Although it happened more than 34 years ago, my first big lesson in trusting God no matter what remains as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday. It was on October 17, 1977 and I was 16 years old.
It was in the fall of 1975 when my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. I wasn't quite 15 when he sat me down and told me the news. I sat stunned for a few moments as I tried to take in the news. My dad was going to die?
I am definitely my father's daughter and being such, he knew exactly what was going on in my mind. Additionally, his own mother had developed breast cancer when he was only seven and passed away from lung cancer seven years later. It was easy for my dad to identify with how I felt because he'd been there, done that.
Not being one to sugar-coat anything, he was very direct. "I am going to die", he said. "So are you. We all will... someday. It's just that we have a little better idea of when that might happen to me." Someday, someday this would happen but for now, it wasn't. For now, I had my dad and I was grateful for now.
My dad has his issues like we all do. He "swore like a sailor" and had a temper which he needed to keep in check lest he might do something he would later regret. He gave up drinking altogether in his early 20's, before my parents married as he recognized early that he had a problem and if he continued it would be disastrous. He was a man who had a very strong-will and once he set his mind to something, he did not turn back.
Due to a terrible accident which happened to him at the age of 19 while serving in the U.S. Navy, which led to a multitude of health issues, he eventually received 100% disability status from the military. After that, he did volunteer work helping other disabled vets at the local veteran's day treatment center.
According to the world's standards, he was a "good man" but he was a man who felt he had little need for God. Cancer caused him to think about God a bit more... for awhile but it would stop with that.
Right after the beginning of my senior year, in early September 1977, I was supposed to pick my dad up after school. He was going to be getting one of his cancer treatments at the VA hospital. For some reason which I cannot remember, he decided that he would let me take the car to school that day. I was to come home directly after school and wait for his phone call. I remember the phone call...
To my surprise, he told me not to pick him up. Instead, I was supposed to pack a bag for him and come to the hospital. He was being admitted.
Things were very grim. My dad came home the day before his 43rd birthday (September 11th), hoping to not have to go back until the next evening but by that afternoon the pain became so severe he had no choice but to return. He never came home again.
On September 26, 1977, right before they came to take him for surgery, my father gave his life to Christ. Oh, what a time of rejoicing we had together as a family! He came through the surgery, eager to share with everyone he came into contact with what Jesus had done for him and what Jesus would do for them as well. Talk about a transformed life!
My dad's diseased-ravaged body, however, could not heal. They did everything they could but they could not stop the infection and before dawn on October 17, 1977 my dad slipped out of this world and into the arms of Jesus.
I remember walking out of the house that morning. My mom cried out for me to stop but her brother told her to just let me go. For awhile, my eyes were blinded by my tears and I was oblivious to my surroundings. As I became aware of the signing of the birds, the clear blue sky and the brightly colored leaves, I stopped and lashed out at God!
"Why! Why have you taken my Dad away from me! " Without my father, I suddenly felt very afraid, alone and defenseless. I knew God could have healed him so why didn't He?
Gently I became aware of the loving presence of God. He didn't answer my question. He doesn't owe anyone an explanation. He's God. However, He understood my grief, pain, fear and confusion. He understood, He cared and He loved me. Gently He helped me to understand that I had not "lost" my dad for I would see him again, someday. He helped realize that I was not "fatherless" and alone. I had a Heavenly Father who loved me with an everlasting love. He would never leave me or forsake me. He would hear my every cry. He was my Savior, my protector, my deliverer and He would hear my every cry. The word, "Our Father" suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me. I am not "fatherless". I am a "princess".
I am not going to pretend that I understand why my father had to die at age 43. I am not going to pretend that I understand why God chose to do things this way instead of heal him like he has done with so many others. Like Job, God does not owe me an explanation.
I only know that He is greater than any sorrow, grief or disappointment that I have faced. I know that even when my heart is breaking, He is there and He will not leave my side. I know there is coming a day when God will wipe away all of our tears and turn our mourning into dancing. Pain, suffering and sorrow will NEVER touch us again. I am looking forward to that day with great anticipation!
Looking foward to it as well. My dad was 43 also when he died, I was 16. What a day that will be, when our Jesus we shall see. No more pain, sorrow or tears.
Nothing I can add would do justice... all I can say is GREAT BLOG and Thank you!
Grace to you,