Sunday, July 9, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 9


The phone rang in the middle of a cold winter night. It was New Year's Eve, 1995. Even before my husband lifted the receiver, the ringing continued in my mind. Something was dreadfully wrong. My 69-year old father had died. He'd been hospitalized for a fainting spell, but the doctors hadn't discovered the cause. I got out of bed and stepped into an abyss. My daddy was gone. My kind, brave, honest, wise, irreplaceable daddy.



A friend who had lost her father shared her own story. She told me that one day I'd stop crying, and my heart would fill with the sweetest memories. Grief is the opposite of joy, and as long as we're breathing, we will experience both. This is what it means to be alive.
At the time, I'd been pregnant with my third child, and a few days after the funeral, I knew something was wrong. My OBGY confirmed my worst fears. How much could the heart take? Back then, I felt as if a piece of my soul had been torn off. 
It took another piece to write about it now.
But you know what? Writing has always been my way to make sense of the world. In the winter of 1996, I wrote my third novel, American Pie, and I threw everything I could at the characters. Train wrecks, betrayals, deaths, ill-timed love . . . even a whale. The pages often caught my tears, and I wondered what my editor thought of the blurred ink and wrinkled paper.
The story ended; the book was published. Life went on for the characters (well, some of them), and for me. Nearly twenty-two years later, I miss my daddy like crazy, but the memories no longer have a sharp edge. As my friend promised, the memories are a gift. 

I remember a verse he used to tell me:
"Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love."
-- 1 Corinthians 16: 13



14 comments:

  1. I found during the first weeks of grief I didn't even know I was feeling grief. I believe grief hides deep in our subconscious. My mother died on November 2012 and I just donated her vintage jewelry boxes. It took me four and half years to part with them. I miss her so much, but I think of her everyday. Thank you for this wonderful series.
    Living Joyously,
    Betty@ My Cozy Corner

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    1. So beautifully stated, Betty. Poignant ans so true. Have you read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross--the stages of grief? I think of them as a series of streams, some with turbulent white water, some too deep, some that meander. Finally we reach dry land. "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." --A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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  2. I admire your courage Michael Lee. I too lost my beloved father too early and lost years of my life when I lost my 3rd child...the memories still bring instant tears but yes, they are a gift...thank you for sharing your struggle and wisdom

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    1. I am comforted that you are on the journey with me.

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  3. I heard someone recently state that our loved ones never leave us. They're always here, maybe not in the flesh, but their spirit is so much a part of us. As I sit here and absorb this blog today there are so many personal experiences racing around in my brain... it's hard to live very long without suffering great loss of one sort or another. And nobody knows what goes on in another person's head unless they tell us. Loss is almost unbearable in those first few days ... but.... without the losses I've experienced I don't believe I would have become so vulnerable and open to some of the people I've encountered since. What a gift loss gives us once we begin to emerge from our deepest grief stricken days...Loss helps us take nothing for granted, reminds us to cultivate deeper relationships with those who remain, to have no regrets, to leave no words unspoken.

    My nephew found a piece of paper recently none of us had ever seen before. It was signed by my mother who died 4 years ago... It was a note to him buried deep in some personal items we'd overlooked while clearing out her closet, etc. It said, "Love God. Tell the truth. Be kind. Do good."

    See... I told you they're never really gone.

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    1. I believe it. The best part of this series is reading your words. Thank you!

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  4. You always touch my heart with your words.

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  5. This one sparked an immediate emotional response. I very much believe in the power of communication, both physically here on earth and spiritually beyond. I have read several books on the subject, and feel fortunate to have siblings who also read, believe in, and have experienced it. It gives us all comfort to be able to share those times when we think we've received a message from heaven. They are with us!

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    1. I believe this, too. With all my heart, I believe.

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  6. Michael Lee, I lost my dad suddenly when I was in my early 20s. I know the shock and grief, and you analogy of grief and the streams. A book I read after my daddy's death compared grief to the tides ebbing and flowing. That's what it felt like to me, at times it would recede and go out to sea, then without warning it would rush in and cover me with grief once again. As the years passed, the seas became calmer. It's been almost fifty years now that I've lived without my dad. Yes, we are lucky to have individuals in our lives that makes saying goodbye so hard. As I mentioned on IG, the quote by Washington Irving is new to me, but is now a favorite. I've saved it. Thank you for sharing so deeply. This series touches me on many different levels.

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    1. A beautiful, evocative memory, Sarah. The Irving quote is a keeper. Thanks for adding your wonderful words to this journey.

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  7. I can relate to losing parents. I lost both of mine the same year seven months apart when I was 33. But I can't image losing a child and a father so close.
    Your words today are touching. Tears do help heal. I distinctly remember six months after my mother died still being in a heavy state of grief. My father had been diagnosed with latter stages of cancer. I read a book late into the night about a daugther whose mother had died from cancer. I cried most of the night but about daybreak felt a sense of release I had not felt before. It was a turning point that I needed.The name of the book was, Mourning Song by Joyce Landorf. I can't believe I still remembered the name of the book. That was 33 years ago.
    I have enjoyed your series. You have put in a great deal of time and I call it work.

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  8. Wow...I love the quote by Washington Irving and the verse that your dear Daddy shared with you. My own Dad has been gone now for over 31 years and then my beloved hubby for almost 4 years now.

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