I lost someone in my family this week.
It is a difficult loss in that so many emotions are running through me and I cannot explain them all very well.
My biological dad passed away Wednesday.
For my readers who know my story, you know why my emotions are difficult to explain. For those who have never heard of this man named Tom, I will sum up.
My mom was married to Tom and while she was pregnant with me, he announced that he was gay. These days, this might be common. In 1977, not so much. Obviously, their marriage did not last. I have absolutely no idea how my mom raised me by herself for those first few years-it comes from a strength that she still has.
My mom got remarried when I was four-years old and apparently I was so excited that at their wedding, I asked out loud, "Can I call him Daddy, yet?" Nothing has changed. I have been blessed beyond words with my daddy. I eventually took his name and it was official.
I am not sure what Tom was thinking about when he gave me up. It might have been for selfish reasons or it might have been for my greater good. Perhaps both.
From that point on, I saw him on holidays and birthdays and still saw his side of the family. At one point, my mom told me the truth about him and like a typical adolescent, I was angry. I refused to see him. For years.
God finally reminded me of the grace that was given to me and by my senior year of high school, I sent him a letter apologizing for my attitude. We then continued our visits a few times a year and life went on.
My wedding day came and he sat in the crowd and watched my dad walk me down the aisle. I often wonder what he was thinking about that day. What were his thoughts as I danced with my dad at the reception?
Thanks to email, we have kept in touch between our every now and then visits and I know he was a reader of this blog. He told me of his cancer, of his surgery on his leg and his effort to recover from it all.
That is the last thing that I heard from him. All I knew was that he was recovering.
This past Monday, we were on our way to see him and that side of the family when my grandma told me that he was about to die. She told me this on the phone as I was struggling to shut the van door. I just stood there, pressing the button over and over again and desperately trying to process what she just said.
When I went inside to tell my parents, that is when it all hit me and tears flowed. For some reason, when I hear bad news, I do not usually cry. But, once I start to share it with someone else, it suddenly becomes real and I completely lose it.
We decided to stop and see him on our way back home the next day. We drove up to Cleveland, Nick dropped me off and headed to a drive-thru with the kids. There was no reason for them to see him like that.
When I first saw him, I thought I was in the wrong room. For the man who was obsessed with his appearance, it was shocking to see that there was nothing left of him. He just laid there, gasping for breath.
When he heard my voice, he turned to look at me. Even though his eyes were barely open and were glossy, I think he saw me. Many times he just stared at me, watching my eyes overflow with tears.
Never in my life have I talked with someone on their death bed. That only happens in the movies and in books, right?
I told him how sorry I was that he was going through this. I told him to imagine what Heaven would be like and how much better it will be there instead of here. I told him how wonderful it would be to see Jesus. I thanked him for giving me up so that I could have the life that I did.
Sometimes I was just quiet and we just looked at each other. I kept praying for his salvation and was desperately hoping that he thought about his life and what was to come as he laid there.
I finally said good-bye and went downstairs. While I sat in the car, staring at my fast food that looked like cardboard, Nick went up and said good-bye. He gave him his Christmas present-a photo book of the kids. He showed it to him and anytime that he went too fast, he saw Tom's eyes strain to see better. He thanked him for me and he shared kind words with him as well. I am grateful that he did that, because I had no idea how to explain what that experience was like and am thankful that he understands what I saw.
I spent a lot of time in tears the rest of the way across Ohio. I grieved for how his life was ending, I grieved for time wasted and I kept thinking about what was to come for him.
We got the call Wednesday evening. Even though I was waiting on it, fresh tears found me again. He was actually gone from this earth.
Like I said, it is a wide range of emotions that I am feeling right now. I am not grieving him as I would be if it were my parents, but it is still a lot of pain that I cannot explain. He was a part of my story. A part of my life. And now he is gone.