"But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Thess. 4:13-18
I'm sitting by the bedside of my precious dad tonight. In a hospital room. Next to his hospital bed. He had a stroke two weeks ago and I've been here with him for the past two weeks. I have no idea when I'll be going home. He's lost so much of what his life was a few weeks ago, but he is stable and I'm grateful he is still here. It seems surreal to me that I can't seem to escape spending long, lonely nights in a hospital room. Although I'd give anything to be sitting with my sweet Ash tonight in a hospital room. Anything.
I've got a lot of time on my hands while he rests, and I find myself running through the files and files that contain the thousands of photographs of our Ashley Kate. Memories flood over me and tears pour from my eyes as I remember the day I took each picture. I miss her so very much. My heart aches for her. Its an ache that I don't know will ever be healed.
In many ways its such a nightmare for me as I sit in this room. Things that most people don't think much about bring back haunting memories for me. Things like the pulse ox... images of the last readings I took the morning Ash left us flash in front of me. The blood pressure cuff...how she hated it, seriously hated to have her blood pressure taken...then I remember how I could find no reading on her blood pressure monitor in the moments before I realized she was leaving us. This has truly been a very, very difficult time for me. Still...I'm here...because in what world do you get to say, "I'm sorry this is too hard for me." Not in mine. Not when its my dad.
You see my dad is more than just my dad. He's my person of sorts. My friend. The only true one I've ever really had. He's the one thats been in my corner every day of my life. Even on the worst days of my life...never judging...just loving...praying...pulling for me. He's the one person who didn't disappear over the last 18 months when my grief isolated me, and broke me, and defeated me. He's still here. Not telling me what I should be doing or how I'm supposed to be feeling. He's just the one that says, "Hey, do you know how much your dad loves you?" You see it was 5 long months that my phone sat in a drawer and I refused to look at it because its silence was a reminder to me that she was gone. No more labs, pharmacies, hospitals, or doctors calling. It was just silent. Not many people kept trying after that length of time(not that I blame them), but my dad did. Oh, I had lots and lots of people(and still do) telling me who I should be and how I should handle the loss, but only one who simply said, "I just love you...no matter what."
Anyway, as I re-discover old pictures of my precious girl it often sends me searching for scripture. Scripture I know I've heard my whole life, but now since the end of hers they have taken on new meaning. Tonight I found this image and it reminded me that her body simply sleeps. What an image. One of my favorite things to do was to study her face, features, her everything while she slept. Her beauty overwhelmed me. Still does. Now her soul is with the Father and her body is sleeping across town from our home. One day, whether it be near or far from today, He tells me that He's coming again to retrieve her body along with any who are alive and remain and who have placed their trust in Him. In a confusing 18 long months of the deepest, ugliest, paralyzing pain I found comfort in these verses tonight as I looked at the image of this beautiful baby that I can no longer kiss goodnight.
Faith is hard. I won't pretend that it is not. When I feel so lost and find myself clinging onto whatever shreds I have left I know that there is a God in Heaven who loves me. Although it often feels like He doesn't as I wander through this land of grief I have to believe that He does. In my broken, lonely, isolated state... I choose to believe that He still loves me and patiently waits for me to find my way back. I don't have the answers I seek, and I don't have any idea if I'll ever be who I once believed I was. I just know that I keep waking up each day trying. I can't do much more than that. Even if I'm on auto pilot navigating my way through this darkest of times. I'm still trying. I really am.