As many of you who follow my blog know, I lost my precious mother on May 1, 2013 and then my dear father-in-law May 18, 2013. And then my daughter's wonderful wedding on June 2, 2013. Then two major surgeries for me on June 21 and Dec. 31, 2013. Both were a 6-9 month recovery.
Yes, I've been through the hardest year of my life by far.
And I've learned a lot about grief. And that it isn't straight forward.
You see, although we knew my father-in-law was dying, he lived longer than we expected. We really thought he'd make his granddaughter's wedding. So we knew grief was coming. But we made the best of the days we had with him and even celebrated his 83rd birthday one week before he passed away. I took pictures of him with each of my kids when we left him that weekend. I'm beyond grateful I did. We had no idea we'd be back for his funeral just 7 days later.
But that's what happened.
I was still reeling from my mom's unexpected death. I felt like I would drown at the second funeral. I partly hid behind my camera because my father-in-law was a photographer too and loved my work. I could document all the people who came, the private family moments, a snap shot of a moment in time. A bittersweet time. Sadness at saying goodbye. Rejoicing in how many people he touched. In a life well spent. That he was ready to meet his Creator.
I cried when my husband spoke about his dad. Especially when he paused, looked at the casket and said, "Dad, I love you," as his voice quaked. Even now, I cry at that memory. It was so sweet. So precious.
Then, I had to get back to a wedding. More bittersweet emotions. Joy at the marriage. Sadness that we were missing three grandparents. (My father just couldn't travel. We totally understood.)
But it felt like Mom and Pap Pap were there with us, rejoicing. It was a day of true joy and happiness.
Then came the long road of grief. The kind that hits you in the gut. The kind that doesn't let up. Your brain scrambles to accept your new normal.
That's when I clung to the verse that God's mercies are new every morning. (Here's a post on that verse.)
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. 23 they are new every morning;
I bought a plaque that said, "Courage isn't the roar at the end of the day, but the quiet courage to try again tomorrow."
I thought about mom every single day. I still do. Every single day. But the thoughts are turning to memories of the good times. The love she showered on us kids. The joy of reading her bible. Even at 3 in the morning when her pain prevented sleep. The joy of her smile and eyes lighting up when I came to visit.
But I felt kind of bad. Why? Because I didn't seem to think as much about my dear father-in-law. I asked someone if I was grieving for them both because I couldn't tell. They told me to just grieve. So I did.
But you may have noticed I've talk more about my mom.
Well, I can now say I wasn't grieving for them both. As I've read about grief, I learned that sometimes we can't handle too much grief at once.
On Father's Day of this year, I watched a golf tournament. The US Open at Pinehurst #2. That's when it happened. All the grief I hadn't been able to handle came spilling out. I knew he was gone. And I missed him.
Pap Pap LOVED golf. He taught me to love golf. He'd call to talk about the tournaments. He took me shopping the year I got Master's practice round tickets so I could be one of the classy ladies there and have a great "Master's outfit". He wore his knickers and tam-o-sham in honor of the late Payne Stewart. I treasure the picture I have with him at the Master's.
I've cried every day since. So I realize for all my efforts to move forward, I still have some grieving to do. To mourn the loss of the precious man who told me he thanked God for the disease he had. Why? I had been with him for a week, caring for him. He said, "I thank God for this disease because it has allowed me to get to know your heart, Mary." Yes, I cried when he said that. I was humbled and blown away. He told me what a wonderful care giver I was. How strong I was.
He was a precious man.
And I miss him.
And that's okay.
God got me through dealing with the hardest part of Mom's passing. Of course it's ongoing.
But I'm realizing that I need to just give myself permission and time to mourn my father-in-law. That I'm not weak for needing to. It's because I'm strong enough now to actually face it.
It's still hard. But maybe a tad less intimidating.
And I really want to say thank you to you, my readers. I know this isn't the most exciting subject. Or most upbeat. But being able to share what I'm going through, to touch others through what I write, to be encouraged by your comments, all of that has been so helpful. Some of your comments have touched me deeply. I've cried (in a good way) at some. Smiled at others. Felt less alone.
And for that, I thank you for walking with me. For listening. For reading.
This post is dedicated to the precious man who loved me as if I were his daughter.
I love you Pap Pap.
And I miss you.
Thank you for making me feel so loved.
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