO something to get there. Be a “good” person or be really religious maybe?
To that, I respond with this truth: There is nothing we can do to gain access to heaven.
I just held the hand of my dad and said goodnight for the last time ever here on this earth and yet, I know I will see him again. He was at perfect peace, I have never seen anything like it, he died with amazing dignity and was even cracking one-liners to the end. That was my dad. And though he was an imperfect man and well aware of his “messes” he was at complete peace with death. He knew where he was going and to whom he was going.
There was a grace that had met him earlier in his life that saved him. The only way he could face death with absolute peace and assurance of his fate was because there was a power greater than himself holding him.
This brings me to the last dance.
The dance of death and peace
Death comes for us all. No matter what. I’ve heard it said that the odds of dying are 1 out of 1. Everybody will die. There is no escaping this truth. The question is what happens next and how can the peace my dad had be yours?
My dad knew each of these dances well. He buried a son while he walked this earth. He felt the dance of joy and grief on a level I can not comprehend. He danced with the worry of being unworthy for heaven and then spun right into the arms of Jesus and found his worth there. In his final dance, I have never seen more faith from a human than the day my dad died on this earth and was born into heaven. He is no longer dancing here because he’s finally dancing with Jesus and my brother in heaven.
His faith has become sight.
Just you and God
My dad was terrified to fly and shared with me a realization he came to on a particularly turbulent flight. As he was fretting over the extreme bumpiness of this flight he watched the other frightened passengers: “Even with people all around us,” he said, “We’re all just alone with God.” Just as Jacob wrestled deep into the night with God, we must wrestle as well and find our faith.
He told me it’s what you do about God, specifically Jesus, that matters most in this life. You either deny him, accept his gift of grace or slap him in the face by thinking you can work your way to him. Whichever way, it’s only ever between you and him.
The truth is, God gave you your soul and one day He will require it back to him, whether we believe him or not. Truth is true, friends. It’s not subjective. Whether we like it or not and whether we believe it or not, God is God. “Find your truth,” is a lie. The truth that we all die isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
My dad taught me that.
So, dad, I’m going to continue this dance of joy and grief until I see you again. May I die with half the amount of grace, dignity, and peace that you showed us. You truly made us see what faith in action looks like.
“Goodnight, daddy, and I’ll see you in a second.”
As always, friend, thank you for stopping by,
I love you my friend. I don’t say it enough. I am homered that I got to know your beautiful dad and that you and your family have Opened your arms to me. Your writing is a blessing and an inspiration.
My heart faints for you and your family.
Thanks for sharing your grief with us. Our God is an awesome God. He only can comfort the brokenhearted.
Your father had a blessed and fulfilled life to have the family he had. Your words are just a testimony of how he raised you, and nurtured you to be the woman you are today.
I am happy for him and pray for you and your family.
M @ In Beautiful Chaos says
I am so, so sorry for your loss. 2020 took a lot of people home to Jesus sooner than their loved ones expected, I know that personally, but we can rejoice that they are now safe in His arms and free from the pain of this world. I love the way you describe life as a series of dances. So beautiful and so true!
Praying God’s peace for you and your family.
M @ In Beautiful Chaos
Lois Flowers says
Aw, Susan … I’m well acquainted with these dances that you mention—of death and peace, joy and grief. I’m sorry for your loss but so glad you have previous memories of your dad’s last moments. It sounds like he left a legacy of wisdom that will continue to guide you in his absence … what a blessing that is!
Susan McIlmoil says
Thank you, Lois. It is true, he left us with a legacy of faith and wisdom. Death is such a thief but I’m so grateful for God’s comfort during these times. I truly don’t know how people do this grief thing without him.