One month ago today my dad, my hero, graduated from this life to heaven. As a pastor, I have walked through this season with many parishioners over the years. However, when loss hits your own life, you feel it differently. You also feel the love and the support of people in a way that is more tangible than you could imagine. So I want to share with you what has meant the most to me personally these last weeks. I share this in hopes that when others suffer loss, I will be ready to offer the same grace to them that others have generously given me.
Here is what I have learned:
- Facebook comments really mean a lot. The more specific and personal the message, the more it really brings comfort. Stories that people shared about how my dad had helped them or impacted them were especially meaningful. There were over six hundred of them, I read them all.
- Text messages letting me know people were praying for me brought a lot of comfort. No matter how many times my phone notified me, I welcomed it. Some people are still texting me weekly to check on me, it means the world.
- Phone Calls were so comforting. In the past I have hesitated calling people right after a loss. I have always been afraid of interrupting them, inconveniencing them or overwhelming them. I will never do that again. People know how to ignore a call if needed and the healing that came from the voice of a friend is irreplaceable.
- Personal visits are King. Megan and I suffered an acute sense of loneliness the first few days. Dad lived with us. He was a consideration for each meal, each activity and every plan. Our house felt so empty. We did not want to be home and we definitely did not want to leave. When someone came by, it was like they were infusing some outside life into our pain.
- Funeral attendance by friends and family was a source of strength for us when we needed it most. At a funeral I have often thought I am one out of 200 people here. Does my attendance really matter? Now I know, each person who came mattered and lifted our spirits.
- Care after the funeral service has sustained my heart. I’ve had a couple men take me to lunch and allow me to brag about my dad to them. You know who you are, thank you, I hope I can it pay it forward one day.
- Cards and memorials are so humbling. They’re still coming in the mail. I tear up each time I see where someone bought a Bible in my dad’s memory. At his service we asked that instead of sending flowers, that people will teach a kid to fish. (my dad was an avid fisherman) People are still forwarding pictures of where they took their kids or grandkids fishing. Thank you!
- Sharing Stories is my new favorite pastime. Everytime I hear from someone who knew my dad and they share a story it helps me. It brings joy. If they let me tell a story, it is even better. I will make it a habit from now on to ask people “will you please tell me about your loved one?”
- Helping with small details makes a huge difference. Our home church hosted our family for lunch and provided a meal. The local police officers who helped me that night stayed longer than necessary to make sure I was ok. I have a cousin who volunteered to help with a plaque for the grave. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that several people doing something they may consider to be small, was a huge help.
- Normal is a long way away. Mark Twain said “When someone dies, it is like when your house burns down; it isn’t for years that you realize the full extent of your loss.” Loss does not happen one day, It happens day after day in different ways. I will do better in extending grace to those who suffer loss over whatever time it requires. I am thankful for those extending grace to me.
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.