“Wake up. Pinch yourself. Smack your face. Wake up! What am I looking at? Whatever it is, it cannot be real. I refuse to see this as the reality. This cannot be the ‘Brave New World.’ That slab cannot be my father’s grave. Stop it!”
This was the dialogue that half of my brain was constantly repeating starting from the moment that my dad was put in the ground.
The other half of my brain would be in a running dialogue like this: “He’s dead. He was just a person. People die every day. He’s dead. You’re not. You’re breathing. You’re fine. Shut up and live.”
My brain became very loud and my mouth very silent – as if I wasn’t quiet, painfully shy, and socially awkward enough already.
My father suffered a brain aneurysm on July 27, 2006. He died two days later. That week was such a blur I barely remember living it.
Yet, I remember all of it.
I remember my mother waking me up in the early morning telling me that my dad had just suffered a stroke (because of the aneurysm) and the family had to get to the hospital. I remember being frozen in shock from seeing my father in the emergency room. I remember him dying. I remember his funeral. I remember the void it left in my life.
David Wilcox was a great and loving man. He loved soccer. He loved his patient. He loved being a doctor. He loved his kids.
He was incredibly flawed.
And he was my hero.
But he was gone and life continued.
When tragedy strikes people like to give comfort. However, the unfortunate reality of it is that everyone (and I mean everyone) is terrible at it. No one knows what to say and nothing that is said helps too significantly.
So many loving, well-meaning people came up to me and said, “It’s ok. There are people who understand. You are not alone.” This sounds great, but the terrible thing about that sentiment is that it is true. For me, one of the worst parts of the reality of losing a parent (or any loved one, for that matter) was realizing that I wasn’t alone. I felt like I had no right to let myself fall apart or grieve, therefore I refused to let myself do so.
After his death, I tried very hard to forget that my dad had even existed. When people talked about him, I removed all feeling from myself and talked about him as though he had lived on the other side of the world. From the time of my father’s death and continuing on for 6 years I struggled with countless suicidal thoughts, a depression that made Halloween look like Valentine’s Day, and a self-hatred that infiltrated my entire being.
Does that sound a tad overdramatic?
Words fail to convey how the emotions really felt. Daydreaming of death was happier to me that dreaming about a potentially bright future. My dreams had died the moment my daddy did. I felt so lost without him that I felt guilty living a happy life that he wasn’t a part of.
Yet life went on.
By the time I was 18, I still hadn’t decided on a major. I thought that something was wrong with me and the noise inside my head was so loud that it was deafening. By high school graduation I had given myself two options:
1) Ministry school to get myself sorted out or
2) Time myself to see how fast I could wake up on the other side of eternity.
Fortunately, I got accepted into ministry school and I shipped myself off to Canada.
I remember arriving and trying to appear as normal and as “un-messed up” as possible.
Day in and day out I was told sermons about the God the Father’s great love for his children. I heard that he cared. I listened to His heart of compassion. I absorbed His tenacity for me. In this state I let myself begin to crack. I let myself feel all of the pain and all of the anger I had pushed aside. I was angry at God for taking away my dad, but instead of resentment filling my heart, I felt something else. I felt hope. For the first time in almost six years I had felt hope.
My anthem became:
“Be at rest, Oh, my soul. For the Lord He is good, He is good, He is good, He is good.”
In His goodness, the Holy Spirit was breaking down the walls that had so effectively barricaded my heart. In his kindness, Jesus drew me into repentance. In His love, God became real to me.
Jesus came to set the captives free (Is 61:1, Lk 4:18). He came to set me free from my pain and the prison I had elected to put myself in. He didn’t just open the doors, but he walked in and felt my pain with me. He is now, even still, teaching me how to live outside the prison walls. The Holy Spirit is breathing his life into me. The void is being filled. It is no longer empty but is constantly being poured into. My Heavenly Father is my Daddy.
Of course I still think about my earthly dad, but now when I do I let the emotions come. Whenever I look back, I can see that his death was saturated with mercy. My life in depression was wrapped up in grace. I was never alone, and my Heavenly Daddy was always near and pulling me close.
And now I get to say with the greatest pleasure:
It has now been 10 years since you have gotten to go home and be at peace. You lucky, lucky man. One day I will see you again, but until then, I know that you are proud of me and that whenever you turn your face to look at me your eyes are filled with wonder. I do not need to prove myself to you, but it is my joy to be your daughter and be a child you loved. I will see you soon.
To me it feels like an eternity, but perhaps to you it feels like a moment. You did well and I am happy to have been yours for the small amount of time that we had. I will always need a father, but God is teaching what it means to be His daughter. I love with all of my heart. I am alive and well. My soul is at peace and I am in love with the same Savior who called you home.