It’s strange to say your name. After all these years. After that day a little over 8 years ago. When the angels came into the room, standing watch, as your cancer-ridden body finally released your spirit. And you left us here to continue our lives without your presence.
I remember the phone call.
“Taunie. Where are you?”
“I’m in the living room. Why?”
“I need to tell you something.”
I head outside and stand beside the large dumpster dwarfing our driveway.
“They told me…about my dad…he has lung cancer.”
I lean against the dumpster, disbelief sweeping over me. Tears brim my eyes and I try to hold back the cry threatening to explode from the depths of my being.
“He’s going to die. My dad is going to die.”
I have no words. He has no words. So we just hang up.
We prayed. Oh how we prayed and pleaded and begged God to heal you…to remove the cancer from your lungs. We told ourselves “All things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We hoped that all the good, all the love, all you had done would be enough to spare your life. You began chemotherapy in the Arizona desert and we prayed in the Oregon valley. Mother’s day we arrived for a visit and I was shocked to see how much the chemicals had already ravaged your body. But you were still you. Still opinionated. Still joking. Still the man who had managed to worm his way into my heart. Before we left your lungs had filled with fluid and we rushed you to the hospital. I stood outside, feeling hopeless and trying to be strong for my husband and mother-in-law. When you asked Mom when you’d get your award and she asked you for what and you replied, “For solving the mathematical equation to Old McDonald’s Farm.” I laughed and cried at the same time. And in my laughter and tears I felt a deep ache because we couldn’t stop the disease that was taking you away from us.
The next morning the husband and I stopped by to see you before we went home. And I stood there, knowing that I could be saying good-bye but hoping that I wouldn’t. I gave you a hug and willed myself to not cry. My heart was breaking but I wouldn’t show it…couldn’t…because I wanted to have enough faith that God could heal you. You visited in July and my breath was taken away the moment I saw you. And I knew that we’d have to say good-bye. And we took you to our favorite beach and to Mo’s for lunch. And as we walked toward the restaurant your granddaughter took your hand “to help you walk Grandpa.” and I could barely breathe. And then Sister was standing in our driveway. She had just visited you and she said the end was near. And I couldn’t cry and I wanted to ask God why it was so hard for him to answer our prayers. The next morning you were gone and life has never been the same since.
Time heals the pain they tell us and it’s true until you’re driving down the road and a song reminds you that some pains never go away…they just silence for long periods of time.
Yeah this is one of those moments that’s got your name written all over it
And you know that if I have just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this.
Aw you should be here.
You should be here.
And I can’t stop the tears from flowing. I still can’t answer the question of why. Why did a man who could teach the Word like none other have his voiced silenced? Why did a husband who should be enjoying his retirement with his wife lose his life before he could reap the harvest? Why did my husband and sister-in-law have to lose a father who did his best to point them to the Father? Why is he not here to see his beautiful grandchildren grow up? Why couldn’t God have just been willing enough to let this one man live so our family was complete? Sometimes there are no answers that make sense. So I quit asking and I quit trying to figure it out. But I don’t stop myself from letting Abba hear the wounded words of my heart.
You should be here.
You should be here to see your grandson. He’s like you. He sits like you. He puts his hands in his pocket and walks like you. And he’s opinionated and questioning like you. He’s graduating with his welding certificate in 2 months. He has plans to work and save his money and travel around the world. He’s a black belt in martial arts. And he loves history. And I wish you could be here to discuss the fall of Rome and the Bible with him. And just see what a great young man he is. You would be proud of him.
You should be here to see your 1st granddaughter. She’s a bright shining light with a heart of gold. She rides this horse and they jump over fences and I can’t help but smile knowing you’d be amazed to watch her. And that little girl with a heart that wanted to help her grandpa walk still has the big heart. She wants to be a nurse who helps little babies defeat the odds when they are born too early. I wish you were her to help her with biology and anatomy. I know you’d love this girl.
You should be here to see your 2nd granddaughter. She’s the best and the worst of her daddy and I. She’s a gymnast with a sarcastic whit. She’s really good at what she does and I know you’d be cheering as she wins all these medals. She likes debate and talks of being an attorney. The conversations between you and her would be interesting for sure. And when we talk about you and she says, “I don’t even remember him.” my heart hurts. And I whisper, you should be here.
You should be here to see your last granddaughter, the one her cousins called Butterfly baby. She is spunky and as beautiful as her momma. You should see her play the bass that dwarfs her little body. I know you’d be cheering for her as she plays ball. I know you would be her loudest, proudest fan. And I know we’d probably be telling you to not be so loud. But really you should be here to be loud as you want.
You should be here. With us. Watching these babies grow into adults. Sharing all that knowledge in your head with us. Fighting with my son over who was getting the whole pumpkin pie. Saying things that make us scratch our heads and leave us laughing. Not there. Leaving this missing hole in our family.
I’ve never been able to adequately express how much your death affected me. As we drove across the Hoover dam after your memorial service I fought back tears and my husband finally said, “It’s ok, you can cry.” And I sobbed. But none of my tears could bring you back.
The husband tells me to not ask hypothetical questions but I ask them all the time. It’s how I make sense of my world. If you had lived how would our life look? Would we have moved to the desert? Would I still be stuck in a place that was stifling me? Would I be trying to find a way to protect my daughters’ souls from the doctrines that damaged mine? Would I still be arguing with you that the doctrines you taught didn’t make sense? Had you not died and I not experienced first hand the hypocrisy of the ministry would I have ever left?
We will never know for sure that God didn’t heal you because he knew it would save your wife, your son and daughter-in-law, daughter and grandchildren from a place that was killing our spirits. We can’t know that if you lived you would have been put into a position that would kill your own spirit. We can only submit to the truth: cancer consumed your body and took you away from us. We can only remember the memories we have of who you were and what you did and share those memories with our children. And we can believe and hope that one day, when it’s our turn to have the angels stand and watch over us, our spirits will be reunited with yours. Until that time…we miss you.