Four years ago today, we buried my father.
He died on February 12, 2005 of cancer at the relatively young age of 57. Earlier that week, I wrote his obituary, worked to organize the funeral program and helped my mom pick out a grave site, headstone and casket. The day of the viewing, we helped dress his lifeless body in his burial clothing. It was a season of intense emotions, tender feelings.
Two Sundays ago I visited his grave with my family and we took pictures, sang one of Dad’s favorite hymns and said a prayer. Then, on the actual anniversary of his death, February 12, I returned to the cemetery with my mom and brother Dan. This time was different. We stood quietly at the headstone under an umbrella to avoid the falling snow. We reminisced a bit about Kent’s life and its impact on our lives. My mom asked me to pray and I thanked God for my dad’s amazing life. I then said something that surprised me somewhat. I thanked Him for the grief that we were feeling at that moment. As I struggled to speak with tears streaking down my cheeks, I was thanking the Lord for the grief that I felt.
Ever since, I have been reflecting on these questions: Isn’t grief a negative emotion, something you try hard to get over? Aren’t we supposed to move on? Does grief equal despair? Does my grief somehow mean that my faith is not strong or that my hope in a glorious reunion on resurrection morning falters?
Truth be told, I grieve every day for the loss of my dad. That doesn’t mean I’m not a happy person or that I dwell on it constantly. It doesn’t mean I don’t live and love life to the fullest. But I do feel a sense of loss every day. My grief connects me to my dad; it helps me remember him. And while emotions aren’t nearly as raw as they were four years ago as we were preparing for his funeral, they surface often. And it hurts. It also feels good. That’s the paradox: the pain is welcome in some ways. It reminds me of the powerful feelings of love and loyalty I had / have for my father. It encourages me to think about his life and to remember his influence on me. The longing for an eventual reunion with him makes we want to live a better life, not only to honor my dad’s legacy, but to be worthy of a joyful reunion in the next life. So I embrace my grief because it is part of me now. I also embrace the wonderful memories that we shared. Finally, I embrace my faith in the power of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice overcame both sin and death. What are your thoughts on grief?
Last year, I wrote the following on my blog near his death anniversary:
“Kent was a loving father and a good provider. He was also very much in love with my mother. He set a great example for all his children as a man who loved the Lord, who was totally committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I miss him dearly. I miss being able to call him on the phone and talk about the latest gadget (he would have loved the iPhone) or politics. Although I take great comfort in my firm belief that families are forever, I still wish every day that he were here with me. I wish he could be here to grow old alongside my sweet mother. But it was not to be…”
Here’s a little look back at his life through some video clips. He bears his witness of the gospel at the end of the video.
Miss you Dad!!