I can only imagine.
September is almost over and I feel like I can finally breathe again. Almost. Have you ever felt in life that you're just holding your breath...waiting for moments to pass? That's how the entire month of September feels to me. Every. Single. Year.
I'll start by saying that this isn't a blog post that I want to do or even am sure I have the right words to convey what God is asking of me. I'll just pray my way through it and hope that whomever in the world God needs to see this message, that they see it and know that God is speaking directly to them.
Background to the post - In 2003, my parents were separated for a short amount of time. We were no longer living in our childhood home during the separation. Without giving too much detail, my sister, brother, mother and I lived together and my dad alone. Typing the words "my dad alone" bring back some really painful feelings. My dad was everything to me. He was the best person I knew and may be the best person I have ever known. To me, he was my idol, my protector and the person I knew who loved me most. He chose to love me. He didn't have to.
Other than family, most don't know this and those that do, probably think that I don't. Ya'll, I have never shared this even with my best of friends. Not even them. Because up until this point, there was no reason to. My dad isn't my biological father. There, I said it! He is however the only father that I know or can attest to. He is the only one I can remember my mother with and the only one that has ever and will ever hold the place of father in my life. He is who my mother recognizes as mine and my sister's father and he is who she chose to be in our lives. If you know my mom, you know that alone says a lot. He chose us. He chose my sister and I. He chose to adopt us as his own. My last name is his. He surely didn't have to. You couldn't imagine how that feels to a child and even now adult that gets to have a dad that CHOSE them because the biological didn't. There is no pain of rejection for me. There is no "why". There is no other feeling than my dad loved my mom enough to then love her two daughters as his own and never ONCE in our lives brought it up or even acknowledged that our blood wasn't the same. I think that's why it's so easy for me to forget this part of my life. It just wasn't a topic of discussion. I was chosen and let me tell you what...my dad loved me like no other.
I only say this because I know that there is someone reading, who has a child that is being raised by someone other than their biological father. I want you to know that God has strategically placed this person in your child's life for a reason. He is who God chose, which means that it's the best hand picked father ever. It's not necessary for the biological father to be in the picture if he so chooses not to. It's OKAY. I promise you, it's okay. God planned this for you and you need to be secure in that alone. (so, this wasn't originally supposed to be a part of this little blog post..but God, Jesus, Lord...He is always making me do something I don't want to do!)
September 22, 2003 was the day that my world came crashing in at high speed. I was sixteen, and had come home with my best friend. If I remember correctly, we were the only one's at home, other than my brother, who was very little at the time. My dad had been living alone for maybe a month or so. I had little to no contact with him. My parent's struggled with different things and again, I don't want to go into much detail because it's not the message to this story. My dad was good. My mom was good. They loved each other. But, life happens. Scary things in life happen, but this is my story, not theirs.
My friend, Brandi and I were doing whatever it is that 16 year olds do and heard my mom walk in the door. I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing her face. The kitchen was dark. It was maybe 4:00 in the afternoon, but that kitchen was the darkest place I had ever seen. So dark around me, except her face. Her face told a story I didn't want to hear. Her only words were "Daddy is gone."
Prior to this I knew that my dad struggled with depression and other mental illnesses. Ones that he couldn't control and ones that God knew he couldn't control. When my mom said "Daddy is gone.".....I knew what that meant.
I knew what it meant because just a few weeks before, I went to our home to get some of my items from my room to take to our "temporary home". Our house was so sad without us in it. I can feel the air being heavy with sadness when I walked in there. I can still feel that. My heart hurt so bad that my dad was alone and hurting. I hurt because he was hurting. but I also hurt because my mom was hurting. I understood to an extent, but it still didn't take that pain away. I remember walking into the kitchen and on the counter, there was al little piece of paper. Just literally a little piece of paper ripped off of a bigger piece that said "I CAN ONLY IMAGINE" in my dad's handwriting. I didn't know what that meant at the time, but I knew it was sad. I knew my dad was hurting beyond what I could ever know.
In 2003, there was a super popular Christian song by Mercy Me, I can only imagine. I'm sure you've heard it or heard about it. It's a song about meeting Jesus.
