I always thought peace was the absence of hardship. But because God performed a true miracle in my life, I know that peace can be found in the best and the worst situations we face.
As a small child, I was the apple of my Daddy’s eye. The pride he felt for being my Dad was palpable to all who were around us. He had my name tattooed on his arm, and later, when my parents divorced, he had an 11×14 portrait of me in the living room of his apartment. I had no question that I was the joy of his life.
Then, as time went on, his struggles with mental health issues, alcoholism, and PTSD (brought on by a childhood filled of chaos and his time in the Vietnam war as a helicopter door gunner) took a toll on him. I know he was involved in a world that was filled with darkness, but I’ve been spared the details by all who knew. He was so ashamed of the person he’d become that he couldn’t stand to let me see him. So, our relationship stretched thinner by the year until eventually, I would have to make many phone calls and find his address and just show up to see him. I missed his presence in my life, but could only muster up the courage to hunt him down about once a year. He didn’t know me, and I certainly didn’t know him. Even when my daughter was born, years later, it was a challenge to coordinate a meeting with him so he could see my greatest joy.
Life went on, and as a new Mother, I knew that there was no way he was consciously making the choice to miss out on my life. I chose to forgive him and pray for his soul, without knowing if we’d ever be able to reconcile. My greatest fear was that I would receive a phone call one day that he’d passed away, and that opportunity would never present itself.
In January 2015, the phone rang. It was my uncle telling me that my Daddy was in the hospital, and they thought he had a brain tumor. I gathered a bag, left my new husband and daughter, and headed to see the unknown. When I arrived, he smiled ear to ear with the same joy emanating from within that I’d known as a child. He was unshaven, dirty from falling in the dirt due to his condition, very sick, but completely cognizant. I knew then that God had opened a door that I could not have opened alone. As I drove home to prepare to stay with him in the hospital while we got more information, I clearly heard God say to me, “It is well.”
What ensued after was a journey from diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer with a metastasis to the brain to a reconnection with loved ones who showed up with love and kindness. Because of the extent of the cancer and the weakness of his body, we chose to ask hospice to come in and provide him comfort as he left this world.
I never left his side longer than was required to shower, pack a new bag, and return, sleeping several nights in a zero-gravity lawn chair just to be near him, and at times, climbing in bed next to him just to feel what I’d missed for so many years. I rubbed his feet with lotion, wiped his face with a wash cloth, and was truly able to return the acts of love he’d shown me as a small child. My daughter and husband were able to meet my Daddy (the person I thought had disappeared many years ago) and I was beyond grateful to be able to witness and reconnect with his true spirit during those final days.
Eleven days later, he passed away peacefully. Red birds suddenly appeared everywhere I looked. It Is Well (With My Soul) of course, was one of the songs chosen for his funeral. To this day, when I hear that song or see a red bird, I am reminded of the true miracle that we were given as we spent my Daddy’s final days with him. The peace I am able to rekindle when I think about those tumultuous, yet beautiful days is truly that which “passes all understanding”.
So, when I created this blog, I chose the name “Peaceful Ahead” because my definition of peace is no longer the same. It does not mean that I will not face sadness, disappointment, or hardship. It means that I know that God has a plan, and that the miracles He presents are not always those we pray for or envision, yet they are exactly what we need when we need it most.
With that, I’d like to wish you all a day and life that’s truly peaceful ahead.