Sunday, May 15, 2016

Picking Up the Pieces, 6 months later

"So I continue to cling to hope during this time. Hope because I know of my dad's faith. Hope because I know that this too shall pass; I will start to feel like myself again one day. Hope because dad's suffering will end. Hope because I know he will live on through me." From the positing "Broken and Empty" on November 6, 2015
I wrote that paragraph just over 6 months ago. A few days later a hope that was already deflated was shattered even further. A broken heart turned into a heart completely demolished. I still remember waking up in the very early hours of morning and getting the news that my dad was gone. I knew it was coming. I knew for 2 months that it could happen at anytime. I knew for a year that this was a very real possibility. Still...still it hurt like hell. That hope that I was so desperately clinging to become increasingly difficult to find. I felt so lost and alone even though I was in a sea of people pouring out love.

Several people told me "you learn to find a new normal". Thanksgiving came about 2 weeks later along with dad's birthday that same week. As much as I wanted to sit at home alone I knew that I had to fight to move forward. I searched for that new normal. And guess what? Those people were right. The new normal doesn't feel quite right. But I've learned to accept it as reality.

The week that dad passed I remember sitting in my living room realizing that I had a choice. I could flip God off and blame him for all of my pain and loss. I could try to do it on my own; I could find my own way to ease the pain. OR, I could press into the very one that promised us peace and comfort. I knew that I would eventually end up on my knees looking to Heaven for comfort. I figured that I might as well start there and avoid the detour of doing it on my own. So that is what I did. I won't go into details but I will say that I cannot even imagine going through that pain on my own.

I wrote before about how Psalm 23 says that "He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death...". I will say it again - the key word there is through. God doesn't lead us there and say "well, all the best. See you on the other side, kiddo.". He promises to go with us through the valley. And his word says that it's only a shadow. Why? Because his word also says that death has been defeated.
Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting?
We tend to think of death in terms of loss; so many said "he (my dad) lost his battle with cancer. I call BS on that as I have done every day for the past 6 months. I had the honor of speaking at the gravesite about this very thing. Here is a portion of what I said.
My dad did not lose this dad held to a faith in the one that has conquered death - Jesus Christ. And he professed that faith even in the end...Because of that my dad won this fight...he is in a place where sickness and death do not exist...
Because of my dad's professed faith his death was a mere shadow thanks for the one the defeated death for all of eternity. I found my first shred of hope in knowing that my dad won the battle and received a new body free of cancer and free of pain. It was in that very truth that I found the courage to do the simplest task of getting out of bed every morning.

It wasn't easy. There were many times that I couldn't keep it together and had to get up from my desk and just walk away; the cold water from the bathroom sink and I were very close many days. But I held onto the hope and comfort of God like my life depended on it. And eventually I managed to find sleep again. I managed to make it through a day without falling apart. Life started to move on.

It's been just over 6 months now since my dad passed away and I would be lying if I said that the pain was not still there; I still hurt and I still miss him deeply. But I have been slowly finding that "new normal" that people told me about 6 months ago. I'm slowly picking up the shattered pieces of my heart and allowing my Heavenly Father to put them back together. I'm starting to see how "God is working [this] thing together for good...". I sometimes can't shake the feeling that "I'm now an orphan". But still I cling to my Father in Heaven that calls me son. And still I move on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dad did not LOSE his fight

I think that it's easy to say "dad lost his fight with cancer". But I think that that statement could not be more wrong. Dad fought. He fought hard and courageously. My dad was a strong warrior all the way up until the end. Cancer struck and he punched back every step of the way. I remember days where, despite the pain and frustration, he laughed and joked. Even played a few hands of poker with Ashley and I. He gave me advice on relationships as we sat together in his room. And he was always sure to ask how I was doing and how work was going. Dad never stopped being dad. Dad never stopped fighting.

In the end, yes, dad passed. But again, he did not lose this fight. There is One that came and conquered sickness and death for good, Jesus Christ. And my dad acknowledged and professed that in his heart he trusted in that Savior.  In the midst of my dad's fight, he knew where he was going at the end. My dad did not give up. He simply trusted that this was not the end. 

