Losing Dad

On a Sunday evening early this September my sister called from California. When she asked me where I was, I knew it was serious. I was home with Carpenter Husband just settling in for the night. Yes, Dad had been sick. In and out of the hospital. Still, the news of his sudden passing came as a shock. For the next several hours, I cried and rocked and rocked and cried, repeating this guttural prayer…Please take care of my Daddy tonight, Lord. Please take care of my Daddy tonight. I finally climbed out of bed around 4am scribbling out words and thoughts in an effort to take the edge off.                                                                      

The mystery of Psalm 116:15 cut through my desperation…Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. I kept repeating those words. Could it be that Dad’s departure is actually a blessing to God? The thought comforted me.

Posthaste, I was on a plane to Mom. First time flying to California where Dad wouldn’t be there on the other end. No point in wearing make up. Too many tears. I turn toward the plane window to try not to disturb the person sitting next to me and journal a note to Dad in Heaven. I tell him it’s O.K. He can be at peace now and relish this time with Jesus. I pinch the silver anchor charm around my neck. A symbol of Hope. Something one would share later that Dad no longer has need of.

Perhaps as a coping mechanism, I begin to brainstorm ideas for a memorial service. It’s a long list. Not sure I want to play at my own Dad’s funeral. I wonder if Cameron would play his accordion? Dad would be so pleased and proud.

My sister and I begin going through some of Dad’s things in the garage. He was very organized. Almost OCD organized, though never officially diagnosed.  We set out to purge and rearrange things, just enough so Mom can pull her car in for safety.

Dad was an accomplished rock climber having climbed both Half Dome and El Capitan as well as forging some first ascents in Joshua Tree, a popular climbing destination in Yucca Valley. Dad was known to have frequently climbed with guys half his age. He was such a rock star.

In addition to years of belaying, repelling, gnarly overhangs, and scabbed up hands, Dad was an avid backpacker. From his first hike at age thirty-nine spanning easily thirty years, he logged more than 14,000 miles. Among his gear were some old plastic bottles and such we decided to set aside for recycling. A yellow bowl caught my eye. Scratched and well worn, it clearly had seen a lot of miles. I placed it in the recycle pile but immediately felt a deep sense of sadness. I told my sister and we agreed we could hold that one back for the time being.

Later, as we began going through Dad’s photo albums I saw why that bowl had tugged at my heart. Photo after photo of Dad’s camp sites showed that little, yellow bowl propped up on a log or a makeshift bench. We even found a shot of him eating from it. You can see where I got my long legs. Such a handsome fellow.

It might sound silly, but I thanked God for the nourishment that yellow bowl provided for Dad all those years. He loved the outdoors. Absorbing the beauty of creation, I think he always felt closest to God on a lonely trail somewhere. On longer trips that required shipping food ahead, we’d send postcards with the words “Hold for thru hiker Mike Anderson” etched along the bottom.

Preparing for a conference this past weekend I sat at the piano to run through some songs. “It Is Well” proved especially difficult. The floodgates burst wide open. Attempting to sing through heavy sobs I refuted, it’s not at all well with my soul, God. Confessing my fragile state to the audience, I explained my reason for choosing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”…at times when things aren’t so well and our feelings get tossed about by life’s most crashing waves, one must take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, just to know thus saith the Lord.

Mom used to tell a story of when Dad was a young boy. Things weren’t always great at home, but there was a Norman Rockwell sort of family down the street. Dad would sometimes escape his own household turmoil to peer through the window during this family’s dinner hour. Sometimes they would invite him in. He wondered what it would be like to be a part of a family like that.

I believe our family helped him realize that dream. While far from perfect, we were blessed indeed with a level of stability, love, respect, and mutual support for one another. As I wrote in my journal to Dad in Heaven (partial excerpt)…You have it all. He has not abandoned you or left you on the outside looking in. You can feast at the table. It’s all yours. And you will get to fully enjoy it, because He will enable you to. You have total fullness. Total joy. In His presence is fullness of joy. When we get time alone with God we will know His nearness, and in so doing, we will be close to you, too. Sweet communion just got sweeter. We all come to the table. We all feast with Jesus. We all take the bread and the cup. This is living. This is everything. Jesus is everything. He is ours and He is yours. We are family. And we are really O.K. Rest in peace, Daddy. It’s finally O.K.

One of the greatest sorrows in all this is Dad never got to hold his great grandson. A pencil doodle of Ollie discovered in his pocket calendar celebrated his birth – “Day 1”. He was so looking forward to finally holding Ollie in person this Thanksgiving. And now we will be holding his memorial service instead. Still, God in His kindness gave us a merciful gift, before we even knew we would need it…

Just five days before Dad passed, at the surprise party for my fiftieth, a friend suggested we FaceTime my parents in California. There I was surrounded by people who love me, holding Ollie close to the screen so Mom and Dad could get a good look at him. After a brief hello to Mom, Dad got most of the camera time – – great grandson and great Grandpa, eye to eye, taking one another in. I’ll never forget Dad’s smile. As bright and wide as this characterization of him my daughter created in tribute. With a sweet, double meaning, she calls it – A Great Grandpa.                                                                                                    

And he was.

They say the depth of one’s grief speaks to the significance of the relationship. I won’t ever need to guess at how much I loved Dad, for this is a significant grief. But, it is a grief held safely in the loving arms of Jesus…the Hope that embraces, the Hope that does not disappoint, the Hope that we know in part, but Dad now knows completely and in full.

