I had a good cry today. I cried with just the right amount of ferocity and then I felt better. And because I feel better, I hesitate to write this post because things are about to get awkward for everyone.
Eleven years ago today, my dad died in a plane crash. It was a single engine plane and he was the pilot. I was seventeen. I thought about the anniversary of his death all week and tried to decide how I would feel today. Eleven years is a long time to come to terms with death and I can positively say that I have dealt with my grief. But still, I cried. I didn't cry for my dad today though, I cried for me.
When my dad died, I felt like I forever got stuck at seventeen (emotionally). I was still a kid and needed my parents. After he was gone, my family sort of imploded and I felt as though I suddenly had no parents. No one to guide me, no one to care about my grades, no one to answer to when I missed curfew. I was hurdled into adulthood before I was ready and I handled it very, very poorly.
I blamed God for many years. He knew what my dad meant to me and how prolific of a person he was, yet He still took him. I didn't know how to deal with this. I spent a lot of years trying to get back at God by dating the scum of the earth, drunk dialing my family to talk about Dad and shutting myself off to every relationship in my life. I became an emotional cripple. And for many years, I stayed there. Not the scum of the earth and drunk dialing part, just the emotional cripple part.
Today I cried because I have wasted a lot of years being distant to people that want to love me. I cried because I have not moved past a seventeen year old's emotional state of mind that day in October when I suddenly had to face the world without my protector, without my spiritual leader, without my big, strong dad. I cried because I made so many bad decisions because I didn't trust God to carry me through the grief (that I did overcome, praise Him). I cried because of the brokenness my family has experienced because none of us knew how to talk about it for the longest time and because of the reckless decisions I made to smother the pain. I cried thinking about how different my life would be if he were still here and I hadn't had to grow up before I was ready. And I cried a little because I miss him. And now I'm crying again....
Several years after Dad died, I remember driving down the road and hearing in my heart God say "I am the Father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5). That began my recovery from the intense grief and pain that mangled my heart. That promise best summed up what I had feared being for many years: fatherless, vulnerable, without spiritual guidance. But my Heavenly Father did not abandon me and leave me fatherless, he stepped up and placed an abundance of godly men in my life as fatherly figures. On my wedding day, I missed my dad terribly but I had two brothers give me away. Several pastors and their wives have taken me under their wing and mentored me. And JD. My strong, sensitive husband that tells Beatrice stories of Grandpa Leigh fishing in Heaven. He reminds me of my dad in so many ways that sometimes I look up at God and say, "really? This is my husband? Cool."
I no longer have grief about losing my dad. He was a man after God's heart and lived in a way that I do not doubt for a second he is in Heaven. I have sad moments every now and then because I wonder how cool it would be to know him as an adult and see him with my child, but I no longer have that pain in my heart because of grief. Today's tears were for years wasted on rebellion and pain, not on losing him.
I hesitate publishing this post because whenever someone loses someone, there is always that awkward pause of not knowing what to do. Do you say you're sorry for their loss? Do you give words of encouragement? Do you wish you never read this post because now you don't know what to do and I'm totally calling you out on it but because you read it, you feel obligated to say something? I hate making anyone feel awkward but know that I probably made you feel that way anyway, so I'm hesitant....
Well now that everyone feels awkward, I am just going to end this and say that God is good. He sustained my life and loves me immeasurably. And for that, no one should feel awkward.
Now, the awkward montage of photos...
Dad and me the summer before he died:
Dad being a great parent:
Dad fishing in Heaven:
I love you, Dad. See you again one day.