|Daddy, Ben, Samuel, Me and Victoria at the|
overlook during a visit to New Jersey.
From the day we learn about life and death, we all somehow know that one day we will see our parents pass on. It is the natural order of things and somewhere in the back of our minds, we spend our lives preparing for that eventuality. In our conscious state, we push it back as far as it will go, even when it seems to be imminent, we cling to miracles and when it finally happens, we plunge ourselves in denial. It is so much more difficult when saying goodbye isn't possible and the closure of a funeral isn't within our grasp.
|Samuel, Victoria and Daddy|
Samuel was learning how to sing in
church with Papa looking on.
I can remember driving the van as we were making our way to yet another contract. It was late at night, we were going through that long stretch of road through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio that never seems to end and everyone else in the van was fast asleep. It was sometime in the spring of 2003 and I had the window slightly down to help me stay awake because we always had a deadline to make. Usually that meant me driving through the night as Josh slept to be ready for the contract that was mostly like to be started on the next day. We made a lot of those trips and there were a lot of those nights, like the ones where I drove and watched the sun rise in the Mojave Desert or saw snow fall in the hills of Sergeant York's old stompin' territory or the long old bridge that wound almost endlessly over a body of water somewhere in the back woods of Tennessee in the fog and deep pitch black of night but this night is etched in my mind and one I've only shared with my husband.
|Papa picnicking in the yard with his grandchildren.|
I was praying as I drove, as I often did, usually just praying I could stay awake what with the precious cargo I was responsible for all sleeping in the back but I also prayed for life and others and as I was praying that night, I had a deep sense of sadness come over me. I can still feel it as though it happened yesterday. It was overwhelming. I prayed for a while hoping it would pass but I had strange sense of something to come. The road I was on was straight and deserted so to a small degree, I could allow my mind, or rather my spirit, to wander a bit on this.
|Papa working on a model with the boys.|
I prayed in my knowledge and I prayed in the spirit, I meditated on the hymns that were playing on the CD and I turned everything off and just rested my spirit in the Lord. What kept coming to me was confusing and made so little sense at the time. I felt so strongly the Lord was telling me that Josh and I needed to pick-up the spiritual gauntlet for our family. For as long as I can remember, I relied so heavily on my Daddy. He was strong in Faith and I saw literal miracles in his ministry and there was always the temptation, even as an adult, to sit comfortably under his umbrella. When Josh and I married, Josh was new to the Faith, though had always loved the Lord with his whole heart and he too found solace under my Dad. But, this night, I felt strongly that one day in the not so distant future, we would need to stand alone and the protection we had enjoyed under him would be taken from us.
|All my boys on Father's Day 2001.|
I can remember the desperate feeling as I drove. I was always so close to my father. I was his helper in church well into my twenties and then later as a married woman with children. I played the piano for him and could read the look on his face and his movements as to what he wanted me to do…we worked in unison. I taught Sunday Schools for him and went on visitation and hospital visits. I can remember the time we went on a hospital visit while we pastored in Missouri and I was just learning to drive. We had to drive two hours for a hospital visit and on the way back, Dad fell asleep leaving me to drive the highway home. Somehow, I missed an exit or took an exit I shouldn't have, I still don't know what happened but by the time he woke, we were a couple of hours in the wrong direction. Since it was so late, Dad decided we would stop by Wal-Mart, get a few necessities, spend the night in a hotel and head back in the morning. Needless to say, Dad drove us back the next morning but it made a precious memory, and now, it is priceless.
|Forever the teacher, my Dad taught me|
how to teach my own children.
After that night, life went on. Josh and I discussed my experience and as life took us away from Tulsa and my Dad's church, we began to learn to stand on our own. For a few years, we still rested in the knowledge we had a safety net in my Dad's prayers. Then in March of 2007 all that was lost. There wasn't a physical death at that time but our relationship died. There were many facets to what happened and many opinions as to who was at fault; I am quite certain we all could have acted better, but none of that mattered, all that mattered is that relationship was lost. I know my Dad wanted it restored and we did too but there was a force that kept that from occurring. It was from that source my family sought distance and since my Dad was attached to that source, it distanced us from him as well. I know as sure as I sit here, if things had been reversed and he was the surveying member, there would be reconciliation but he was the one who went first and so now, I must rely on him having full knowledge in heaven. I know in heaven, the deception that ruled his life for so long, the bitterness and jealousies of another that kept him bound in his action are now gone and he has full knowledge of situations and our love for him. I wish it could have been here on earth but I have the assurance that he knows and understands now with that perfect understanding. Now, he is without pain of the cancer or the oppression of his mind.
|Daddy was an amazing gunsmith and taught all of us|
to shoot and respect weapons.
So, now we must move on. I look at pictures of the happy times. The times when Dad taught all our children to shoot. They can all group their shots nicely and little Samuel, like Sergeant York, really did shoot a rifle before he was weaned. I remember all those services and looking into my Dad's eyes as he preached. From the time I was old enough to be aware of my surroundings, I can recall waking in the middle of the night from the touch of a hand on my forehead, or my knee, or my foot and my Daddy telling me to just go back to sleep, he was just praying for me. During some of the most difficult times in my life, it was those memories that took me through. It was also not having that during my mastectomy or through this illness that has made it so much more difficult. One of my first thoughts when I found out that my Dad was now in heaven was that he was once again was praying for me. I wish I could erase the last few years and that we could have been able to enjoy the last moments of his life but at least I can rest in the knowledge that he knows now.
|Papa and Samuel...learning to shoot before he was|
weaned...just like Sergeant York.
As a way of remembering Daddy and somehow dealing with letting him go, our family had a personal memorial. We all remembered the things we loved most about him and some of those very special moments. We talked through the last few years and tried to make sense of the division forced on my father and on us, as well as my sisters. We tried to accept what is our new reality, living with Dad in heaven and knowing he is with Grandma Rule. He missed his mother so much. Dad got his caring and loving nature from her. I know that she must have been waiting at the gate as he walked through. I am sure his first meeting was with out Lord and Saviour but I am quite certain his second was with her and then with the Grandpa's he never knew but always missed. I know that he is now out of pain and in his new body and he is waiting for the reunion with his children and grandchildren he loved so much. I know the tears I shed are for me and my loss. Dad is with his Saviour and has no desire to return to this earth.
|Papa always took his grandchildren on tractor rides.|
I keep reminding myself of John 11 where Jesus raised Lazareth from the dead. Martha and Mary were upset because Jesus wan't on hand and they knew if he had been there, He would have healed Lazareth and their brother wouldn't have died. But, Jesus had a plan, He wanted to display a miracle and Lazareth was going to be that miracle. So, why then did Jesus weep at his death? He knew He was about to raise Lazareth and return him to this world. Could it be that Jesus was not weeping for the loss of Lazareth to heaven but that in order to fulfill the necessary miracle, He was going to bring him back and take him away from the very place He Himself longed to go. Jesus wept because he took Lazareth from the presence of God back into this world. Even for myself or my children, I would never want to take Dad from his new eternal life, in his new body, with our Saviour. I know he is happier there and is restored in strength and vigor and probably remodeling parts of heaven. We rejoice with him over his final victory and pray God will help to fill the void that has so long been open in our hearts.
|Papa with the children at the zoo.|
"We will see you again soon, Daddy, when our Saviour returns for us all. I want you to be the second one I meet when get there, after our Saviour, the Saviour you introduced me to and taught me to love. For that, and all you were, I will forever be grateful. I truly love you, Daddy."
May God Bless and Keep You in His Grace,
A very bereaved,