I cannot even imagine.

restareashade 2On our way home from a vacation week in Galveston, we stopped at a Chick-fil-a.  Unsure what the muzak was that I was hearing in the background, I listened more closely than is probably ever intended by the purveyors of such.

It was “I Can Only Imagine,” the slowed down, instrumental version.  Felt odd to hear this song muzakked (is that a verb? Did I spell it right?)

I can only imagine.

Later today, I got stuck on “I cannot begin to imagine.”

This second phrase is what I’ve been thinking since hearing of the overnight death of a 3 year old grandson of one of my parish.

Yes, I hugged my own kids more often and more tightly the rest of today.  I likely will again tomorrow as well.

I cannot imagine.

Yet, as people who follow a God who refuses to be distant, even when we don’t understand, we know that we must move closer rather than further away in such times.

Some of the best, and most regularly used pastoral advice I received in seminary was this: “If you don’t know what to say, don’t force words; just be present.”

I cannot imagine. I don’t have words that work.  I will be turning to the Psalms deeply the next couple of days.  The Psalms are full of words and phrases and images that come along side us as we feel whatever we feel as humans.

Please hold this family in prayer.  Even if you cannot put words into the prayers, please pray.

Dear Dad Part 1

The last several times I’ve visited my dad he has been unable to respond in any way more than a tremor of the mouth or a twitch of an eyebrow.  I talk to him anyway, not knowing whether he hears or understands or not.

I’ve never been particularly good at speaking in ways my dad understood.  I always had a penchant for questions he couldn’t answer.  Too often, this was calculated on my part.

I got my sense of humor from my mom.  Thus, when I would hit dad with snappy questions or drop rhetorical bombshells in front of him, I would get a chuckle and a slight shake of his head.

We developed the kind of relationship where, more often than not, less than a minute into our phone conversation, he would say, “Do you want to talk to your mom?”

In these recent years, I decided that he was aware his mind wasn’t what it used to be.  That he had trouble keeping things straight or following a conversation.

If I had any of those years to do over again, a little of me now wishes I would have talked to him differently; more on his terms than on mine.

These last couple of visits, I’ve been different.  I’ve held his head, massaged his feet, anything I could think of that might bring him some comfort.  Like most of my life, I don’t know for sure if it makes much difference to him, but I do it anyway.  Now I do these things not because I am comfortable doing them, like the way I used to talk to him, but because I hope that, even a little, they are good for him.

Please understand: I don’t remember ever having any doubt of my father’s love for me.  And I am not beating myself up now for not living better in it.  More, I think, reflecting on a life I too often took for granted.

Grief

I am not really good at keeping my phone clear of pictures.  I take them then leave them there.  Last week I was rummaging through them and found this one.

I took this on November 28th, the day before the procedure to correct Eliza’s Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. We were at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children doing all the adavnce work for the next day’s scheduled surgery.

Seeing this picture, I felt a sudden deep saddness.  I felt I was about to cry.  My little girl was standing.  And walking.  She had never had any pain getting around.  With practice, she had even lost most of the limp that comes from one leg being 1.5cm shorter than the other.

I hadn’t seen her stand or walk in more than 10 weeks.  Just looking at the picturea gain now brings back all the same feelings.

I want to make this clear: I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for Eliza.  She doesn’t want, or act like she needs, sympathy.  Check out this picture from the week before last:

She and I had gone for a walk (she rode in the stroller).  When we got to the bleachers at our football field, she wanted to sit in them, so here she is in the back row, against the fence.  This is one happy camper!

You can also see the cast that she lives in.

I know the cast, and the procedure to correct her hip, are for her good.  I have absolutely no doubt at all that she will very soon be standing, walking, even running.  Yet for the time being I am somehow stuck in the middle – knowing what is coming, even knowing that the current incovenience isn’t as bad as it feels sometimes to me, yet somehow longing for the time before she (and we) had to go through this.

We all have times – days, weeks, months, maybe years, when we know of some promised good in the future.  No matter how surely we know this, though, it is reasonable; it is human to grieve some in the present moment over being somewhere between where we were and where we are going.

Let yourself be there – in the middle – hopeful yet sad.