Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dear Sweet Sixteen Emily

Each year since I was 13, on my birthday I have written a letter to myself one, five, or ten years in the future (or all three, depending on how much time I have on that particular birthday). 

Read this post from 2015 for my reply to my 13 year old self at 23: 

I'm choosing to reply to my sixteen year old self today as well, because she asked me to. 

Dear Sweet Sixteen -
You have such confidence, starting your letter with "no matter what happens, it's the way God intended it to be". That was far easier to say at sixteen in your tragedy free life. How could you know that in ten years, you'd lose your beloved Daddy? You couldn't possibly have predicted that, but I can tell you that confidence in God's control will serve you well over the next ten years, and know that God can handle it when you don't know if that's true - he's still around in those moments too.

You ask if I remember my friend Bethany from high school. Yes, little Em, I not only remember her, but her mom, who drives you home so often and challenges your thinking in a polite but firm manner, also passed out of this life in the past year. And I have held onto her friendship because she has seen much of the same grief I've seen and is there when we need her, and has poured her life in to mine as I have poured ours into hers. We went to different colleges and she traveled all over the world, but something has held us together, and she sent me postcards from all over the world and I honestly couldn't be more grateful for the friendship that we have.

You talk about love, and the "brilliant feelings" that certain young men give you when they walk by, but say that you're "waiting for true love, like Dave and Julie have". First, let me say that Dave and Julie are pretty good examples. They shared their lessons on marriage with me and Ryan when we got married, and one of the lessons was that it won't always be "brilliant feelings", or as Dave said it "there's not always going to be fireworks". Marriage is challenging, but rewarding. It's waking up every day next to the man you promised to support and partner with forever and choosing each day to continue to love and support him, as he chooses to love and support you. So while yes, sometimes he gives me the "brilliant feelings", mostly he's just a good person who takes care of me while I take care of him and we are happy together. (also, why are you so overly poetic? just say it's a crush!)

You ask about all your friends - some have naturally faded away, and that is OK. Some are closer than ever, but I talked about that when I wrote back to us at thirteen. In general, friendships are a two way street - you can put in a lot of effort, and some people just won't put the effort in back. Those people are not worth it, just let them go. The ones that put effort into relationships with you, those are worth it. Like my friend Christina (who you haven't met yet), or Lindsey, who you have - those are relationships that are easy to maintain because you both put in the effort to stay in touch.

In the end you ask about family - our siblings, our cousins, am I living with Mom and Dad - and again, I can't help but see how you take Mom and Dad for granted. You assume I'll still have the choice of being with both of them because why wouldn't I? I'm sure the day you wrote this, you and Dad had lunch or dinner together, just the two of you. I don't get to do that today, and I miss it. As I move forward, I'm going to try not to take Mom for granted.

Enjoy your teens, little Em. Daddy calls you his rosebud - I guess I'm a fully blossomed rose, with some thorns in my life, but mostly a full life, a bright rose.
- Emily at 26

Saturday, May 12, 2018

After Dad's Service

Today was Dad's memorial service. I was dreading it all week, knowing there would be a huge number of people in attendance and that I would feel like I was on display for everyone there. And there were a LOT of people there. And there was a lot of noise and a lot of talking and a lot of people asking how I was and if I was OK and telling me what a great man they thought he was and needing to be thanked for coming. But mostly, it was better than I had anticipated. Those who spoke on his life spoke eloquently on their memories of him and worked to highlight his strengths. And while a few moments of the things that people said caused tears, I was mostly fine. So that was good.

My Uncle Dan wrote a great message in the guest book. Paraphrasing, he said that we can't let this illness be what we remember of David - rather, we have to remember him how he was. This was a good message to read, as it has been especially hard for me to recall anything more than the his final months recently. Not that I don't have other memories, but the reality of the end of his life and what it was like is so much more vivid to me, because of the strain of it, and because of how recently it occurred. So I'm working to remember other things, better things, moments not shadowed by cancer.

I am acutely aware of the lack of his presence some times. When my sister flew in from TN, and we were all in one room, save for Dad, at that moment I felt a keen sense of loss. Yet in other moments, I feel as if nothing has changed, except that I feel a general sense of sadness, a cloud that's with me because I know that my dad is gone, even if I don't miss him in that moment. I can't pinpoint why I'm sad, or what made me sad, I just feel this cloud descend every so often. In the past week, I have thought of a number of things over the days that I would loved to have told him - things about APL, and about what I'm doing there, things about church, and things just about my life in general. But I also don't feel the same heavy weight of grief that I felt watching him in the last two weeks of his life. I feel a sense of peace, and a sense that this grief is different from what I felt before. It's easier to carry around with me. It's more manageable. It will be with me for a long time, perhaps even the rest of my life, but it will be gentler. The crashing waves have mostly passed, for now.

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Series of Rhyming Couplets

I feel like most people know, but if you don't, my Dad passed away this past Friday.
Everyone keeps asking me about it. I am not a very good poet, but it felt like a poem moment.

"How was your weekend?" they say.
And mostly, I just say "okay".

Because I don't want to see pity in their eyes.
I don't want to hear "oh, I'm so sorry" and sighs.

I loved my Dad, I love him still, no questions there.
But I don't know how I feel and I don't want to share.

My dad was certainly great, I can agree.
But death doesn't make a saint, by any decree.

So don't make it like he was perfect because then I feel bad
For holding memories of moments that were sad.

There were things today I wish he could be told about,
Yes, I'm gonna miss him, I have no doubt.

But I don't feel like crying and I'm mostly fine.
And I'm sorry if that doesn't fit with your line.

You have to remember, we were given a warning
Time to prepare for this kind of mourning.

You must keep in mind that I truly believe,
That there's something greater, a precious reprieve.

Realize our feelings of loss started a while ago,
When I learned just how fast cancer could grow.

And many of you say, yes, the gospel, that's the hope,
But you still must feel some need to cry and to cope?

I know you all mean well and I do feel that love,
But I can't get where you want with a push and a shove.

I don't need you just yet, but I know that I will.
So, friends, please wait a while. Just chill.

You can't tell me how to grieve, you can't tell me how to feel.
Just leave me alone, I'll come to you, let me heal.