Yesterday, I attended a funeral in my home town.
It was strange to me, as I hit the ramp to take my exit. Memories tend to bubble up and I have to evaluate whether that is a good thing. Sometimes I want to laugh and smile. Other times I want to cry or block out the thoughts that surface.
I’ve learned that suppression isn’t always the best way to deal. I won’t lie. Going “home” is hard.
So as I took the ramp I remember. …I remembered passing my dad a few times on that same ramp, driving my Dodge 600, fondly named “Columbus,” with the thumping stereo system.
How foolish I must’ve looked.
Dad would be in his dump truck, cruising slowly up the hill with a full bed of rock he’d loaded at the Auxvasse quarry. I would zip by him, waving and laughing at my opportunity to not have to drive behind the slowpoke all the way into town.
Time stood still for me…just for that moment. And then reality sunk in. Next weekend I will watch my dad say goodbye to his home. He will sell something that’s been a part of his life since he was a young boy. A home he’s held onto for several years after the passing of my grandparents. Retirement is now evident – so he will let go of all of the trucks and machinery that remain in this place in order to pursue a new chapter.
Retirement. I have to use that word loosely because it just seems out of step as part of a sentence describing my dad. The man with the dump truck who’s image is still the same in my mind.
Everything changes. Swiftly. Surely…
I stayed in my zone all the way to the church. The same church in which I had spoken my wedding vows just twelve years prior. Descending the stairs to the basement where I’d put on that beautiful, ivory dress was a surreal moment. Life doesn’t seem to pass so quickly. But it does.
Nevertheless, there would be no lives coming together that day as one. Instead, we were about to say goodbye to a man that I’d only met a few times. And I was about to hug the family who’s hearts were breaking over the empty days ahead.
There is so much perspective that comes from these moments. You can almost see it in the air when it happens and then it hovers there like a mist, allowing you to inhale it to the fullest. The reality of it all can be quite intoxicating.
We become so comfortable in our oblivious state of everything that is good and joyful and palpable and we don’t think beyond that moment. The significance behind it all sets in and we wonder about things like purpose and influence and numbering our days.
I think of these song lyrics:
Teach me to number my days
And count every moment
Before it slips away
Take in all the colors
Before they fade to grey
I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this
It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?
So my question is – what do we do with the change? What do we do in the change?
As I looked around at that old church, adorned with its beautifully tall stained glass windows, I realized that the past continues to slip through my fingers like a hand full of sand. Slowly, over the years, pieces of my childhood tend to disappear as I embrace adulthood and say goodbye to the people, places and things that were once very much a part of my existence. I clutch my new family tightly as I grow into more of a mother and a wife each and every day and there’s a whisper inside my head that wonders why I can’t have it both ways. Why it can’t always stay the same but progress at the same time.
The feel of the musty air settles on the days behind me
as they are closed within the hope chest of life.
And it was then that I watched this family say goodbye to someone special. Someone who’s legacy lives on, but who’s flesh will no longer reach out to comfort them in the way they will remember.
Saying goodbye to almost anything can be painful. We are grateful for our salvation and the gift of heaven that awaits but we selfishly try to hang on to what fills us from a tangible perspective.
Life can be difficult. Change can be difficult. Growth can be difficult.
But we are loved by Someone who wants us to lean into the love, into the grace, into the forgiveness – into every bit of who He is so that He can absorb the impact of it all. As much as I might tend to think so, my arms were not designed to carry the weight of this life. But His were.
We can’t stop the clock for ourselves or anyone else. We can’t prevent the change. We certainly can’t remove the pain or say the words that are really going to matter or patch the marriage or give back the loved one or take away the illness or reinstate the job.
We are helpless to be helpful in this way.
But we can be in the wake. We can be in the wake of the circumstance by offering the hands and the feet of the One who brings the peace. The One who brings the comfort.
We can embrace those who are in the middle of their change. Who are hurting from that which is different from the days, weeks or months before.
It happens in a blink and then it’s gone. But we certainly don’t have to do it alone…
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
*Above lyrics quoted from “Blink” by Revive
Today I’m linking up with the following authors to share my story:
Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart
Jennifer- I love this- every word. So beautifully and creatively written – it was a very thought provoking post! I got choked up on the part about your dad – because I and my family now live in the home my dad built for us, and since he died before my mom and therefore before we moved in, he never knew. This plade was his absolute dream – a stone ranch home with tools in the garage, a mower in the shed, and woodworking equipment to turn out anything little thing I asked for at a moment’s notice as the kids were growing up (“Dad – the toddlers can’t reach the sink to brush their teeth. Can you build me a stool?” It appeared the next day.)Retirement was good for him, but he never, ever wanted to leave this place to go live somewhere else. It would have been the end to him. And now here I am and here we are and I absolutely adore being here and even though our home is small, I can’t imagine living anywhere else except between these walls that he so lovingly put together with his own two hands.
ok gotta go now…tearing up….
Thank you, Beth – for the encouragement and for sharing your own little story right here in my space. I feel blessed to have gotten to know you through our group. 🙂
“My arms were not designed to carry the weight of this life”- that resonated with me. Yesterday was a dark one for me, I got brave and blogged about it but didn’t share it in the InCourage group. I love the freshness of perspective even though it’s cost isn’t cheap. Death is sobering. ((Hugs))
Thank you, Hope!
Jennifer, you asked: what do we do with the change? What do we do in the change? It seems to me that change is like giving birth; it involves expansion and contraction. An example from your post would be that expansion is broadening our view, such as considering the former and latter generations (your dad as former and your children as latter). Simultaneously or alternatively, it also involves contraction and that is the lovely comments you made about focussing on the present moment and leaning directly into pain and joy. Loved everything you wrote.
Thank you so much, Jan!
Jennifer, beautifully written. It’s funny how we get nostalgic and reflective during different life events. Most days, we are too busy rushing here and there to think about how brief this life really is. I was just saying to my husband this other day. “we’ve been in this house for 14 years and we still haven’t done…” Yes, time flies and even though we talk about slowing down to enjoy the moment, we seldom do, at least, I don’t. And as life hurries by, change will happen, to all of us.
“We can embrace those who are in the middle of their change. Who are hurting from that which is different from the days, weeks or months before.” Many times, I have made the excuse that I am too busy to help someone. I think we can all convince ourselves of this and make excuses. But if we are to be hope for someone in a dark and self-absorbed world, we need to take the time, stop, and get off our treadmills of life and be the face of Jesus in the midst of heartache and brokenness. I am learning that if we don’t do this more, life WILL race us by and we will get to the end of life and say, “What was my purpose? Did I leave this world a slightly better place?”
Thank you for this wonderful reminder!
Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement, Mei. It truly means a lot to me.
“But we can be in the wake. We can be in the wake of the circumstance by offering the hands and the feet of the One who brings the peace. The One who brings the comfort.
We can embrace those who are in the middle of their change. Who are hurting from that which is different from the days, weeks or months before.”
Your post made me think of how I believe it begins with us showing up. Jesus will be right there when we do and he will use us to bring peace and comfort to those in need. But we need to show up. And often that is all that is required. Simply being there.
Beautiful post, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing with TWW.