Written By Ryan Walters
My younger sister, one of the most beautiful & strong-willed women I’ve met to date as well as being one of the toughest shells to crack emotionally, texted me this yesterday,
“Guess what movie I’m watching? Ice Age…miss him.”
I wasn’t puzzled for a moment. I was not caught off guard by the random sort of sisterly text a brother receives from his beloved sibling missing him quite a bit from the opposite side of the country; coast to coast. We were on the same page the second the notification ‘delivered’ appeared. My sister was being reminded through a light-hearted film of my deceased father; a movie we’d watch often together as a family, one of few activities we did together besides snowboarding, tossing the frisbee, eating Shaw’s frozen pizza and a bag of peas or playing our own family renditions of songs we mutually loved by the fireplace. It seems as though her heart is prompted by many an image, phrase, movie, song, sport among other things returning my dad’s memory to her present collection of thoughts. I can only say this confidently because of the plethora of these sorta’ texts I get from her every once in a while, God bless her.
I’m reflecting on this text more so this morning in a Pacific Northwest coffee shop by the name of ‘Queen Bee’ [feeling convicted to thrown that in there] because the bottom right corner of my laptop screen reads “12/17/14”. Then it hits me. 943 days have passed since the 10:45am notification of a phone call I was given by my step mom alerting me hysterically of my father’s sudden passing from the night before [sidenote: I am not a math geek. It took me a few minutes to come up with 943].
Next thing you know, my ‘Dad’ ITunes playlist is soaring through my ear passageways. Coincidentally, a moment in time recently had brought to my attention the essential need to reflect on where I am currently at with processing my dad’s passing; an event that tends to avoid my undivided consideration (and I don’t pretend to possess the knowledge of why besides being so ruthlessly busy & having such a full life with not too many breaks far and between). So while being serenaded by Billy Joel, Anna Nalick, Coldplay oldies and others (artists of fatherly-remembrance who have held a sentimental piece in my heart for the previous almost thousand days to date), I realize it’s time to allow some healing, restorative reflection by journaling or blogging my contemplations; mostly for my own benefit but who knows, maybe some readers can relate or offer empathetic advice upon scrolling through these raw words being spewed without much hesitation.
I generally think of myself as an ordinary millennial thriving not surviving. Spiritually, I’m coming to know my Savior progressively through biblical discipleship sessions and crucial conversations provided by the urban mission’s institute I’ve resided with the past three months. Physically, I have a sprained thumb and messed up knee due to falsely believing I’m superman and can hop right back into sports like I was back in my college glory days. However, these constant minor injuries are doing their job of teaching me patience and common sense. Socially, I have no problem getting my ‘fill’ because I’m consistently being surrounded by either thirty other individuals who I live with in a four floor, early 1900’s monastery, forty young males and females in a juvenile detention hall I have the pleasure of mentoring or the small group of highly committed persons I intern alongside combatting the commercial sex trade.
After the process of elimination, I’m left with where I am at mentally at twenty three years of age with not a ‘tied-down’ feeling whatsoever besides being restrained to paying off school and car loans, of course. I don’t know the spotless definition of “healthy cognition” when processing a death of a loved one. I haven’t been given much in intellectual terms even when I was met with a grievance counselor my last semester of college. The only premise I do base my knowledge or feelings off of is that each person laments differently or in their own way that’s specific to who he or she is as a person. I can imagine there are advantages and disadvantages that go along with this premise. In a positive light, one can own up to this particular uniqueness they exhibit through tragic experiences leaving them to project distinctiveness as evidence for being ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by God; if you’re a person of faith or spirituality, that is. However, if I am being brutally honest in my vulnerability, it can also hold weight to feeling drastically flustered, agitated and guilty. And if you have not caught on yet, more often than not I find myself more familiar with the latter; the disadvantageous aspect.
As I’m typing this, the same sister I mentioned previously is posting an article on ‘What It Means To Date A Girl Without A Father’. Not sure if I should chuckle, feel proud or in all decency, envy her for being compelled to post that. This is where those heavy thoughts of guilt come in to play. Being a man of intentional and profound faith, be aware I don’t even believe for the most part that Satan has anything to do with this fault I occasionally find in my mental state [key phrase: ‘most part’].
My sister, older brother and I differ widely in our response to grieving our dad’s death. The way I see it: I’m an open book who will talk it out to just about anyone I can grab hold of; outsider or insider, complete stranger or longtime friend. My sister. Well, as I mentioned earlier, she can be quite the tough cookie to crack in discussing not just this colossal subject but any matter in reality (at least in my personal experiences). And my brother, sad to say, I couldn’t even begin with the slightest clue to know how he has fared. We’ve never been entirely close. Perhaps this sheds quite a bit of light that I’d like to pursue a worthwhile conversation with how he deals with it day in and day out. The lack of familial interactions and discussions I’ve had to date with my sibling’s leaves me to do nothing else besides imagine or compare. The problem is, neither is to be trusted as paths that could lead to factual truths.
Hence, I discover myself debating in my own disgruntled mind, “How should I view my lamentation?” Am I mistaken or flawed in my reply to death? I might never reach a plausible, gratifying answer to this question in my foreseeable future. But funny enough, I’m okay with that. I’m content with not fully understanding why God gives and takes away people in our life at times He has or has not predestined [and there’s my confession with also not completely comprehending predestination]. There is something I am content with though: being loved amongst and through sorrow or pain. Lamentations 3:32 says, “Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion because of the greatness of His unfailing love.”
My controversial thoughts over my process of grieving do not change the fact that God loves me perfectly. Again, it’s not so much a spiritual debacle as it is a mental one. How come my dad does not come to my mind as often as it seems he does for my own sister? Am I a crappy son for not remembering him as often as I think I should? [Without a doubt, the most common question that enters my mind and I struggle with]. How do I deal with completely forgetting what it is like to have a dad? How do I keep my thoughts in an appropriate, bitterless place when speaking to someone who is going off on a rant on how marvelous their father is when all that comes to my mind is my dad’s less than favorable moments that overflow in my head? Is it possible to recollect the good memories spent with my dad more than the bad? Should I be convicted for no longer seeing my dad’s face imprinted in my mind when spending time around things we loved to do together? Why are the same mannerisms he possessed installed in me lacking a ‘fatherly reminder’ whether that be how I drive, how I laugh or what my interests are? Why can’t I get myself to cry more often when reflecting on how much I miss him? These are the questions I can’t ever seem to get an answer on. 943 days down the road since that dreadful car accident and I am just beginning to accept there just may never be a clear solution.
I think death is one of few life events we’ll just never get a grasp on; a grasp on our feelings or thoughts towards it. But Christ’s death on the cross for me is something I will never comprehend as well. His grace that led me to freedom instead of captivity is an unfathomable concept. Through every ounce of my garbage, He implements an ounce of forgiveness. Where there was sin, grace abounded all the more. I also can’t wrap my head around His death. But I accept the gift and sacrifice that was paid nonetheless.
You know what?
I suppose I’ll just work on accepting the love my earthly dad had for me; I’ll persuade myself to concentrate more on how much he loved and cared for me than on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ affiliated with his passing.
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