Dad did not lose his fight because he died. Because he died, he gained a new body free of sickness, free of sadness, and filled with joy and peace. My dad fought with every ounce of strength that he had, and then some. And my dad WON his battle proving that not even a physical death could keep him down. My dad is eternally alive and I take as much rest as I can in knowing that I will be with him again one day. My dad is the victor in this fight. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Where to start...I hurt. A lot.

Last week marked one year since I took off of work to take dad to the doctor. One year ago we we hearing the word cancer. One year ago everything was going to be okay. 

This past year has been a whirlwind marked with hope and hope deflated. On September 30th the news became the worst. The treatments were not working. There was nothing else that could be done. 

Over the past 40 days I've watched as dad's health continued to decline. He lost even more weight and became even less communicative. Then, last night dad passed. For 40 days I have been preparing myself. Part of me has known for even longer I think. Still, it hurts. A lot. 

Part of me is joyful. Dad was sure of his faith; he knew where he was going. Dad is in Heaven with a new body. One that is free of cancer forever. Dad is no longer suffering and he never will again. Still, the pain is so real. I can't help but think of the things that dad will miss. He won't see me get married. He won't hold my future children. He won't ever see my name on a book cover. So many more. 

I promised to be real in this blog. I promised to share my true heart in are vulnerability. So, here it is. This sucks. And I don't know how to do this. This past year has beat the crap out of me. I don't know what to do from here. The loss of my dad is a pain like none other. 

But in this time, my feet will learn a new dance of worship. Psalm 23 says that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The key word there is THROUGH. We walk through it. And it is God Himself that walks us through. I struggle right now to see it, but I know that the darkness will break. I see past the darkness and the hurt and I see the hope. Because if I can't, then there's no point in going forward. 

I can't do this Lord, but You can. So I trust. 

"And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, The Message

Friday, November 6, 2015

Broken and empty

Another blog I don't know how to write but yet feel the need to do so anyway. 
The past few weeks have been hard. Really hard. Watching dad suffer sucks. Seeing the amount of pain he is in despite the morphine is painful. If I could, I would gladly take his pain myself to give him comfort in his last few days. Dealing with family drama is unwelcome and unneeded but yet it is coming up. Yet, every day I put on this fake smile and I go about my day. I pretend like everything is okay  
Yet, what many don't realize is that so often the times I get up and walk away from my desk it is because I'm not holding it together anymore. When I go home at night, I sit on the couch and find it so hard to want to do anything. I feel like I haven't my been myself at all the past few weeks. I feel empty and broken inside.
Last week during some quite time I just confessed to The Lord my emptiness. I cried out that I have nothing left to give. Then I was reminded of the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. We tend to focus on the miracle-which is pretty amazing. But I was drawn to the little boy in the story.
This little boy has just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. And Jesus wants to feed 5000 men, plus women and children with this boy's food. Talk about feeling empty and having nothing to give! I feel like that boy. What I have to offer emotionally seems so insignificant. Yet, my reminder was that in Jesus' hands, that emptiness can do so much.
So I continue to cling to hope during this time. Hope because I know of my dad's faith. Hope because I know that this too shall pass; I will start to feel like myself again one day. Hope because dad's suffering will end. Hope because I know he will live on through me.
There's hope but for now, it just sucks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Simply Raw

Long ago I started this blog in an effort to be more real and vulnerable. It was meant to be a place to share the real me. So, in the midst of a very difficult time, I write. I don't know why but tonight just seems to be harder. And I am just tired. So here it is: Simply Raw.

As dad shared the news 2 weeks ago that there were no more treatments my world shattered. The hope we had all been holding to for him to get well was gone. Nothing can ever prepare you for that kind of news. There're no words to describe the knife cutting pain that that news brings. 

The past two weeks are a bit of a blur. I took a couple of days off of work to spend with dad. I was back to work Monday. I haven't told too many people at work about dad's health. But the ones that do know have been incredible. The family that I work for has been incredibly supportive. The guys in my department are so encouraging. My buddy Ms. Dianne that likes to pick on me (all in fun) has been absolutely supportive and asks often. But overall, I go to work and out on this fake smile and pretend like nothing is wrong. I sit down at my desk and just try to focus on work. But overtime the phone rings I have this sinking feeling that it's going to be the call that I am dreading. I look up and see a photo of dad above my desk and sometimes I have to fight back the flood of emotions and tears. 