Another journal entry from my Springs in the Valley devotional states, “There is no safer place in all the universe in which to leave our loved ones than in the hands of God.” So be it. Like it or not, I must accept this hard thing and cling to Jesus in trust. It helps to know that not only was Dad in Christ, but now he is right there with Him in glory.

And he has finally traded those dusty trails for streets of gold.

Thanks for all the love, Daddy. Happy trails to you…until we meet again.

Your baby girl,

Cheri

22 comments to Losing Dad

  • I was devastated when my dad passed right before our vacation. I processed my grief by writing this song to him:
    https://devoraclark.com/track/papa

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    What a sweet way to process your Dad’s passing. I love it when God can bring fruit from our pain. Thanks for sharing, sister.

    [Reply]

  • Laurie Greco

    Cheri I feel so deeply your loss and and your blessed hope in Christ. Grief is the biggest hurdle in life to work through. I am so sorry for your loss and I pray Jesus comforts your dear heart at this difficult time.

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thanks, Laurie. I don’t like this one bit, but I know God is with me. He’s with us all. And I know He will bring good from this pain.

    [Reply]

  • Kathy Kelly

    Dearest Cheri,

    My deepest sympathies to you and your family. Such a hard road to travel. So many memories. May God hold you tight til your pain eases.

    Lovingly,
    Kathy Kelly

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thank you, Kathy. Yes, Lord, I’ll be needing that.

    [Reply]

  • Barb mccain

    Lifting you up in prayer my friend.

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thank you, Barb. Sure appreciate it. Love to you and the fam.

    [Reply]

  • Kelly

    Keep on holding on to the memories. You and your family are in my prayers.

    [Reply]

  • Ray Schumaker

    Cheri, I can’t tell you how shocked I was to hear you voice with the news of Mike’s passing. I knew he was in pain the last time we had coffee. We talked about turning it over to God. I know he believed in Christ. I’ll miss not having coffee, going to ball game and hearing of his many adventures. It was amazing how much he showed and told me during our trip to Yosemite.
    You are right, family was very important to him. He was so proud of you and Lisa. (Hopefully I have her name right) Also of the grandchildren.
    Now that I am back home I really feel the loss of him. But I will always remember that great man. Blessings

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thank you so much for your friendship with Dad. He always spoke well of you. We’ll make sure you get word about the memorial service. Would love to see you there.

    [Reply]

  • Ehat yoiu worote is beautiful.
    You have my deepest sympathies.
    You are in my prayers as you go thru this awful time
    Helen Downing
    P.S. I am a friend of you mother.

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thank you, Helen. I’m so grateful for the great, supportive friends my Mom has out there!

    [Reply]

  • Rick Riso

    Cheri,
    I cannot thank you enough for this amazingly beautiful and thoughtful tribute to your Dad …a remarkable man indeed! I so value and deeply appreciate your heartfelt thoughts as you took the time to reflect over a lifetime it encouraged me to take inventory … thank you!!! May His grace sustain, comfort and empower you & yours through this difficult season…this world is a better place because of the unique ways He expresses Himself through YOU!
    Philippians 1:9-11 NIV

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Thank you for your kind words, Rick. Love the verse, too. May it be ever true and ever increasingly…to the glory and praise of God.

    [Reply]

  • Dell Elias

    Praying, Cheri, that our loving Lord will hold you tightly right now!!! XXX

    [Reply]

  • Paul Cronk

    Sorry for the lose of your dad. I know the grief you are going through having lost both my parents and my wife through death, yet they are not really dead they are in Heaven rejoicing. The song “Thru it all” gives me hope in times like this. Keep looking to God for the comfort He offers and He will carry you through this valley you are in now. Keep writing and singing those wonderful songs you record.

    [Reply]

  • m2: Mark Murray

    Hi Cheri, your dad and I first met when we were sophomores at AUHS, 63 years ago. He was a winsome guy then and remained so in my eyes throughout his life. We spent many hours together over the years, and always he told of his love for you, for all the family, Bragging on you guys like a loving father does. Our last significant time together was when we traveled to Peru and floated the Amazon River. We spent a lot of time talking about family, our dreams, our faith, our deaths as we traveled many miles in the beauty of this world that only God could create. He was a man of character, integrity, and such determination. He was my friend; I loved him and will miss him greatly. I can’t imagine that you could have had a more loving dad. He was a man who knew God, and was worth emulating. May our Lord and Savior bring you comfort knowing that Mike is in His arms for eternity.

    [Reply]

    Cheri Reply:

    Wow. Thank you for your kind words, Mark. Love the history you shared. So grateful for your friendship.

    [Reply]

  • Jonelle Gillette

    Cheri,
    May God hold you in His loving arms and give you peace in knowing that your dad is with the Lord where there is no pain, sorrow or tears. There is no timeframe on grief… cry, sob, and allow yourself to “feel”. I can still hear my mom saying, “ Don’t be sad when I’m gone, I am with Jesus and when it’s your turn to come home I will be waiting”. Of course she added, “ And you’d better be there!” Meaning, keep the faith. :-). Hugs to you Cheri during this difficult time. I will hold you and your family up in prayer. Love you Christian sister!

    [Reply]

  • Carolyn Wood

    So very sorry to hear of your Dad’s death. My Dad died just a year ago and I remember the pain. I just feel he is in a better place.

    [Reply]

  • Anita

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad and how wonderful that you allow us to share in your time of grief by being so beautifully open and transparent.

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  

  

  

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.