When my dad passed away in 2003, I was only 5 years old with very little capacity to fully comprehend the weight of what my family was walking through. Instead, mourning him has looked different through the ever-changing seasons of my life and gave me a new perspective.
As a 5 year old, I longed for my daddy to tuck me in, read our nightly Bible stories and chase my siblings and me through the house.
In middle school, I began to see for the first time the differences in dynamics between my family and most others, and wished for mine to just be normal.
My high school years brought lots of tears with realizations that major milestones in my life, like prom and graduation, would always feel a bit empty without my dad present.
College brought new struggles, wishing for the advice and guidance of a dad in my life during so many decisions and transitions.
And in the new season that I’m currently walking through, marriage, young adulthood and beginning a career, I’m experiencing even more new struggles in missing my dad.
Though there has always been a gap in our family without my dad being there, my mom is a wonderful woman and did all that she could to make our lives feel normal. I never felt that we went without, even though there was only one of her. She did her absolute best to be both mom and dad to us.
Until just recently, I haven’t considered her side of the stages of mourning. Though there were many nights we all hugged each other and wiped tears away, my mom was strong, resilient and did what she had to do to raise us. She always was quick to comfort us, while I’m sure there were just as many nights that she, too, needed comforting.
From my mom’s perspective
After I got engaged, I began to think about my mom more. I anticipated my soon-to-be-role as a wife and all of the exciting things that would come along with it. I began to think about what it must have been like to be in my mother’s shoes nearly 30 years ago — anxiously waiting to marry my dad.
They had no idea at the time that only a few short years later they would be receiving a detrimental cancer diagnosis that would completely change their lives. Throughout the year of my engagement, and even into my marriage, those thoughts still haunt me a bit.
My mom and dad had no idea what was to come. If I were to ask my mom what she would do differently if she could go back to those blissful years pre-cancer, I’m sure she would say hold on to every moment a little bit longer, cherish the mundane a little bit more, let go of all the small frustrations and hug each other a bit tighter.
I read a post on Facebook the other day that made me stop and think.
When you see your husband’s dirty clothes 2 feet from the hamper, just pick them up and toss them where they are supposed to be, it said, instead of complaining to him about how you’ve asked him many times to put them away. The open cabinets, left out toothpaste and unmade beds — they are all frustrations you could easily nag your spouse about, but instead appreciate them. Those small annoyances mean that your spouse is present and that’s something to be so thankful for.
Many might read this post and scroll on by thinking, “What a sweet thought,” but never really consider that it could be their reality. Even with having lost my dad, many times I fall prey to this same thinking. Something was different as I read that post that afternoon though. I thought of my mom and how I am sure she would give anything to have one more day of picking up after my dad.
Throughout every season of my life, I’ve gained a different perspective on the death of my dad. This time of my life is no different. I hope these aren’t lessons I soon forget, but instead make it a priority to consider my mom every time I get frustrated at my husband and every time we disagree.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t deal with things in our marriage, but instead to cherish the fact that we are together and can work through things by each other’s sides, holding to the covenant that we made knowing we are not promised tomorrow.
So, though we can’t fully step into my mom’s shoes, I hope we all learn a lesson from her life. As I see her now sending off her children to college and watching them get married and have kids of their own, I’ve considered a lot more that I wasn’t the only one who must have walked through different seasons of mourning.
She filled her life with her three kids — she raised them up, sent them off and now she’s facing a new reality. When many parents are settling in for their retirement years to enjoy the quiet of just being together again, my mom is an empty nester on her own. While she would never want our pity, I can imagine she faces tougher days than she might ever let me in on.
So, from the strength, grace, vulnerability and joy of my mom, I hope I have learned and continue to learn these lessons:
- Do not take our time here for granted. As Scripture says in Proverbs 27:1, we are not promised tomorrow. How should we live our lives differently, especially with those we love most, knowing this is true?
- Love those around you and do not miss a moment to just soak up time together.
- When life gets tough, lean into the Father’s arms who has promised His presence in all seasons of life.
- Even when it’s not easy, take the next step. In the strength of the Lord, you will carry on.
Tonight, as I head home from work, I’ll hug my husband for a few seconds longer. I’ll wash the dishes and thank the Lord for the gift of having my best friend to have a meal with. I’ll close the cabinets I’ve asked him to shut 10 times already with joy in my heart, because we can laugh at these little frustrating habits we both have and rejoice that we get to share a home together. For however long the Lord allows me to continue on this earth, I pray this new perspective will guide me.
Emily Jones is this week’s guest contributor for The Rope. Emily works as a digital media specialist at one of TAB Media’s partners, Dogwood Media Solutions. She is from Headland, Alabama, and moved to Montgomery after graduating from Troy University and marrying Brannon in December 2019. To read more from Emily, visit her personal blog, Remembering + Rejoicing.