Being Thankful When You Don’t Feel Like It

Being Thankful When You Don’t Feel Like It

Several mornings a week during my morning commute, I meet a truck heading south hauling burial vaults. It’s a stark reminder how fragile life is. Even in the stressful times like I’m currently dealing with, when I’m wondering where God is, or I think I want to give up, when I see that truck, I’m reminded I got another day to try again. It may be a bad day, but I still got another one. The people for whom the burial vaults are for didn’t get that, for they completed their final twenty-four run.

My dad was twenty-eight years old when he died. When I reached twenty-eight, yeah, it was a long time ago, I realized I started living years he never got the chance to live. Daddy didn’t get to see his children grow up, never got the chance to finish his pursuit of his dream of being a Country singer. He never got to teach his children life skills, or pass along his musical knowledge, nor stand with Mama when the tough times came, many of which would’ve most likely been avoided had he lived. I made it passed twenty-eight, but he didn’t.

I can remember as a teenager listening to girls complain about how strict their dad was. I wanted to tell them, “At least, he’s alive and cares about you.”  Mama told me Daddy loved us, but of course, he didn’t get the chance to show it. I’ve always felt cheated because of it.

Daddy’s absence left a huge void in my life, and yes, it affected me deeply. Growing up, I was told I had a heavenly Father who’d watch out for me, one who takes care of widows and orphans. If I am to be completely honest, I’ve wondered where my heavenly Father was when the bad days came, kind of like I’ve pondered the same in the last eight years. Maybe I’m not supposed to feel that way, but I have.

My husband lived to see his daughters grow up, but he didn’t live to see all of his grandchildren. I prayed and prayed for many more years with him, but with what felt like the snap of the fingers, he was taken from me. Now, it’s my job to tell our grandchildren he never got the chance to meet all about him. At least, now, I can talk about Dan without the tears flowing. A few years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible.

Despite all of this, all of what I missed without having my Daddy in my life, and not having Dan with me today, I must stay thankful for the time I did get with them. I must also be thankful for each day I do get, even when they’re so bad I think I can barely get through them.

When you don’t understand why so many bad days come, it is hard to stay focused and grateful. When you’ve lost a lot, and you’ve lost some special people, it is hard to believe you have God’s favor. Yes, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the new day when you wake up in the morning.

If your father was in your life when you were growing up, be thankful, and be especially thankful if he’s still with you. Some of us didn’t get that privilege. And be thankful in the morning when you start a new day. Some people didn’t get that privilege either.

Happy Father’s Day! May God bless you all!

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Final Moments

Final Moments

This weekend I repeated a joyless task I would prefer not to do. I put flowers on Dan’s grave because his birthday is Monday. I’d much rather for him to be alive and well, with me treating him to a birthday cake and supper. Kim, Cindy, and I change out the flowers throughout the year, usually on holidays. It’s all we can do for him now.

It took a long time for me to get to where I can remember our last day with Dan without tears, without longing, and without anger, feelings common among the grieving. When I put it altogether, God’s mercy and love for us in His plan to take Dan home was evident. His invisible Hand moving people around or placing them where He wants them for reasons we can’t comprehend until much later. Let me explain.

Dan’s final day with us was on a Sunday. It was during his second hospital stay in just one month. I always spent the night with Dan when he was in the hospital, but not that day. He was doing better, so much better he would be going home in a few days. Prodded by Dan because he knew I was dealing with a severe sinus infection, I decided to go home before dark.

Dan was quieter than usual that morning, but he perked up when Cindy came by and stayed with him for a while. Kim, who worked the night before, came later and stayed with Dan until late. She worked at the hospital as a RN in ICU. She was also a member of the Code Blue team, which consists of certified clinical personnel trained to respond to Code Blue announcements on the hospital’s paging system. Upon hearing these, they rush to resuscitate patients who are in cardiac or respiratory arrest.

A few words about Kim and Cindy: they inherited Dan’s dark hair, olive complexion, some of his mannerisms, but their strength is their own. I don’t believe strength is genetic. We learn how to be strong from the people who influence us. My mother, my Aunt Sarah and Aunt Fran, my cousins Carolyn, Angie, and Edna, all of whom are strong women, molded my life by me just observing them. Life changing events, trials, heartbreak, and other ordeals shape and toughen us to face whatever. The first few days after Dan died, Cindy and Kim, though dealing with their own grief, propped me up because in my mortally wounded state I couldn’t stand on my own. They’re strong, intelligent, and well educated, and on my list of phenomenal women whom I admire and who inspire me.

That Sunday seemed like any other day—just regular conversations, jokes, and laughter with no concern, with no inkling it would be our last times with him. We were there that day, there with Dan letting him know we cared, then not long after Kim left, Jesus took Dan home.

God made sure we each had those final happy moments with Dan, and he with us. I believe His Hand was at work in yet another way too. Kim was on the schedule to work the night Dan died, but at the last minute, a coworker asked her to switch nights, freeing Kim to spend the evening with Dan. It also freed her of being at work when the Code Blue went out for him. She would’ve heard his room number over the paging system, she would’ve thought, “That’s my Dad’s room number,” then she would have raced to his room, and outside of it, a couple of coworkers would’ve held her back while the others worked frantically and unsuccessfully to save his life. God spared Kim, a Daddy’s Girl since she was old enough to follow him everywhere and talk his ears off, from that trauma.

An old Jewish proverb says, “If God lived on earth, people would break His windows.” Even in my darkest days of grief, mad with God for not letting Dan live longer, I couldn’t deny His hand at work that day. We each have a certain amount of time allotted to us—meaning there’s a predetermined date for each of us when we must clock out; we’ve completed our work. God and I have a major disagreement concerning Dan’s allotted time, as I wanted to keep him with me much longer. I am grateful for the twenty-six years, two months, and nineteen days we had together. I wouldn’t trade one second for anything.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! You will always be one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

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© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2015. All rights reserved