Thursday, September 29, 2016

Father Figures

Life has been anything but dull in our neck of the woods. September was another blur in a series of blurry months. An epic 80th birthday party for my mother-in-law took center stage at the beginning of September. It was followed by a funeral a week later as my step-father-in-law slipped from this mortal realm. 

I have a difficult time preparing for moments like this. It tends to open a gaping heart-wound that will possibly never fully heal in this lifetime. Losing my own father the way that I did has left a tender hole in my well-being. Losing Kennon’s dad three years later was like dumping salt in a heartache that has never faded entirely. I was close to this man and he had assured me several times following my father’s suicide that he was my dad. Then his health went south and he quietly passed from my life.

I tried very hard not to get attached to Kennon’s first step-father, but the loving, easy-going man slipped inside my heart before I knew what was happening. He was the only grandfather our sons ever knew. Our sons all have favorite stories about how this wonderful man made them each feel important and loved. In my own case, he repeatedly placed his arm around my shoulders, and affirmed that I was one of his daughters. Losing him after he had been part of our family for 17-18 years was not an easy thing. Singing at his funeral rather ripped my heart out. 

When my mother-in-law remarried, I was not sure I liked this idea. I knew she hated to be alone and had met an awesome guy, but I wasn’t ready or willing to allow someone else into my life. It happened anyway. And before long, I found that this 4th father-figure had also slipped inside my tender heart. We both loved books, and it was something special we shared. He knew I loved art and he made certain that I received a wonderful lithograph of a work by one of his talented nieces. In short, I grew attached to this man. Losing him this past month has been a heartrending journey.

It’s not an easy thing for a daughter to lose a father. I’ve done it now, four times. With each loss, the intense pain nearly overwhelms. Peace eventually descends and life goes on, but it takes a little bit of time for me to reach that point. For a while I find that music is not my friend. I grew up in a musical family—my siblings and I sang with our father on numerous programs. Music cuts through my soul quicker than anything else. I can be sitting in a meeting totally unrelated to what I’ve been through, and a particular song will effectively dissolve the wall I’ve tried to construct around my heart. When the dam bursts, I know it’s time to leave. I hate crying in public and I will go to great lengths to avoid this scenario. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time this past month placing distance between myself and painful reminders of all that has transpired. 

There are ways to get through this grieving process. Thank heavens for Gospel teachings that assure there is life after this mortal world. That knowledge is a comfort. And the Comforter is indeed real. I will be forever grateful for the times that quiet peace has calmed an emotional storm. 

Other things seem to help. Spending time with loved ones soothes that inner pain. This past month I spent some time with my sisters. We did silly things like attend a Women’s Expo that offered several interesting booths. It was a great distraction. We visited with a favorite aunt who is undergoing cancer treatments. We went to a thrift shop and rescued books. We then went for a long walk in a beautiful area. It all eased the heartache and helped me return to a semblance of normalcy.

I also got a chance to hug my grandchildren. This is a great way to soften heart-wounds. When I returned home, I hit the ground running. I still serve in a Relief Society Presidency, and we have had a plethora of opportunities for service lately. My husband and I have also been serving at a nearby temple open house. This has kept me occupied. I’ve also scrubbed my house from top to bottom, something that helps me work through trying times. And I have been writing things out, trying to get rid of the pain in my heart. 

This blog post is a bit different from others I’ve written. I usually try to keep things upbeat. But as I look around and see how others are struggling at the moment, I figured maybe it would help to hear from someone who has had their heart repeatedly smashed that life does get better. Dark days pass, and it is possible to still find joy in this world. It takes time—heart-wounds don’t heal overnight. In some cases, they never fully heal. We just learn to go on, placing our hand inside our Father’s as we continue forward. There are days when we have to take life one minute at a time as we work through the grieving process. Hope comes in knowing that eventually it won’t hurt so much—inner peace will surface. Someday I will smile and actually mean it. Until then, I will smile and no one will know the difference but my Heavenly Father who has stayed by my side through difficult days. We are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. The veil is indeed thin and I know I have five fathers who are cheering me on every step of the way.

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