I'm tired. I don't sleep well. I can't fall asleep easily and I can't stay asleep when I finally do fall asleep. I close my eyes and my mind drifts to what dad is going through. I think of the memories that I have with him. How he taught me to ride a bike and throw a ball. How he taught me how to swim. The times we went camping. The day and weekend trips we took. The movies we saw. How we used to sit and watch Lost together and drink a cold beer. The time he took me out onto the roof of his old house before he moved and we talked about life. I think of how he helped me get my first job so I could buy a gold watch in high school. I think of the college visits and the times he visited with me in West Chester. I think to how proud he is with how I handled leaving my life in Kenya. I think of how he was always there for me when I needed him the most. 

I'm tired. I come home and have no motivation to do anything. The hurt is real and it's deep. I'd give anything to make it go away. I'd give anything for dad to be well. There is so much left that I want him around for. I think of all that he won't see. I think of Star Wars in December. For the first time in nearly 20 years I will see it in theaters without him. I think of my future wedding that he won't be at. I think of how he will never meet my future children. I think of how he will never see if I end up in another country again. I think of how I won't be able to call him for advice or just to catch up. I will never look at photos of his trips again nor will I show him mine. 

I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of pretending that nothing is wrong when inside my heart is shattered into a million pieces. I'm tired of trying to avoid the subject as often as possible for fear that I won't be able to hold it all together. Speaking of, I'm tired of having to hold it all together when I just want to collapse most of the time. 

I'm tired of not being me. I hate being in crowds. I ran powerpoint at church last Sunday and ran out as fast as I could. I filmed a marriage seminar this past weekend at church and snuck out as soon as it was over. I just didn't feel like talking to anyone. I just want to feel like myself again. The guy that can hang out in a crowd of people and enjoy himself. Instead, All I can do now is look for the nearest except route. 

I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. BUT, as I wrote in my last blog, I continue to cling to any shred of hope that I can find. It all feels so hopeless right now. But I know that there is hope. I know that. But, damn...right now...I'm struggling to find it. I know that the next season is going to continue to be difficult. The Holidays are going to suck this year. There are some really dar and heavy times in the very near future. But I also know that, eventually, I will have a blog to write on overcoming this. A blog that highlights the hope that carried me through. Until then...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What is hope?

Where to start? I don't know how to write this. I don't want to write this. Yet I feel that I need to write this. I don't know why, but I just need to.

Last year dad used the word that no one wants to hear: cancer. It was hard to hear that word. But there was hope. One quick out patient surgery and he would be okay. That surgery ended up being far more invasive and took about 16 hours. But there was hope. 

Dad was on the mend. He went on vacation then back for a check up. He hasn't left since. But still, there was hope. Chemotherapy was started and there was hope for a recovery. In time the neck brace he wore came off. He was taken off of the oxygen and he could breath on his own. Complications from the first surgery got better. He got out of bed and could stand for a short time. He even managed a few steps as he learned to use his legs again. Hope was growing. Then things turned again as the cancer spread. But there were more treatments to be done. There was hope. 

This summer saw a long period of Chemotherapy. It was hopeful. He got sick a few times but there was hope. The chemo ended last week and then came the words that no one wanted to hear but we all, in a way, knew were coming. 

The first text was short. “Worst news possible”, followed by a “will call later”. That call came around 3pm last Wednesday. I got up from my desk at work and sat in a corner as hidden as I could be as my dad told me how the cancer was spreading too fast and there was nothing more that could be done; he has about 2 months left to live. My eyes filled with tears. I didn't know what to say. How do you respond to that? All that I could manage to say was “dad, I'm so sorry”. We hung up and I sat there for what felt like hours. Paralyzed and unable to move. My head in my hands and tears hitting the floor. 
Where was the hope? 

I took a few days off of work. I spent a day on my own as I began to process. Then I spent the weekend with dad and at his place cleaning it out. 

