Since losing my dad a few weeks ago, I’ve been living in the Land of Both/And. It’s where two diametrically opposed feelings co-exist. Both gratitude and disappointment, both acceptance and sadness, both peace and grief. I’m feeling it all.
Dad was blessed with 92 amazing years. His heart and mind were as beautiful as his good looks. And, his legacy of kindness and love impacted so many. He was my buddy from Day 1, joking how I’d hang onto him as a little one and refuse to let others hold me. His sense of humor, sometimes sprinkled with naughtiness, kept us all giggling. A master storyteller, he shared the most fascinating, inspiring stories of his life. Dad was my first role model of love in action as a Christian, husband, father, and so much more.
When Mom died, I had a difficult time accepting it. Her death was unexpected and shocked us all. I wasn’t ready, and I fought the grief. Dad’s death was a completely opposite experience for me. I could see him slowing down, ever so slightly, over the last few years. Most recently, his 12 days of hospice care prepared me well for what was to come. I got to love on Dad each day and say goodbye. So, although I really miss him, I’m okay knowing that he’s okay. Both/And.
I wish I could end this post right here – that I’m fully at peace, even in my grief. But, there’s a plot twist: I missed Dad’s funeral. Had no idea that COVID would be the culprit that literally put me on my back minutes before heading to his service that day.
My hubby, kids, and I were all dressed and almost ready to leave for the funeral with the rest of our family. Just before our meet-up time, I suddenly became extremely warm and sick to my stomach. I couldn’t keep anything down. I eventually collapsed back into bed, completely weak, sweating. Just sick-sick.
I cried hot tears, realizing my body would not cooperate. My hubby and sister tag-teamed me and insisted I stay put, that my health was first. I disagreed, but it didn’t matter. I was so weak that I couldn’t even open my eyes to view the service online on my hubby’s phone. I could only listen, catching bits here and there. I was miserable, inside and out. Later that day, an at-home test confirmed it was COVID. I thought, “Really, Lord? I’ve. Never. Had. COVID. And it shows up now like a raging bull, of all days, TODAY?!?”
Once-in-a-lifetime moments like funerals never offer do-overs. I lay in bed, heartbroken I wasn’t celebrating Dad’s life with my family and community. I wasn’t there to comfort my teenager at the church and cemetery. I missed hugging Dad’s sisters, Mom’s sisters, so many cousins who traveled near and far to be with us.
And, while I see — and am even grateful for — God’s wisdom in keeping me from spreading COVID to countless folks at the funeral, it still hurts. I feel sad, even shame and guilt. How could I – the one who cared for Dad for so many years – not be there? It just feels all wrong.
My siblings and I were always a tight team when it came to supporting Dad after Mom died 15 years ago. As his needs changed, I became his primary care helper, eventually moving him in to live with us. During his final years in a memory care residence nearby, I saw him regularly. And when he received hospice care, I was with him twice a day.
I share these details not for accolades, but for context. To miss celebrating Dad’s life after being there with and for him so long, front and center, feels like a cruel joke. It’s like I ran a marathon with Dad all those years, but COVID didn’t let me cross the finish line. It stole my ability to honor his beautiful, extraordinary life with our family.
God gave me time to say goodbye to Dad, and I’m grateful. And, I know he’s happy with my mom, brother, and so many loved ones in a Far Better Place. I have peace knowing all of that. I just don’t have peace missing our family’s farewell moment, our celebration of Dad’s life together.
Yet, even as I wrestle with peace, I’m choosing to lean into Both/And. I’m relying on James 1:2-4 and remembering Mom’s wisdom that “time takes care of everything.” James and Mom have been right many times in my life. I’m trusting that, down the road apiece, this experience will be one of those times, too.