There is a part of me that is sad most all of the time. It doesn’t always physically hurt, and it doesn’t always make me cry, but that part of my heart is always, always sad.
I think about my dad 450 times a day, and depending on the moment, I can’t decide if heaven is a happy or sad place. I believe it’s beautiful and perfect in almost every way except for the separation between those who are there, and those who are here. I was brought up believing that the person we are on earth is the same person we are when we die, so even if our spirit is perfected, we no longer feel physical pain, and we are with God and surrounded by golden flowers and pink, sparkling trees, the warmest of suns with the most vibrant sunsets in colors we can’t even imagine, I think there would be a part of us that is sad there, too, because we’d miss the people we love.
Two nights ago, Travis and I sat on one end of an hour and a half phone call with my family and one of the men who was with my dad when he died. We listened via speaker as he told all the details from the beginning when they met at a mall to drive to Logan, to the end, when he found himself waking up the next morning having one of the hardest days of his life.
The middle part of the conversation – the part that detailed the tragedy – was obviously the hardest to hear. There were images I could never imagine before. It was good for me to hear them, but it was also tragic. I ended up not sleeping that night, and was tossing and turning as this nightmare we’re in seemed fresh again. It’s really hard to understand how or why, but if I keep asking myself that, I’m bound to go crazy.
The truth is, though, I don’t ask myself the hows or whys very often. At some level I understand that life can just be really horrible sometimes and everyone has their struggles – this just happens to be mine and my family’s. It’s one of those things you think happens to other people until it happens to you, and then you realize you’re just as vulnerable. For me, that scares me the most. I wonder what’s next. It seems like if this can happen, anything can happen.
That’s not to say I haven’t felt blessed in many ways since the tragedy. There are actually countless ways. I will never, ever know how many people have prayed for my family. I will never know everyone who came to the funeral. Following those first few days, we all survived Christmas somehow, and it was actually fun and lovely at times. I have a really good family – that is the biggest blessing – and I have countless friends who love me. I try to feel my dad in nature, and I can tell you I’ve seen some pretty amazing sunsets since then, and tonight, there was this giant star that I swear was begging me to make a wish. I didn’t make a wish at that moment, but I did think of my dad.
I’m also very lucky to know my dad was with really good people when he died. When I think of all the possibilities, it’s reassuring to know there was a man who held my dad’s head in his lap during those final moments, gave him a blessing, prayed for him, told him to breathe, and to stay laying down. My dad was able to hold on to his shoulder, while one of his other friends held his hand. Then emergency crews arrived quickly, and they did they best they could. He died before they reached the hospital, and there’s nothing anyone could have done differently.
Since then, a lot of people have told me it must have been his time, and that God needed my dad for something. I know they say that to comfort me, and probably themselves, too, and I know their intentions are true. But every time I hear those sentences, they don’t sink in with me. I’m not sure there is a specific “time” for everyone to die. I think this might be the case with some people, but I have a hard time thinking if that were the case for my dad, God would have allowed for him to be taken the way he was. It just seems like too horrible of a punishment for his friend, and my dad never would have asked for that. I don’t think God would do that to someone, or plan for such a tragedy. More so, I believe accidents happen, horrible things happen and life happens, and God finds us in the aftermath when we’re picking up the pieces.
My dad had this certain way of saying “Oh no,” about a variety of things. It didn’t have to be something too serious; it could have been during a football game following an interception. Sometimes he would say it during serious times, too, though. When I picture the moment he left this life, I hear him saying that. I see him just as shocked as we all were. I see him wanting to come back, and I see him crying. Perhaps this is me just projecting, but even though I believe he’s in heaven, I see him being taken care of by God in those first few moments instead of being at peace. Am I crazy to think he’s healing with us? That maybe sometimes he still has hard moments? That maybe he wishes he could be here instead of there, even though he’d know what he’s missing now that he’s seen heaven?
Something my cousin told me has comforted me more than she probably knew it would. Her father died a year before mine, and she said in the days following my dad’s death that while she always knew there was a heaven, she never knew how close it is. I think this is true. I know there’s a heaven. I just know it, but all of the other things I feel are confusing and painful, and sometimes I’m just numb – but I keep on moving because that is what you have to do.
I know I’m not alone both physically and spiritually, and for that I am grateful. From here, I just want this to shape me in a way I can be proud of, but I’m still working through the murky part.