Loss, Lessons, and Living Strong

Here, at the close of 2015, I stop to think what these last 12 months have brought.

They brought me to a very low valley of watching my father, the man who gave of himself to enrich my childhood in innumerable ways, descend into the darkness of dementia, depression, and eventually death.  I watched this progression, or rather regression, of this once vital and quick witted gentleman with a gnawing angst and sorrow -- I felt an obligation to do something for him -- but what?  Nothing could be done but the that which the caregivers -- his wife, and hospice-- could provide.  

There was no reaching inside his head, his heart and showing him how much I loved the many decades of memories we shared.  How I valued all he instilled in me.  How I regretted my many lapses of reaching higher on that bar he silently set for me.  During his last week he said to me, “You have important things to do.  Go do them.”  Lord Jesus, help me be faithful to that admonition.

There was no turning back the clock.  There was no un-doing anything.  There was only the facing of the inevitable and the mundane efforts I could make in helping his household to run -- small things, but motivated by a very big love.

His last moments on this earth, he opened his eyes and looked at the gathered family surrounding him.  He had an expression of childlike wonder on his face.  Was this surprise at seeing us,  or was he seeing beyond this veil into the heavenly realm -- perhaps seeing the angel band sent to carry him to the Land of No More Tears?  A few moments, and all we had was his outer shell.  It looked like him, but he had flown.

Then came the dark valley of realization that my world had changed.  And through God’s help, I began to change.  It is with no shame that I say yes, I was very, very depressed.  I had the pent-up anxiety of myriad failures.  I walked through a fog of sadness and sudden bursts of tears, wondering who I was, and what was I doing here.

Yet Hope stood beside me.  I turned to the Word of God, and spent maybe 10 days barely getting out of bed, just reading the precious words of the Psalms.  Reading about how those who trust in Him, when walking through the Valley of Tears, will find it a spring.  Yes, a spring of rushing water where Deep calls to Deep.  Where we move from Strength to Strength.  Where the Carpenter takes the hammer and the chisel and sculpts us into souls that more closely resemble him.  Where we become less and He more.  Where the things of this world begin to fade, and we realize we are nothing without him.

No, I didn’t get a lot of measurable work done in 2015.  But I got some immeasurably rich lessons from the Master Teacher.  I got some strong medicine from the Great Physician.  And I will never be the same.

Barbara lister Williams, December 31, 2015

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