"I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine"
When my mom said "Daddy is gone.", I knew what it meant. I knew what it means because I knew that my dad was suffering. I remember screaming. I remember Brandi walking in the kitchen and my mom holding me. I remember that cold tiled floor and I remember sobbing. My dad committed suicide and life as we knew it was far gone. I knew at that point what his scrap piece of paper meant. He was imagining being with Jesus.
I can still smell the fall air. I can still remember what it felt like. I can still picture every little detail that happened. Grief does that to you. For the life of me, I cannot remember what I ate yesterday, but I'll be dag on that I can remember what the weather was on that very day and the days leading up to it and then the days leading up to the funeral. The memories are like movies. I can see them and how they played out. I can feel how they played out. For the years to come after, these same images replayed in my mind. Year after year. Have you ever dealt with deep grief and experienced this? Replayed what could have been done or every little second of the worst day of your life?
Grief is hard. There is no manual on how to deal. When you lose someone really close to you, you kinda feel crazy. I know I did and I did for years. Your entire body feels heavy. So heavy it's hard to walk. So heavy. Breathing is hard and your heart feels as if it has a ton of bricks on it. You feel like you're not really even in your body, but just playing out the motions. Worst of all, you feel like you just need to be gone too, so you can be with the person you lost. I could give birth a million times and it would never hurt as much as the grief I felt when I lost my dad. At the time, I would have done anything to have him back. Your mind plays tricks on you. Logically, you can't have them back. But your mind somehow gives you hope that it could happen. Maybe..just maybe. And that's where the crazy sets in.....
Many different emotions played out in the days and years following. I felt like I had lost everything. I was lost. I hated everything and everyone. If you had a dad, I hated you too. If you weren't crying when I was, I hated you. If you had a happy life, I really hated you. How dare you have a good life when I lost mine. Yep, this is how I felt for YEARS. Every single September 22nd and the days to follow felt like days in hell. I didn't have a relationship with God then. There was no hope. There was no anything. BUT, what I did know to be true was that my dad was in heaven. He was finally at peace.
I know what you're thinking. "If you commit suicide, you go to hell.". Sorry brotha's and sista's. My daddy is sitting right up in heaven. Those of you who have a personal relationship with God know this to be true. It's not up for debate. I know because God and I are pretty tight these days.
Every year since then, my friend Brandi, who was with me at the moment my life changed and listened to me talk to myself, hit myself and act downright crazy, y'all. It's funny now. Really, it is. But at that time and at our age, she could have just up and left, but she didn't. This isn't to take away from my other amazing friends who lived this awful part of my life with me.
We talk every year on 9/22. Every single year. For the first years after it happened, I was hateful. She had a dad, what did she know? She listened to me hate life, hate my dad, hate everyone around me. She never left and each year God always told her what to say to me.
This year, she texted the day before the 22nd and said "Have you ever thought of making a sign that says "I can only imagine."? Nope...never crossed my mind. What she said following will stay in my heart forever. I know someone out there has dealt with suicide and needs to know this. You need God to tell you this right now at this moment.
"I bet he cried to Jesus so many times."
I have grown so much since then. God has given me my daughter who loves me as much as my dad did. I know and feel that love again. I think of my dad often, but my story has changed. God has rewritten my story. A life that was full of pain to one that is completely covered with Him.
To those that are dealing with grief. I won't lie....it doesn't get "better". I'm not sure that it even gets easier. But, I can promise you this. If you allow God to fill your entire heart up with His love and promises, things do change. You start to see things through the eyes of God. You start to understand a little more. You still miss them and some days, you still might hate the world. BUT - if you allow it, God will whisper to you that it is indeed a part of His plan. Your loss is a part of your plan, whether you like it or not. There is a purpose. It's pretty sucky, but what an amazing feeling it is to finally trust that God did the right thing or allowed the right things to happen.
There were many different messages in this blog. Some things that I said will mean different things to different people and that's the point. Some will say "Oh, man. I needed this." or "I feel like that, too" and some of you may not understand or know anything that I'm talking about. But, this is for YOU - the one reading this right now. God brought you to this little page to give you some sort of confirmation. Listen to Him.
Allow God to rewrite your story after grief. Go through the process, however long it may be, but allow God in your heart to start working.
It's the end of September and I can feel the air coming back into my lungs. The seasons are changing and so am I, but one thing remains the same - God's unending love. His reassurance that there is life after death.