“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” – Ecclesiastes 7:2
I was 21 years old, in a great small group with some of my closest friends, and growing strong in the Lord and my knowledge of Him. I had just landed an incredible job I had been wanting. It was such a blessing! I was praising God for so many things in my life.
It was a Wednesday, and I’d just gotten off work. I sat in my car, grabbed my phone and saw I had a voicemail and listened, “Melissa, I am so sorry about what happened to your dad, if there is anything the church can do please don’t be hesitant to ask.” I was confused, and my stomach went into a knot. What happened to my dad?
Prior to moving up to Washington, my parents and I were living in Dallas, Texas until they got a divorce when I was 13 years old. My dad and I drove up to Whatcom County to start a new life. I saw my dad happy and depressed, angry, and just flat out worn. Life was weary. I don’t blame him. He had just moved to a new area, was newly divorced, now raising a little girl, and trying to make ends meet. Addiction held my dad captive as he tried to rid himself of memories or pain. My heart was heavy for my dad. I cried when I found out he was doing certain things. I didn’t understand it & was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do.
The older I became the more I realized how I couldn’t take being around him anymore. He always seemed so negative and I felt he wanted to drag me down with him. I lived with a lot of my friends during high school. Whenever I could get away from the house, I did. And on some occasions, when I’d come home, he would kiss my head and say, “I love you, I’d do anything for you.” I know this was true & he just missed me. I was so important to him. All he wanted was for me to be happy. He would repeatedly tell me that I’m the only one that is keeping him going.
Years later, in 2008 when I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Symptoms were low platelets, multiple bruises on my legs and arms, and always feeling fatigued. I visited many doctors, had a bone marrow biopsy to rule out cancer, and received infusions and medications. This was indeed a scary time in my life. The day of my bone marrow biopsy my dad told me he got down on his knees the night before and prayed to God. Life had tossed my dad around and because of his streak of bad luck he had always told me that God didn’t exist. Until now. Until his little girl was in trouble.
That is when it all began, we started looking for a church; it was like an instinct. Church was the place I went because I didn’t know where else to go and was completely lost, looking for answers or something to fill the sadness and fear in my heart. The place where I felt kind of uncomfortable because I didn’t really understand what they were saying about Jesus, and how the heck this person who lived thousands of years ago matters & pertains to me. Yet tears rolled down my face every time I heard the message. Although I felt the people seemed too nice and perfect, I also felt peace. Peace triumphed over many other feelings, and I would cry with every worship song they played. The more we went, the more I was excited to apply the sermon to my life. I feel this was the beginning of my faith incline. I didn’t want to live by my platelet count, I wanted to trust the Lord instead. I didn’t want to take anymore medications, I wanted to pray for healing instead.
After listening to the voicemail that Wednesday, I called the woman back and she said, “I heard your dad past away this morning.” I didn’t believe it. There was no way. I talked to him a week ago and saw him at church. He had greeted me with a hug and kiss, and told me how happy he was for me that I got this new job. She said, “oh maybe it wasn’t your dad, I just thought the last names sounded the same.” Afterwards I called my dad’s cell phone, no answer. I did this over and over hoping for something. Nothing. I checked the Bellingham Herald webpage; I didn’t see his name.
Back home now, my heart fell into my stomach once I heard the doorbell. I felt strongly that the news I’d earlier was true. I answered the door to find a cop with a soft voice and an unpleasant look on his face as he hit me with the news. “Your father passed away in his sleep this morning. He had a blood clot on the right part of his brain.” I was sobbing on my boyfriend’s chest, the mourning was just beginning. Regret was sinking in, I should have visited more. I sat on the couch all night in disbelief. Around midnight I started puking. I was numb. I still couldn’t believe it.
It will be four years this August and I can’t tell you I have fully recovered. I don’t know if anyone does after losing a loved one. There are random days throughout the year I get to thinking and start crying. For me, these days aren’t Christmas or Thanksgiving. They are ordinary days. I take comfort knowing God changed my dad’s life. Knowing how He gave my dad the strength to raise me when he was worn. He was a fighter.
But I do know my joy was restored and my faith was only strengthened, by the giver of life! God orchestrated an opportunity for persevering and building faith. Persevering and suffering are unwanted and scary, but God uses everything for good. And the only way I can explain my response is, Faith; this beautiful profound word that is given by the Holy Spirit. I guess that’s why we are called “believers.” It wasn’t easy for me. I needed my time to mourn and to talk to God about this. But I stayed obedient. I heard many loving and kind words, but I will never forget the truth given by a woman who lost her husband. She told me something along the lines of how it will be hard, but bearable with God. This was something different than hearing “He’s in a better place.” The definition of bearable is: capable of being endured or tolerated.
“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” –Romans 5:3-5
God isn’t a clutch for me because I need hope. God is a friend, He is my hope. He is powerful and at the time of my dad’s passing, He showed me love through my dreams, through a peace that can’t be explained, through the Holy Spirit and the way He spoke to me when I read scripture, through people he brought during the time of grieving. People, the vessels He uses to show His love and mercy.
When my dad passed away is when I felt the love God had for me the most. He never deserted me, He was with me, mourning. Like a friend would be. Our God “feels” with us, He understands. There is a time for mourning, and a time for rejoicing, and blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted! There’s no friend like Jesus! Who supports us all the time! When we’re crying, when were confused, when we’re stressed, when we’re scared, when we feel alone. I may not know all the answers, and that’s ok, but I saw the fruit that came with my dad’s passing. In this life we will have grief, but we will also have a friend. A friend who’s not tangible, but who hears us when we cry to Him, and One who will bind up our wounds. – Melissa