The following is a guest post by Mary Hill as part of a blog series called “All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss.” Mary writes about the loss of her dad at a pivotal time in her young life and how she found light after that dark season.
My mom’s small home seemed so quiet that day.
I received a phone call from my aunt at work. “Your dad died this afternoon of a heart attack. You need to go to your mom.”
All I could think when I heard the news, “Why? We had such great plans for the summer. What about our plans to take day trips together this summer? I just moved back home. I can’t believe he is gone.”
I dropped to the ground in disbelief and let out a cry, causing my assistant to run into my school library office. Then the principal rushed in to comfort me. She offered to drive me home, but I declined. I wanted to drive alone with my grief. The sun felt too bright on that spring day. I drove in a bubble.
Finally, arriving at my mother’s home, I rushed in, “Mom.” The paramedics finished with their collection of my dad’s body on a stretcher. I found only a minute to tell my dad good-bye. They left with him. I found my mom on the floor near the bathroom. Her face empty and filled with despair.
I hugged her and lifted her up.
“He’s gone,” she cried.
It seems like just yesterday. I had just moved home in January 1999 after graduate school and a 10-year absence from my home town. My dad died in late May 1999.
“Why did God take him from me so early? He was only 55,” I remember crying.
My mother sat on the couch sobbing. My brother rushed in and then went out into the yard and collapsed in his own grief.
I walked around our home and found my dad’s Bibles. He owned several versions. I picked up his Amplified Bible from off the living room table beside his recliner where he often studied and found it open to 2 Corinthians 5:1-5:
“For we know that if the earthly tent [our physical body] which is our house is torn down [through death], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our [immortal, eternal] celestial dwelling, 3 so that by putting it on we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened [often weighed down, oppressed], not that we want to be unclothed [separated by death from the body], but to be clothed, so that what is mortal [the body] will be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]. 5 Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise].”
Then I found my dad’s other bibles, including the King James Bible, on his bedside table also opened to the same scripture. I showed my mom the Bibles.
“He knew. He was going home,” I told my mom with amazement.
Three days later at my father’s funeral, the preacher proclaimed, “Earl preached his own funeral sermon the day he died.” He shared the story of the Bibles left open to 2 Corinthians 5.
“Earl was always early. He often arrived at church an hour before even the service started to pray. At 55, he left early to be with his Savior in Heaven,” I remember the preacher saying.
His early departure brought even greater grief because the dream of a better relationship with my father also died with him. Mistakes I made as a young adult created a relational rift with my dad that we were trying to restore before he died.
My dad also suffered from depression and manic episodes throughout his life. He finally found a medication that made him stable and calmer. He was making such great strides that year, and his new calmness created a closeness with him that I never felt before. Then God took him home.
My life seemed like a desert during the next two years after my father’s death. I also lost a husband during this period. I decided to leave him because of violent abuse that I feared would never end until he killed me. In less than a year and a half, I lost my father and signed divorce papers. Darkness and grief were my friends then.
Today, I look back at those times in somber awe. I endured such a time of loss, but God brought me through to the other side, stronger and closer to Him than I could ever imagine. Nancy Ortberg writes in her book Seeing in the Dark:
“Dark times can provide hope to other people. We all go through times in our lives that hurt and bring darkness. In these times, Jesus gives us just the right amount of light that we can handle. It is a light that leads us to Him. We survive and the dawn comes. Then we take the light He has given us and watch for others who need light and help. We can pass it on using the gifts and talents He has bestowed upon us.”
My life now is filled with hope and new light. I have a daughter, who started high school just this past fall, and a wonderful husband, who loves the Lord. Indeed, God brought me through the wilderness and provided a new thing for me.
As Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Mary Hill blogs at Maryandering Creatively where she shares her poetry, photography and creative nonfiction. She is a stay-at-home disabled mom who loves to write about her testimony of God’s continued working her life. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Featured photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
**This post is part of a January series called “All Things New.” Check out the other stories in the series and my new Bible study, Flourishing Together:
“All Things New: Learning to Flourish After Loss” – an introduction to the series by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, including why she chose “All Things New”
“All Things New: My New Normal” – a guest post by Danell teNyenhuis about finding a new life with her daughters after her husband’s tragic death
“All Things New: Life Beyond the Hospital Doors” – a guest post by Danielle Comer about life for a young widow after her husband died of cancer
“All Things New: Letting Dreams Die, Cultivating New Ones” – an essay about the hard work I had to do in my heart after my husband’s death to dream again
“All Things New: Learning to Breathe Again” – a guest post by Tara Dickson about how she learned to breathe again and lift her eyes to Jesus after the death of her husband.
“All Things New: Finding the Courage to Love Again” – an essay about how God graciously brought new love into my life and a new daddy for my girls after the death of my husband to cancer.
Flourishing Together is a new 6-week Bible study just released on Amazon. If you are interested in delving deeper into this topic of how God grows beautiful things out of the ashes and dirt of our life, please check out the study:
**black and white version