Two years ago today, it was Thanksgiving, and cold. I wasn't at a table full of food, surrounded by laughter and family stories like usual, though. I was in a hospital room with my mom, brother, and Tyler. My aunt and grandma had gone; grandma didn't fully understand, but she understood enough, and she needed to rest. We who were left in that room were mostly silent. We were exhausted from the days before--physically and emotionally--and the right words really weren't there anyway.
Two years ago today, on that Thanksgiving, in that hospital room in St. Louis, I watched my dad take his final breath.
I don't know if you've ever seen anyone die, but it's eerie. Undeniably spiritual. You know it immediately, but you still can't believe it. I fully felt nearly every human emotion within a span of about ten seconds--disbelief, rage, relief, fear, guilt, and crushingly powerful grief.
The weirdest part is, after all that--I understood what I had seen, but I couldn't make it real.
It's still not real.
So many times I see something that would have made him laugh, and I immediately think, "I need to tell dad about that." My car starts acting funny, and he's the first person I think to call. I almost bought him a Christmas present last week. Two years seems like an awfully long time to be in the denial stage of grief, but I don't know what else you would call that.
It took me almost a year to feel God again. Looking back now, I can see Him so clearly weaving in and out of those moments--preparing us for them in ways we didn't understand at the time, protecting us from some of their weight. I just couldn't see Him through all of the guilt and grief and chaos. I honestly felt abandoned by Him, but I know I wouldn't have survived it if I truly had been.
This is the first time I've written any of this story down--even a shadow like this one. It's seemed too permanent, I think. Really, though, I needed to tell that story as a background for this:
This time of year is hard for me, to put it lightly. It's so incredibly easy for me to wallow in self-pity, start to get a little depressed, to resent Thanksgiving and rage against the thought of being thankful on a day that stole so much from me. A couple weeks ago, when I was beginning to slide into it yet again, this thought popped into my head:
"Thankfulness has nothing to do with the contents of your life, and everything to do with the condition of your heart."
Punch in the gut. I have so very very much for which to be thankful. If I had nothing but life itself, I would still have reason for gratitude. Even in this very situation, I was letting the event of my father's death overshadow the 26 years I should be thanking God to have had with him. What a horrible way to "honor" my dad--by holding onto grief and resentment over the fact that he's gone instead of celebrating the many incredible memories he left behind. He deserves better.
Thanksgiving is still hard--really really hard. This year carries with it a little different perspective, though....and a lot more gratitude.