I still remember answering the phone and hearing mom say, “Say goodbye!” We had just returned home three hours south of where you were, unsure of how much time you had left here on earth.
I don’t remember what I said, only that I didn’t know how to say goodbye.
Mom said you looked up to the corner of the living room and smiled your famous smile you hadn’t smiled for weeks, looked back and her and just like that, you were gone.
We’ve all placed our bets that you definitely caught a glimpse of glory— Jesus’ face inviting you to come home to the place He made us all for with no more pain, no more tears and no more suffering. He paved the way with His life, death and resurrection. I’m still so grateful that you received Jesus’ rescue in 1986. The legacy of your faith in Jesus lives on.
Somehow an entire decade has passed since that last earthly smile. It’s true what they say— grief isn’t linear. And I’ve found that healing is in layers. I still have moments where I’m overwhelmed with sadness for losing you, overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithfulness, and overwhelmed with gratitude for your life and faith.
While you were sick I had so many questions for God.
Many of them began with, “What about when…” and framing some future circumstance that I knew we would need and want you for. Of the many questions I cried out with but there were two that ring the loudest in my memory as I anticipated they would be the hardest.
What about when she Em gets married and he’s not there to walk her down the aisle?
What about when I have kids and they won’t get to play with and know their Papa?
At the time, God answered those questions with one of His own: Will you trust me?
I said yes, not knowing how we would get through, only that God would do it. And He did.
The first of those two took place last summer.
Em’s wedding was a perfect reflection of her: thoughtful, carefully planned, beautiful and Jesus-focused. Mom was stunning walking her down the aisle. The joy of the Lord was her strength and I think she may have even made it through without shedding a tear.
We all felt your absence in a heavy way, perhaps the most tangibly of any single moment that has passed since you’ve been gone. I only made it a few steps down the aisle before I felt completely overcome with emotion for all that the day meant. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, only took deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other. Somehow God pulled me together.
When I got to the end of the aisle, there was Mike G smiling compassionately. He is immeasurably more than you and mom prayed for. He loves Em so well and we all know it would’ve been love at first sight for you. He loves the Lord, he loves Em, he loves basketball and he loves our family. He checks all of your boxes and so much more.
It was a beautiful day— they were celebrated, you were honoured, God was glorified and of course, you better believe Emily took the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with a captive audience. I laughed when someone said, “No offence, but this was the best of your family’s weddings.” I said I couldn’t agree more.
God was there with all the mercy and grace we needed not just to get through it, but to enjoy it as well. There was grace to feel your absence and not be overcome by it, and grace to celebrate a joyful new beginning.
The second question continues to ripple…
I remember how thrilled you were the day Ethan was born— “Ethan my boy” you called him. You always talked about how you would do all the boy things with him that weren’t quite the same raising four girls— you were going to teach him to work on cars, to play basketball and I’m sure how to be a godly man. As the years passed, we each were graced with a boy of our own. Christina had Josh and we had Jonah. Everyone had their one.
I assumed we would all only get our one boy.
When I was pregnant with our third, we took home a sealed envelope containing the gender of the little life growing inside of me. After a few days, the suspense was too much and I tore through the sealed envelope which revealed that our family would not have one, but two boys.
It wasn’t until a few days later (conveniently following a meeting a mom’s office) that I was side swiped with a wave of unexpected emotion— we were having the boys you always wanted and you wouldn’t be here to see them. I cried in a heap on the floor of a boardroom.
In 10 years, you had 10 grandchildren. And I know you would’ve loved every ounce of each one of them. There are times this season feels so unfair. We all know how much you loved children and no doubt, this would’ve been one of the most golden parts of your golden years— being Papa alongside Grandma.
But somehow, they all know you.
There’s a little of you in the way each of us girls live out our callings. There’s a little of you in the strength, leadership and love of Mike, Jordan, Frankie and now Mike G. There’s a little of your humour and love of life in your friends, Greg, Brian and Jim. There’s a little of you in the faces and mannerisms of Lope and Bert. There’s a little of you when we go to Tim’s and tell them about all the people you met in your office. There’s a little of you everywhere we go and hear about people who’s lives your faith in Jesus Christ and kindness touched.
And they get a little more of you every time they say, “Can you tell me that story about Papa one more time?”
God is still here with all the mercy and grace we need to raise up godly little warriors who will go forth and continue building the kingdom of God.
In 10 years, the stories haven’t ceased, the faith lessons haven’t stopped being told, and we haven’t stopped talking about eternity with you.
There’s a little of you still here because of what Christina so succinctly summarized in the song she wrote for you, “You lived and showed me life’s more than this world will offer me.”
You lived your life for Jesus and because of that, your legacy lives on. I’m amazed at how often people tell me, I can’t believe how much someone I’ve never met has influenced my faith.
To this day, something you said still drives much of what I try to do. When people visited you, they would report that they read about you on the blog. It was 2008 so you asked me, “What’s a blog?” I told you that it was a place where I wrote about you. You shook your head no and spelled on the letter board, “Only write the truth.”
Only the truth transforms.
So here we are, walking by faith, slowly but surely being transformed. Missing you. Grateful for you. Looking forward to seeing that smile again, and asking God to not allow us to get in the way of whatever He wants to in and through us until that day.