The night that my father died is a night that can never be erased from my mind. I was pregnant with my youngest son, and my parents and a portion of our family had traveled to Florida for a family reunion. I was so sad that, due to the high risk status of my pregnancy, I was unable to travel. When they returned I couldn’t wait to see them, so Ukali and I took the kids and rushed over when he got home from work. Everything appeared normal…my dad was in his man cave relaxing for most of the time we were visiting so we all visited him there. The kids were extremely excited to see Papa and Granny after not seeing them for a week, but their excitement could not compare to, or surpass, mine. At 25 years old I loved my parents and simply put, I adored that old man. And my heart-felt better now that both my parents had returned safely. Before leaving, daddy reminded me that he was on vacation the following week and would get the kids for the annual sleepover/cookout/inflatable pool party. I laugh as I remember that man and those kids. At the time there were only 5 of them and Papa had begun this tradition when there were 2. Needless to say he frequently called in a few of my uncles for reinforcements. But this was his time with them and he looked forward to it and so did they. He reminded me of this before I went home that night. And I told him that if he came to get us in the morning,(I was on bedrest and not allowed to drive) me and the little people would come and cook breakfast for him. That put a smile on his face. Me cooking for him was our thing. Now he was more than capable of cooking, but I knew he loved to be served that way…and he knew that I loved him! My parents had returned safely and all was well with the world, until the phone rang sometime after 10:30pm and I heard my younger sisters voice on the other end standing on the border of hysteria and insanity…something was wrong with Daddy…the ambulance was there…get here quick…Selena, this isn’t good…. I had no idea a pregnant body could move so quickly! This was the beginning of July in 1998 and it was hot! A tank top and underwear is what I was sleeping in and had it not been for my sweetie, that’s what I would have run out of the house in. I forgot in one moment about doctors restrictions of bedrest and no driving…I just needed to get there! Ukali made sure I had shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops on, and I made that long dreadful drive around the corner…literally…my parents just lived around the corner…but that night it felt like they were miles away… and in the 2 minutes it took me to get there I prayed to God more than I had ever prayed in my life…”Please Lord, don’t take my daddy from me….” When they brought him downstairs on the gurney his body was still…I wanted to speak to him but wasn’t allowed to get close. My mom was silent…in her heart she already knew. We moved out to the front yard as they brought him out..he was breathing but barely…my mother, my older sister and brother-in-law, my younger sister, and I, along with neighbors, an aunt, and a close friend of my moms all stood and watched him be placed in the ambulance…and I PRAYED!!! “Lord, if you love me, don’t take my daddy from me!!!!!” We were met at the hospital by all of my fathers siblings that were still in the area…did I tell you that he was one of 18? We were all there together when the young doctor came to tell us 2 hours later, that he had done all he knew how to do… At 46 years old, my daddy was gone…he was never coming back…I lost consciousness and later came to in a wheelchair…and I found myself …lost…I didnt know before then that crying could occur even when you weren’t aware it was going on…hot tears would not stop falling…my thoughts were jumbled…I remember calling Ukali, who was home with the kids, and calling Mark and Lois (good friends of ours)…I felt like someone had strapped 100 grenades to my chest and pulled all of the pins at the same time…nothing was right…everything was wrong…and God was nowhere to be found???? But God was there. Even though He didn’t prove it by allowing my father to live, and responding like a genie in a bottle and not the Creator of the Universe. He was there then, and has been here through the years…
I share all of this with you because last night I learned that a friend who I have known since middle school, graduated high school with , and roomed with in college, has suffered the same loss. She and her 4 siblings lost their father to a heart attack suddenly. Their mother is now a widow, and the father who has provided for and protected them their entire lives is resting in the arms of the Lord. While I have the advantage of looking back 14 years and knowing that God not only never left me, but he held me tighter than my numb mind could comprehend, and strengthened us more in those early days and years following daddy’s death than any of us realized, my dear friend and her family are currently in the thick of it!!! Their entire world is turning upside down and potentially out of control. The death of a parent, I am thoroughly convinced is a pain only kindred to the death of a child or the passing of a spouse. Our beginning…our existence is tightly woven and the existence of us cannot be separated from the other person! I am the combination of my mother and father. If my mother or my father were someone else, I would never have existed as I am…I would be a different person…literally! But I am not someone else…I am the result of the coming together of this man and this woman and without the two of them I am not me…so without them…one or both…who am I????? I really went through a season following daddy’s death where I had to discover who I was without him, because who I was with him and around him could no longer be…Talk about difficult beyond my understanding!!! I had never had to discover who God was without my father being there as a buffer for me. My identity in Christ remained a mystery…But thank God for His grace and compassion on me!!! During those dark days, not only was the Lord my very present help in the time of trouble, he was patient with me as I questioned Him!!! He was kind to me in my anger!!! He was gracious in my struggle to forgive…and He came into my darkness and took me by the hand…and He led me out!!! I am also blessed to have known that I needed His strength…to have understood that if I did not lean and depend on Jesus I would be lost forever. 14 years ago my family lived through the worst night of our lives together thus far…we lived through the night this family just experienced. Today we pray for God’s grace and compassion to envelop this family!!! We pray for God’s presence, His patience, His kindness for this family!! We pray for the Lords hand to take their hands in this darkness, and gently lead them out!!! I am a witness that He is able!! 14 years later we are healed and being healed…we still miss that man terribly…but Gods light continues to light up the darkness!!
Dedicated to Michele, Monica, Melissa, Megan, Meredith, Michael…your husbands and children and extended family. You all will remain in my prayers!!