Saturday, February 26, 2011

Almost Half My Life Ago

Almost half my life ago my daddy was taken from this earth tragically.  I can't even begin to explain how a 19 year old, college sophomore, living 8 hours away from home copes with that loss.  It was brutal.

I never thought I would be able to smile again or feel the kind of joy that just makes you light up all over.  I was wrong.  It took years but I feel that joy.  I smile real smiles that are brought on from real happiness! I live my life and love it.  As an adult woman and a mother of 3, I can now look back and be thankful for the years I had with him and be thankful for the years of mourning that are behind me.  Both experiences have molded me into the person I am today.  And I like her!

I'm not so naive to think that I'll never mourn again.  But I have learned that there is a season for mourning and a season for rejoicing.  Glad to be in the season of rejoicing!

For years I cried because I missed my daddy.  But mostly I cried because I couldn't stand to think of the pain he was undoubtedly in the hours before he died.  I thought of his screaming out for help which never arrived.  I could go on but there is really no need.  I could hardly bear it.  It haunted me for years.

And then delivering my first baby changed my perspective on death.  I remember just as I was about to give birth to my first child feeling so heartbroken for the child birth process she was about to endure.  How traumatic!  Here was this precious little baby, a little person I would have died for before I even met her, about to experience the intense pain and pressure of exiting the birth canal.  And I could do nothing to stop it.  I could do nothing to help her.  It was just something she must endure.

And yet at the same time I felt just giddy at the thought of actually meeting her, holding her near me, looking at her sweet little features.  I could hardly wait.  My delivery nurse told me I was going to laugh my baby out!  I couldn't wait to get that precious little girl in my arms.

For 9 months she had known nothing but warmth, safety, constant food, and comfort.  But in an instant she was thrust into this new world.  A world where she would have to learn to fend for herself so to speak.  A world which she knew nothing about and, for that matter, not a single person.  She had only the comfort of my voice, which she heard A LOT during those 9 months.

Oh, but once she truly experienced life, the womb could not compare.  I think of death that way.  We live this life on Earth.  This is all we know, all we have.  It defines us, gives us purpose.  What should happen if we are suddenly taken?

And then there is the pain of death.  The traumatic event of crossing over from life to the hereafter.  I have started to think that just like the new born baby exiting the womb, into this exciting world, the moment we leave this life to enter the hereafter is similar.  It's painful.  It's traumatic.  It's heartbreaking.  And yet, just like that baby wouldn't want to go back to the womb once life is tasted, my daddy wouldn't want to come back to earth after tasting heaven.  This just makes me feel better.

And I can only imagine our Heavenly Father awaiting our arrival.  Waiting to hold us near, tell us "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  Oh and the rejoicing in Heaven that must be going on upon our arrival!

And then for years after his death I heard his voice in so many of my situations.  I remember a time in college when I scheduled 2 dates the same day.  While I was on the second date, I ran into the guy from the earlier date.  Awkward!  When I told my daddy we laughed and laughed and he said, "Natty Boo, how do you get yourself in these situations?"  And boy, I got myself in some situations!  I'll tell you that!  I often heard his voice and that phrase for years to follow.

I was thinking about how I really don't hear his voice anymore.  I'm not that little girl that he knew.  It breaks my heart to write that sentence.

I don't do AS MANY crazy things as the younger me!  I've grown up.  The realization that I haven't heard his voice in years brought tears to my eyes.  In fact, they are streaming down my face right now.

But then I realized I may not need to hear him laughing at all of my antics anymore.  I SEE little bits of him every day.  I've got children who remind me constantly of him.  They are beautiful reminders of his gentle spirit and his kind heart.  Although my children will never know him, they embody so many of his finest qualities.

My oldest child, 1 of 3, would give anyone the shirt off her back.  In fact we went to a birthday party for a friend who was turning 40.  She went to her room and got all of her piggy bank money as she thought it would be fun to give a $40 gift since our friend was turning 40.  If you knew my dad, you probably at some point got a wad of cash handed to you.  He passed out cash like candy just to bring a smile to your face.  Generous with a pure heart!  

And both of my girls are quick to think of ways to help their baby brother when he is crying.  They run to get toys for him to play, they sing to him, or make funny faces.  At 2 and 5 they are already sensitive to others.  They have such tender hearts.

I could go on giving countless examples of how they remind me of his spirit.  I can just say that on the 17th anniversary of his death I am reminded daily of the best qualities in my daddy.

I have come to terms with his death and think of him fondly.  He lives on in my heart and he lives on through my children.

What a blessing.


  1. Natalie, I remember that day 17 years ago and how terribly sad I was for you. What a beautiful tribute you have written to your father! So poignant and moving. I know he must have been such a wonderful man. Love, Allison

  2. Very moving post. While some of my personal beliefs differ from yours, I find your tribute here very beautiful. And it was courageous of you to write this.
    My mom lost her father when she was 23 and I know she felt very similarly. I wish I could have had the opportunity to meet my grandfather.
    Wishing you peace,

  3. Thank you so much, Allison! I think back on our trip to Alexandria and our long talks about our fathers. You are such a special friend and I am thankful for you!

  4. Holly Ann, Thank you so much for you kind comment. I am so sorry your mom endured the loss of her father at such a young age. The pain of losing a parent at a time in life where you are trying to find out exactly who you are and what your life is going to look like is quite earth shaking. But every life event defines us and shapes us. I can understand the wish to have known your grandfather too. Thinking of you and your family!

  5. Natalie-
    What a beautiful post you wrote about your father! I lost my dad a few months after my first child was born, but I too take great joy out of seeing my dad's spirit in my kids personalities!
    Allison Zeig

  6. Oh Allison, I am so sorry! It is such comfort to see their spirit in our kids personalities! Thinking of you!