As I try to find "normal" again, I find myself reflecting on life just one short, long week ago. It all started one week ago Monday. Mark and I got to bed a little later than usual, after waiting on a phone call that came a little before 11 pm. About midnight, after reading a bit, I rolled over to give him a kiss, as I do every night.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
Usually that exchange is followed by a mutual "sleep well." But not that night. I think we both knew in our heart of hearts that "sleep well" would not be a part of our night.
The interruption that we knew might come sure enough arrived a couple of hours later with the ringing of the phone at 2:51 am.
After a years-long battle with a rare, degenerative brain disorder known as PSP*, Mark's dad took his last earthly breath a couple of minutes before our phone rang. Mark's sister was by his side reading scripture to him as he was ushered into the presence of the heavenly angels. The healing we had so long prayed for had finally come.
We laid in bed, hand in hand, talking until about 4 am. We mulled over the long road we had travelled with his dad, and how the end that we knew would one day come was still a bit hard to swallow when it finally arrived. We talked about when and how to tell Benjamin and Hannah that Grandpa Ken went to see Jesus during the night. We discussed all that needed to happen before we could hit the road and make the four-hour drive south to be with Mark's family and make the final arrangements for his dad.
The days that followed were long. And hard. And good. And hard.
Among other things, it's been a journey of firsts--the first loss of a parent for Mark and me. The first family loss that our kids are old enough to experience.
We've had lots of questions from Benjamin & Hannah this week. We've done our best to let them experience the week on their own terms, and we've answered their questions as best we can. The week included Hannah asking to knock on the side of Grandpa Ken's casket to see what kind of sound it made, but only after asking if anyone would come out of the casket if she did so. She also got tired of standing around following the graveside burial and took a seat on a nearby headstone. Once I noticed, I quickly told her she had to get up and if she needed to sit down we would find a better place to sit, all the while hoping no one was offended by her innocent act. It's hard to teach respect in a cemetery to little ones when it simply looks like wide open spaces with pretty flowers to be explored as they run around.
Benjamin, on the other hand, spent a lot of the week thinking and trying to put all the pieces together. Mark and I had to revamp our decision to not let the kids see Grandpa Ken's body after Benjamin insisted on seeing it. Our justification was that it simply did not look like the Grandpa Ken we knew, and we wanted Benjamin to remember him on happier days. But the way Benjamin's mind works, he had to get all the pieces of the puzzle aligned, in order and figured out, so he wanted to see what Grandpa Ken's body looked like. We reminded him yet once again that this was only his earthly body--his sick, broken shell that has now been replaced by a healthy, new heavenly body. The morning after Grandpa Ken died, Benjamin asked us rather matter-of-factly what we thought Grandpa Ken was doing that morning. I told him that I thought in heaven we get to do all the things we love the most. So Benjamin was sure Grandpa Ken was playing golf!
Putting all the grown-up arrangements and decisions aside, it was a sweet week, looking at it from the eyes of our children. To see the process of death through their innocent eyes was a precious thing to observe throughout the week. We can learn so much about life--and death--through the eyes of little ones if we will only put aside our "grown-up-ness" and be willing to be young and vulnerable again.
Life must go on now, no matter how differently it suddenly looks. I praise God for the hope of eternity that we as Christians hold on to. I don't understand how those without this hope even survive the death of someone they hold near and dear.
*To learn more about PSP, the devastating disease that took the life of my father-in-law, click here.