“Don’t Get Hurt…”

Dear Dad,

When your journey ended 22 years ago today, mine began. I see that now. I’ve been told you knew your time had come. Sometimes I want to know what you knew, or see what you saw…but I know I was 160 miles away at the time for a reason. Just like mom and Dan were there. Maybe they were stronger.

I know now that, in time, I’ll get to talk with you about it. Just not right now. It’ll be at a time when I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, and we’ll have a family reunion that will make St. Peter roll his eyes in embarrassment. Until we hand him a properly grilled bratwurst with Stadium Mustard, and some of Gram’s potato salad, and Papa’s stuffed cabbage rolls. That potato salad can bring order to the Universe.

Then there will be a sandlot baseball game. Jesus should umpire, of course, but Gramps can be first base coach, and Uncle John can take third base side. Unless he’s off scouting some ringers for the home team. You should pitch, though. Nana and Gram and Aunt Mernie and Aunt Florence will sit in folding chairs under a tree and be the cheerleaders. Ask Uncle Steve if he’d rather have infield or outfield. Center field was never my favorite position. I always preferred infield.

Remember that time Annie ripped that flat pitch of mine back at the pitcher’s mound and it caught me in the shoulder? I lost the feeling in my arm for almost an hour. Thank God it wasn’t my face! What were mom’s last words before we went to the ball diamond?

“Don’t get hurt!”

Don’t get hurt…

It hurt to realize you weren’t coming back. If I hadn’t hurt, though, I wouldn’t have needed to heal. And if I hadn’t learned what healing is, I wouldn’t understand the difference between religion and faith. If I hadn’t walked out of God’s house and slammed the door, I couldn’t have come back. I never would have known grace or heard Him say, “Welcome home, child. Now…I have plans for you.”

I’ll bet when I argue with Him about His plans, you have a good laugh and look at each other and say, “Kids! Whaddya gonna do?”

There was a time when I wanted to pull an Elijah…lay down under a broom tree and say, “That’s it. I’m done. Take me home.” The grief was too much. But angels brought me food and water…and sometimes tequila and chocolate…and they made me move. Also like Elijah, I couldn’t hear God in the chaos. Only in the silence. Only after the storm passed.

And what I heard was, “I’ve always had My hand on you. You’re okay. Now, what are you doing here? Your journey isn’t done yet.”

Still the angels come. One gave me solace. One gave me courage. One set my feet on the Emmaus Road. One knows how I feel. One bound my wounds. One dried my tears. One told me, “Get out of your comfort zone.” Some guide my children. Some bring music and laughter. Some circle around me on a daily basis.

I miss you, Dad. And sometimes I’m angry or disappointed that you aren’t here to be a grandfather – you’d be awesome at it! I remember Gram telling me that just days before you died, you were playing soccer with cousin Steven. He was maybe two years old? Now he’s in Afghanistan. And he has a wife.

It’s taken me 22 years to even recognize that everything does happen for a reason. Sometimes it leaves you bruised or empty or outraged. Sometimes it feels like you’ve caught fire inside, or you want to spin in circles and laugh until you collapse is a dizzy, giggling heap. Sometimes all you have is awestruck silence and tears of joy.

I do wish you were here sometimes, so we could do all that stuff we  never got to do. But I just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you and everyone else who’s with you. The weather is exactly the same as 22 years ago today…

…and I am okay.


Beth Ann

Video: “The Hurt and the Healer” by MercyMe


12 thoughts on ““Don’t Get Hurt…”

  1. Sue King says:

    I lost my Dad 23 years ago in November. Excellent Post. Excellent insight. Made me start to conjure my own ‘reunion in heaven’ with family gone before. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Sue. The insights were a long time coming, and not easily found, but they have brought peace and motivation. I hope your days are happy! 🙂

    • Thank you kindly, Elaine! It’s always my hope that someone will take away something encouraging or positive from my experiences. I just remember how flat-out hopeless I felt in the first couple years after losing my dad, and shortly after my uncle, and right about the same time – my faith in anything. Over the next ten years, I got really tired of burying people close to me. My brother was a pall bearer more times before the age of 30 than anyone should have to be. Healing takes time. I remember how desperate I felt and I can’t physically help every person who is mourning, as much as I want to put my arm around them and say, “It WILL be okay. You will feel better. Joy comes in the morning” I know I can’t. I just pray that the person who Needs to reads it, and feels better.

  2. Very timely post for me. I’m heading up to Kentucky to see my father later his week. They say he has maybe a month or two to live. You know the rest of our story. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • Thanks, Michael. I have often asked myself if it would have been better or easier if I’d had a last chance to see my dad. I think it depends on time and situation. I don’t think, at age 22 for me, it would have made a difference if I’d had time to say goodbye. Now at age 44 – sure, I’d have liked the chance.

      I hope that if you two feel the need for words that the right ones come and that peace follows for both of you. I’ll be thinking about you and your father.

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