Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Day My Words Fell Silent

"You'll be preparing for a funeral and a wedding at the same time." 

The memory of the morning I heard those words is still vivid in my mind. It was Monday morning, April 25, 2016, and I just hung up the phone after a brief conversation with my mom. My dad was in bad shape and she called 911. Not again, I thought. 

After sending a few texts to my boss, my coworker, and my sister, I was in the bathroom when I heard that still small voice inside me, "You'll be preparing for a funeral and a wedding at the same time." 

I blew it off. Even when my sister asked me if I thought this was it, I told her I didn't think so. My heart was in my stomach. 

Later that morning, while I was sitting on a chair in the emergency room facing my parents, I was alarmed at the gray pallor of my dad's face. My stomach churned. I heard the words again but this time with more conviction, "You'll be preparing for a funeral and a wedding at the same time." I looked at my parents who were both sleeping in that small, cramped emergency room. A wave of inexplicable comfort enveloped me and that's when I knew. 

This was it. Our lives were going to change. We were going to face my dad's death and it wasn't going to be an easy road. But I had faith that the inexplicable comfort was going to sustain me through the coming months. 

In a span of two months my dad passed away, my son got married, I quit my old job, and started a new job which I've been praying a long time for. From my vantage point today I look back and thank God for the strength he provided. From April 25th to June 18th when my dad passed away I was an internal mess. 

I tried to write on this blog many times but I suffered from a severe case of emotional constipation. My journals hold abstract thoughts during those months with no coherent sentences. If I didn't have my paid photography sessions I wouldn't have picked my camera up. 

I gave myself permission to let my words fall silent. At work I pretended to be okay because I don't believe in bringing personal issues to the workplace. Besides, there were few people there who understood. 

While my sister, my kids, my grandkid and my mom were falling apart around me I chose to be strong for them. We truly were preparing for a funeral and a wedding at the same time. I remembered the voice I heard twice that morning of April 25th and used it to ground me. 

I worried and watched while my son internalized his grief months before his wedding. I tried to tell him and his fiancé to talk their grief out before it manifested in other negative ways. I should know as I'm the master of suppressing emotion. 

Several times I've pulled up Blogger to start a new blog post and my fingers wouldn't move over the keyboard. The communication line between my brain and fingers were severed. Instead of forcing it I let myself be. 

If Ray didn't understand what I was going through I believe I would have broken up with him for I had no tolerance for anyone or anything. People would open their well-meaning mouth and I fought the urge to shove my fist down their throat. I am eternally grateful for Ray who knew the immense grief and mental breakdown I was experiencing. You see, I didn't expect it as I wasn't close to my dad. But Ray reminded me that it didn't matter. Losing a parent is traumatic no matter the circumstances. 

It's true when people say you can never prepare yourself for losing a parent despite the severity of their sickness, knowing the inevitable is near. From April to May my dad was hospitalized twice then placed on hospice and from May to June we watched my dad's body decline rapidly. During that time the friends who were present, the ones I least expected, provided the surge of supernatural strength I needed one day at a time. 

I knew I could go down one of two paths: the self-destructive one where I turned to alcohol and acts of aggression to numb myself or the one where I connect to the Holy Spirit daily choosing love over fear. I, of course, chose the latter, because the rage brewing inside me needed a release. It's not an easy path by any means but one of growth and enlightenment instead of my rapid self-destruction. 

The greatest lesson I've learned this year is: the most important gift I can give someone during their darkest times is my presence. Not false promises. My presence. 

A good friend who couldn't be near sent a Trader Joe's gift card. Who knew a simple gift card would open the floodgates of tears that day? 

Or, another friend who just had her rainbow baby sent me a freakin' e-mail in the midst of trying to learn how to breastfeed her baby ASKING how my dad was doing. 

Or, the time when I was taking pictures during the viewing when a beautiful arrangement of flowers placed near the sign-in album caught my eye. When I read the card I was floored because my best friend in Seattle sent them. 

Or, the parade of families from my brother's church who came and dropped off food every night for three weeks after my dad passed. One family breezed in with stacks of food saying they had to hurry because their house was flooding at the moment but wanted to make sure we received the food. I stood there with my mouth  gaped open barely mustering a thank-you as they rushed out the door. 

Or, the single mom of two young kids  who drove all the way from Fontana to drop food off one Sunday night. 

Or, my high school friend whom I haven't seen in years but somehow found my home address to send me a card and let me know she, too, knew the pain my family was experiencing. 

Or, my close friend/family pastor/hospice chaplain who showed up one Sunday with his wife to pray with my dad and mom. He just came from service he said and wanted to pray with my dad while he was still coherent. I also knew he just flew in from out of town to get home in time for service. 

Or, the people who surprised me and showed up at my dad's funeral on that warm Friday morning in June. Their faces materialized through my fog of grief bringing a sense of comfort to my heart. 

The list goes on and I know I'm missing more people whose actions embodied the meaning of being intentional and being present in someone's life. Since then I've tried to be an example of that with my own family and friends. 

Today is September 1st and I'm grateful for the life events that have contributed to my growth this year. Below are pictures of my kids as pallbearers at my dad's funeral and one of my son and his new wife on their wedding day. 

I wrote this to unblock my clogged emotional channels hoping it would jumpstart my writing again. May my words find their voice again and may you be encouraged to be present.