Over the past week I've been overwhelmed with the thought of loss. Sitting on the floor of his house looking at photos I realized I will never sit there with him again. I sat in his car and knew I'd never drive with him again. Star Wars comes out in December-a franchise that I've seen all of in the theaters with him. This one I'll see alone as a tradition ends. Then I thought of bigger things. He'll never see me get married. He won't hold the grandchildren I would one day give him. He'll never read the book I want to write…So many experiences that I always imagined him being a part of were immediately gone. Hope seemed shattered. 

Where is the hope?

A friend sent me a text with the verse Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE.” 

That damned word: hope. Just how do you feel hope when the world around you feels hopeless

But it is there. That hope is an ever present hope. Hope is more than some word that Christians made up to comfort one another. That hope is alive. That hope is precious. That hope is something that cannot be taken away by anyone or any circumstance. But that hope is something that must be sought. 

I've found hope in knowing that I will be with him again one day. I've found hope in knowing that the reason the loss is so great is because of a great relationship with dad; the pain of loss means that there is something beautiful being lost. I've found hope because while he may never hold my future children, the lessons that he has taught me are lessons I will one day teach them. I've found hope in knowing that as long as I live, a piece of him lives on - he's shaped me into the man that I am today. 

I found hope because the alternative sucks.  I don't want to go through these next few months without hope. So I'll keep looking. And I will cling so tightly to every single shred of hope that I can find. I will desperately hold to the Hope of the world, Jesus. The One that has defeated death. And because of that HOPE, I will get through this season. The hope will not make it easy or take away the pain. But it does, and will continue, to make it bearable. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

For my dad: you weren't there, but then you were


You weren't there the day I was born.
You weren't there when I first rolled over or took my first step.
You weren't there for my first words.
You weren't there the nights I went hungry or slept on the sidewalks.
You weren't there through the abuse or neglect.
You weren't there...

But dad... then you WERE there.
Dad and me when I was a child
Adoption day

You were there when you read a story of an 8 year old boy that needed a daddy.
You were there when my social worked first introduced us.
You were there September 17, 1993 when my adoption was final - you were truly my dad.

You were there when I screamed at you and made life difficult.
You were there when I thought that you would kick me out just like my birth father did.
You were there to comfort me when I was afraid of the dark.

You were there to teach me to ride a bike and how to throw a ball.
You were there to teach me to dive and how to swim.
You were there to teach me math and a love for reading.
You were there to introduce me to the worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek.
You were there to take me to see those movies - even into adulthood.

You were there to take me camping.
You were there to hold my hand as I was terrified of roller coasters.
You were there at my little league and soccer games.
You were there at my band concerts.

You were there to straighten me out as my grades slipped.
You were there to take me on college visits.
You were there as I filled out applications and got accepted to my dream college.
You were there when I needed a place to stay for summers.

You were there to sit with me on the roof of your house and talk about life.
You were there for dinners as we talked about my future.
You were there to gently guide me along the way.
You were there to push me when I need pushing.
You were there to hold me when I needed comforting.

You were there when I started working full time.
You were there when I quit my job and moved to Africa.
You were there to take me to the airports and pick me up when I came home on visits.
You were there to give me a place to rest my head on those same visits.

Dad, you taught me well.

You taught me how a man ought to love.
You taught me to open the car door for women.
You taught me always to be present for the ones I love.
You taught me to hold the door open for those behind me.

You taught me to be happy.
You taught me to chase my dreams.
You taught me to be responsible.

You taught me to how to drive a car.
You taught me how to do my taxes.
You taught me how to work a computer.

You taught me to work hard.
You taught me to always give 100% in any job.
You taught me to be patient.
You taught me to have fun and not be too serious all the time.

Dad, you raised me well.

You raised me to be a strong man.
You raised me to believe in myself.
You raised me to love others.
You raised me not to settle for anything less than my own happiness.

Dad, overtime someone says "you were raised well" I smile because it was you who raised me.

Dad, you brought me up well. I am the man that I am because of you. You were the daddy that I wanted as a child and you're the father that I love as an adult. And now it's my turn to be there for you. You raised me from a scared, little boy into a confident young man. When I was 8 years old you were a stranger that invited me into his home and into his family. Now, 23 years later, you are not a stranger. You are my father and you are my friend. I love you dad. Get well soon. You still have more to be there for. I need you to be there when I get married and have children. I need you to be there when I buy a house. I need you, dad. I have so much more to learn from you.

I love you dad,