On the Passing of My Dad While I am Far From Home
My dad passed away the night before last. I’m in France and he was in Colorado. If you know our story, you know that my family reoriented our lives so that we could be with my dad in his final years and days. After a year of stability in his health, we didn’t even question taking this trip to visit our field missionaries. His sudden death is surprising and sad—and also in God’s sovereign hands.
My husband and I, along with our four daughters, had been missionaries overseas for about 15 years prior to our return to Colorado in late 2015. My dad’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia and loneliness beckoned us home. It was a massive adjustment for all of us—but one that has proven God’s faithfulness to us time and time again.
The call from the nursing home was striking. Lord, why now? Why should his end come when I am so far away? Why would you remove me from this moment?
I didn’t really have time to contemplate rushing back. We questioned it, looked at tickets very briefly, considered how I would get to an airport from my current location, wondered if I could get back in time. His doctors and hospice nurses were giving him hours. My brother was blessedly with him. And so we prayed and I lay awake, chronically checking my phone for the message.
The call came early on my French morning, late in Colorado. It was a sort of culmination of a long, emotional, and spiritual journey that I have been on with my father for most of my life. Relief. Sadness. Finality. As I said in a text to a dear friend, my grief is not as overwhelming now as it might have been, because I have been grieving this moment for so many years.
I’m going to stay on this trip for the remaining two weeks we have planned. There’s really nothing for me to return to. My brother and I are regularly communicating and I’m with my family—the people that I want to grieve with. We’ll take time later this summer to remember my dad, to thank God for the good things he did in him and through him, to build an ebenezer commemorating the goodness of our heavenly father through our earthly father.
For now, my soul is being sweetly ministered to by our colleagues on the field. These missionaries have loved and lost from afar many times over. And we are hearing and recording the stories of refugees here who have lost everything—men, women, and children who have fled tremendous violence and poverty. Hearing their stories of murdered parents, giving birth on the migration, being separated from spouses, being tricked and trafficked, being locked up by militias in “prison,” being sold as slaves—it’s all painting a poignant and global picture of suffering and loss for me, even in the midst of my own loss.
As one of the greatest heartbreaks in my life comes to pass, I say with my brothers and sisters in Christ here, and I say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength” (Habbakuk 3:17). Because, in the end, he is the God of my salvation. He has saved me. His harrowing rescue of us who are in him is a banner of his goodness, no matter what.