For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phillipians 1:21
It was a week before I was supposed to leave for Onsite in Nashville. A place Dr. Phil sent me for a therapeutic workshop, that I knew nothing about. I had no idea what to expect, who would be there, and for what. Were there going to be others who had accidently killed someone? I became extremely nervous as the days got closer to leave. I became overwhelmed with the constant fear that while I was gone, something was going to happen to one of my family members. I just kept thinking, I would not be able to live with myself if I am away and something happens to them.
It was a fear that I graveled with day and night, sending myself into panic mode. My therapist advised that I take the rest of the week off before I left town. She explained to me that if I left here in that state of mind, that I could have difficulties getting everything I need to get out of the program. She was right. I could not handle a single thing anyway, I was overwhelmed by the idea of opening a bag and putting things inside of it.
On the way to Nashville, I read most of the book that Brynn and I had published together. I read the things that I had not yet been able to bring myself to read. Stuff that I knew would be too painful for me. The problem with depression and PTSD is that you can function well for a while, but it only takes one thing to trigger you, and send you back down.
Without disclosing too much about my experience and the trip, as I’ll save that for a later day, I was asked to think about what I really hoped I could get out of being at this place. A place with over 45 other people, scared out of their minds like me, on a 70-acre ranch just outside of Nashville. My response…… I want to be as functional on the inside as it appears that I am on the outside, and I want to be a better mother.
Brynn and I had written this book, done interviews with Dr. Phil and Inside Edition all while continuing the best we could in a regular life of family and work. Comments and emails come in praising us for our bravery, our courage and strength. While all of those are nice and sound good, I was not feeling any of those things. What I was really feeling I could not even put into words. I did not even know, but it was far from brave, courageous, strong and good. It felt like I was going through the motions maybe only allowing myself to feel a very little amount of anything going on around me. No wonder I could not feel good, I could not really feel anything.
Somehow, while I was away at Onsite in Nashville, I found some healing that I had not found yet. I saw things differently than I had seen them this whole time, and I literally saw God through the entire thing. Every time I would ask Him for a sign, it was delivered almost immediately to me. This was exactly where I was supposed to be at this exact time, I was supposed to be there.
When I returned home Friday night the 15th of January, my husband greeted me at the airport. I was so excited to see his face. He had flowers for me and we got a hotel room to catch up from the last week. We found ourselves awake at 3am just talking about life and
all the things that I was able to put in perspective while I was gone. Things that I did not see, and likely never would have seen without that experience. We left the hotel very early, sleepy but happy. We were meeting my parents at the top of White Pass to retrieve our kids. They had just spent a week full of love and laughs with their Papa, Nana, Auntie Kay Kay, Uncle Cody, Aunt Kelli and cousins. The family was brought together so much that week.
Aaron and I had stopped off at a restaurant called Spiffy’s to get some breakfast. The waitress forgot to tell us that a banquet was going on in the back room, so what was supposed to be a quick little breakfast, turned into the longest wait in history for our food. My parents called, and they were already getting to the top of the pass. We told them that we were running late, so they decided to meet us at Cruisers Pizza in Packwood. I was feeling guilty. Had we not stopped for that breakfast, they would not have had to drive an extra 25 minutes to get to us.
We pulled into Cruisers, where I saw my children for the first time in 9 days. My dad was smiling wearing his black Raise for Rowyn hoody. I remember it made me so happy and proud that he was wearing it. We sat with them for lunch and chatted. I was extremely tired though, and ready to get home.
Mom and Dad helped us load all of the boys stuff in the car. Dad helped get the boys buckled in safely, and we hugged and kissed telling one another we loved each other. Never to know it would be the last time that we ever saw one another in this life.
I received a phone call early the next morning that my dad was in an ambulance going to the hospital for chest pains. I fell to my knees in prayer, Lord please do not do this. Please…..It was not long after the first call, that I received the second. My dad was gone. He had went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They were unable to bring him back to us. My dad was 56 years old. He died of a sudden heart attack, with no heart conditions prior. He had been seen in doctor’s offices many times in recent months because he was going to undergo a knee replacement and back surgery in 2016. Why the hell did this happen?
I still cannot tell you what that day was like, as only parts of it I can recall. I felt so betrayed by God. How could he do this to our family, haven’t we endured enough? I just finished getting tools to make progress in my life, and now this. Anger, pain, disbelief, sadness, denial, are just a few of the emotions I was struggling with.
On the morning of my dad’s services I read a devotional preparing myself for a very difficult day for our family. The devotion title was called, eyes wide shut. The meaning behind it was very clear, once you have seen God work in your life you cannot un-see it. He has prepared your heart for the exact time to find him, and when you see it there is no way that you can deny it after that. It was so true. Sign after sign I had seen in Nashville, Gods guidance with Raise for Rowyn and writing the book. It was all him. It was never me. How could I deny a God that I have seen so clearly now? I can’t. Which makes it that much crappier. It is not always easy being a Christian.
When I look back, all I see is a stage God was setting up in preparation for my Dad’s departure. Possibly the anxiety I felt prior to the trip, his last week of life spent with all of his grandkids, and morning coffee with his sister twice that week. That long wait for breakfast putting us behind meant we did not just grab the boys and go, we sat for a meal and talked. Him making sure they celebrated my brother’s birthday three days early this year, because he would not be here for the real date. And spending his last night with his best friend my mom, explaining perhaps the most exiting playoff game this year. Maybe the most shocking of all…. was seeing he had downloaded our book, Life of an Angel, to his phone at some point that morning before he passed away. Never getting a chance to read it, but to let me know he wanted to, and maybe, just maybe…… that he was an Angel himself.