I've never said a phrase more in my life than in the past few days. I bet I've said, "This cannot be real," at least 10 times a day since my dad died. My gosh... even typing the words "dad died" doesn't seem real. How can this be? He was just here... he was fine.. he was happy.. he was amazing.. he was the best.. and now he's gone. Not gone as in not in existence, but gone as in not here with me.
Where was my warning? Where was my time to say goodbye? Where was my last hug? My last time to hear his voice and know it was the last? The last time for my kids to make him laugh and me know it was the last time to hear his wonderfully contagious laugh?
How do I go on the rest of my time here on earth (which God willing will be many many years) and never smell his scent again? My daddy always smelled amazing. How do I go on for so long knowing I'll never feel his big bear hugs again? He gave the best hugs... and he meant them. Both arms totally wrapped around you, squeezing you until you almost couldn't breathe, and he'd have to do that straining groan for exaggeration, too. He'd always end it with a phrase like, "Oh I love you so much, Mandy Beth!" or "I am so proud of you sweetheart!" He never 'just' loved you or was 'just' proud of you... he was SO proud, he loved you SO much.
I keep trying to remember his voice, his scent, his arms around me, his laugh, his smile, his jokes, his tricks, the way he'd raise his eyebrow whenever he was disagreeing politely, or about to pull some kind of hilarious antics. The more I try to grasp onto memories the more I become horrified that I might forget. I prayed for what seemed like hours last night for God to bring memories back to me. All of them. To burn them into my brain. He did. It was too much to sort through. I could remember him teaching me to ride a bike without training wheels, I had a flash of a memory of playing with a balloon with him when I had to be all of 4, I remembered working in the wood shop with him, I remembered cleaning my bicycle as he washed the cars, I remembered watching him eat sardines and holding my nose, I remembered how he never went one single night without hugging and kissing me goodnight, never. He never let a morning pass that he didn't poke his head into my room on his way to work to say goodbye and have a great day. I remembered crying on his shoulder over my first heartbreak, and him crying over my pain. I remembered him taking me fishing, out to shoot guns, and I vividly remember a deer hunting trip that a deer finally showed up and I bawled my eyes out, begging him not to kill it. And.. he let it go. From then on out he'd take me "deer watching" instead of hunting. He was just that kind of dad. I remembered family reunions with him, 4-wheeler riding, decorating Christmas trees, birthday parties, Father's Days, births of my children, and so many more memories that I felt my head would explode. I guess I should've prayed for them to come in a very organized manner.
I wanted to go through pictures to post with this but right now it is just too hard. I hate that seeing my father in pictures sends me into hysterical crying. I hate that thinking of him brings me sadness. I hate that I had to write my dad's obituary. I hate that I didn't get to say goodbye. I hate that God took him. I hate the pain my family is in.
The one thing that is keeping us going is faith. I don't know that I've ever in my life felt so much relief as knowing my dad was a Christian. I KNOW he is with Jesus. I KNOW he is okay. I KNOW he isn't sad and that the only ones in pain is those of us left behind. I KNOW I will see him again. And, as a great friend of mine, Ashlee, said to me as I cried to her over the phone,
"Just remember, your time without him is so much shorter than the time you'll spend with him."
No greater words have ever been spoken. She said she didn't know if they would be comforting or not, well, they were. They are.
When I speak of one friend, I feel the need to list all of you. I have never, ever felt so loved. I have never felt God's hand on me like I have this week. Seeing my friends from high school show up at my dad's visitation and funeral... it was so comforting. Having Stephanie and Jennifer drive from Monticello and surprise me with hugs... amazing. Michael McDaniel coming to the funeral - what a blessing. Seeing my cousin Sarah, that I grew up with my entire life walk through the door of my dad's house... my goodness. I don't know if I've ever flung myself into someone's arms so quickly.. I couldn't stop saying, "Oh my gosh I'm so glad you're here! I'm so glad you're here!" as I soaked her shoulder with tears. Seeing my cousins that I've shared my life with cry over the loss of their uncle, and cry with me, my sister, my brothers, and my stepmother over our pain was like God sending angels in our time of need.
My sister-in-law Abby was an amazing gem. I could devote an entire post to her. To the fact that she did everything she could along with my stepmom, brothers, and their Uncle to save my dad's life until the ambulance arrived... that she literally held her hands in his mouth desperately fighting a losing battle with God himself. She was our rock, our clear thinker, our planner, our comforter, and our consistent person during all of this. My dad loved her dearly.. and she him. I pray that everyone involved the day of his death will be able to forget those last moments they spent with him. That God will take those horrible images from their minds and replace them with beautiful memories.
My family, my I love them. Their love, hugs, words, prayers, and just being near them. I am sooo thankful that my dad has a twin brother. I told my uncle that whenever I miss my dad, I'm so glad that I can look at him and still see his face. No, it isn't the same, but it's a lot more than most people get.
I'm so thankful that God gave me 26 years with my dad. I know so many that would have given anything for that kind of time with their parents. I am so thankful that God blessed us with a great relationship so that there are no regrets. Nothing was left unsaid. I know he loves me, and he knows I love him. I am thankful that God's word is true and one day, we'll be together FOREVER singing praises to our real Father. One day there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or despair. In all honesty, dying doesn't seem as scary when you know you have two amazing Fathers waiting to greet you with open arms.
For today, I will try to put up my Christmas tree with my family. I will turn on Christmas music and hide the tears as each song brings back memories of my dad. I will smile. I will love. I will praise God for his many blessings and each day he gives me on earth with the ones that I love. I will thank him for taking care of my dad, and I will beg him to keep his hands on all of us as we go through the hardest time of our lives. I will hold my children tighter, my husband closer, and I will continue to live a life that makes both my Heavenly and Earthly father proud. I will close my eyes, feel my daddy's arms squeezing me, and I will remember his smell, and I will hear his voice still saying,
"MMMMM... mmm... I love you SO much, Mandy Beth."