For the first time in two weeks the house is quiet. The phone has been mostly silent. Mom is resting. I hear the ceiling fan rock from time to time. The wall clock ticks faithfully, and a lovely, unusual-for-Montana rain falls softly against the roof and windows. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to curl up and sleep. It makes you want to settle in with a good book or movie and something hot to drink. It’s the kind of rainy, spring day that makes you think.
I have taken the tasks I set out to complete this morning as far as I can take them for today. I should feel relieved, but as I sit down at the table I find myself confused. I don’t know what’s next. I’m not sure how to balance everything that is now on my plate with everything that was on it before…Before the world turned upside down.
The load doesn’t seem heavy; Christ is carrying it. Of that, I am very aware. But I’m not sure which task to pick up first, which I’m going to need to put off for a while, which I need to pursue because it is most important to this new chapter of my life…the chapter without my Dad.
For five years, since I moved back to Billings and began headquartering my work and ministry from my parent’s home, my dad has been the first person I’ve seen nearly every morning. As I stumbled blindly from my room to the kitchen to make my tea each morning, he was always on the couch, coffee nearby, breathe right strip still clinging to his nose; computer, book or Bible open in his lap. He was very often the last person I saw at night. We always seemed to be shutting the lights out at the same (usually very late) hour.
It’s Tuesday. He should be in the living room printing the materials for a meeting for which he’ll most likely have to rush out the door as soon as supper is over—But the living room is silent.
He should be preparing for tomorrow night’s Bible study—But he won’t be there.
One week before Dad went to Heaven I posted a two-part blog series called Out of Sight: Lessons from a Storm. I had been struggling with seeing where the path was leading, and committed even as I wrote to stop and spend extra time with the Lord. That time came Easter Sunday. After celebrating the resurrection at church that morning, we came home and had a delicious Russian meal. Then I went to a favorite spot along the river and sat down with God.
I hadn’t been there long when the Lord brought Psalm 91:1 to my heart. I turned there and began to read. The entire psalm grabbed my attention. Like applying aloe to a sunburn, it soothed the frayed, frightened places of my heart.
I didn’t know how much I was about to need it.
Tuesday morning, my Dad somewhat casually told my mom he thought he needed to find a doctor for the symptoms he’d been self-treating for quite some time. (None of the rest us realized how serious those symptoms had been.) My parents had their Bible reading and prayer time together. They ate breakfast together. They headed for the ER but not before stopping to get gas. No one realized, not even Dad, how serious the situation was. Within just a couple of hours he had been whisked into emergency surgery for a six-way bypass. SIX bypasses. How had he even been functioning! The surgery went well. The hospital staff sent us home, and told us Dad would need us more in the morning than he would during the night.
As I woke up the next morning, I turned on a recording of Scripture that I have been working my way through. That morning’s reading was I Kings 17. I hadn’t even gotten past the first three verses when I realized what story I was about to hear. Elijah was about to tell Ahab there would be no rain for three and a half years. Elijah would have to flee from the king and live in exile—But God had things prepared for his servant. He already had a place of safety set aside and had commanded the birds to feed him by the brook. He had already prepared a widow to take care of him when the brook dried up.
As I listened, an overwhelming peace came over me. Yes, Dad’s recovery would be long and hard, but God had everything in control—the birds were already at the brook.
Wednesday was a hard day. Dad was in pain. Breathing was almost impossible; no matter what they tried he couldn’t seem to get enough oxygen. That day I lived moments, which I will never forget: Moments that for now are to be pondered in my heart alone.
As we left the hospital that night, I said, “Good night, Dad. I love you. See you in the morning.”
Which just goes to show how little we know.
I might have made it to the hospital in time the next morning if I had seen the voicemail a few minutes sooner. I drove for all I was worth, possibly breaking more laws in those ten miles than I have broken in my entire life. But I was too late. We were all too late. Dad had already gone Home.
He was ready to go, but we were not ready to say goodbye.
I began working with orphans and fatherless children when I was 18. On April 24th, I became one.
The tears I have wiped away in the past became my own. Their hurts became acutely familiar to my own heart. Their questions became my questions: How did this happen? Is he really gone? What will happen to me? What will happen to my mom? Will my sisters be okay? What will we do without him?
Even the affliction, which God so strongly warns His people against throughout the Scriptures, found its way into our lives…but so did Christ. The God of all Comforts has proven himself to be just that. Just as I have pointed the children to God as the Father of the fatherless, I have found Him to be faithful to us.
As I consider that heap of tasks and responsibilities in my Savior’s hands, I am content to leave them there, and to ask Him one step at a time which one I am to take from the pile next. I cannot carry the burden, but He can. I cannot sort through the mess of both new and old responsibilities tangled up like a bunch of Christmas lights in the emotion the last two weeks have brought—but God can.
He has been faithful already. He has sent loving friends to comfort and care for us. He has sent notes and phone calls and hugs, wonderful hugs, to soothe the pain. He has fixed problems before we even had a chance to take action. He has wrapped His arms around us through His Word and wiped away the tears in the night with His peace.
He has been to us the birds at the brook.
My story is mine, but it is not entirely unique. How has God comforted you in times of sorrow?
ABOUT RACHEL MILLER
I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.