September is not a month that I used to dread, I used to love the month. The crisp cool mornings, the sunny warm days, trips to the apple orchard, school shopping, windows open, fresh air filling our souls. As I have grown older, or maybe it is the onset of having children, the entrance of September has been filled will all these wonderful things of Joy but also with some little pings of sadness as summer makes its exit for the year. The girls have given me a much greater appreciation for the summer, the fun things you can do, the joy of summer heat, the smell of an oncoming rainstorm. All things you want to bottle up and make last a little longer when you live in a state like Minnesota. All this coming from the girl who's favorite season used to be winter.
The entrance of September this year fills my heart with more than just pings of sadness. September is "the" month my dad was called to his Heavenly home. Every single month has been met with milestones and moments that were firsts, moments that we experienced for the first time without him physically present. With those moments were also times when I could say "a year ago dad was doing this, we were doing that, this is where he was, dad was here." The inability to connect to what was a year ago somehow makes him seem further away than ever. Last year on this weekend I was finishing my work weekend, and my family - everyone except me - was up at a dear friend's cabin, that my parent's bid on at Charlotte's benefit. Labor day night my dad was making his way back home with Sophie because he wanted to bank up his vacation time for his upcoming retirement, and Tuesday after Sophie's preschool class, we made our way up north for the rest of the week. You cannot change time, you cannot look back with too many regrets, but I will always be a little sad that everyone got that weekend with my dad, and I did not. Sophie still talks about the trip to the Wolf Center in Ely that my dad made with everyone for her, and how the wolves were not alive and were eating the deer. It makes me giggle every time I think about it, as I am sure it was not high on his list of things to do. I also have an amazing picture of him holding Charlotte in the lazy boy chair, probably the last one I have of the two of them together. My time up there is the last time I remember being the old me.
Shortly after returning home, Charlotte was supposed to be admitted for an EEG and ended up getting very sick respiratory wise and was transferred to the ICU. The last place I saw my dad alive. September was not a good month, and in some ways this September is harder, I grieve for the memories I long to travel back to in real life, I grieve the raw and acute memories of my dad's death and the immediate time afterwards, and I grieve for my dad, who I miss more than words can describe. When I sit and actually let myself feel that grief it sucks my breath away.
As I work through these feelings and try to get a handle on the immensely overwhelming grief that fills my life not only with the loss my dad, but for all that Charlotte has to go through, and all that will never be for her and our family as I imagined, I have been working on opening up myself spiritually in prayer, and trying to take the time to listen to the answers. During what was one of my worst long runs a couple of weeks ago, my heart was praying, pleading with God to fill me with strength to guide me to the answers, to fill my heart with life, and to use me to do His will. A thought came into my head "If you live like you are dying, you are not really living." Now I get random thoughts from time to time, things that speak to my heart, but the timing, the work I have been doing, just maybe this is the Lord's answer to so many of my prayers. It specifically helped make a decision I had been struggling to with, but I don't think that that powerful of a thought was meant for such a trivial physical decision.
"If you live like you are dying, you are not really living." That is the answer to so many things. If my grief is killing me inside, I am not living. If we keep Charlotte sheltered from the world because we are afraid of what could happen to her, we are are not living. If we plan our life like we are not going to be here tomorrow, we are not really living. In reality we are all dying, every breath, every second, every day, we are one day closer to dying, but letting that consume us shields us from the Joy that life brings us in the meantime. If we live life like we are alive, thriving, and full of joyful life, then we are truly living.
Since having that spiritual moment during my horrible run, I have been acutely aware of the world around me, I have noticed little things that I haven't paid attention to, things that are beautiful, things that are simple, things that are full of life, but that life kept me from paying attention to. We all pay attention to sunrise and sunsets when they are particularly beautiful, but have you ever noticed that while each one may not be the most beautiful thing you have ever seen - every single sunrise in the East, and sunset in the West is astoundingly beautiful. Each day, each one is a little different, but the way that the rays dance off the sky, the clouds, or the world beneath it, creates a vision that takes your breath away. I have decided that they are peaks into what Heaven looks like, we just don't very often take time to see the joy in every single sunrise or sunset. In doing so, taking that time, God has shown me the beauty that is my dad's new home, the glory that surrounds him, and that, more than anything fills my grief with joy. I hope that you too can take some time to notice the beauty and joy of the simple sunrise or sunset. It doesn't have to be glorious to the human eye to actually be glorious. And most importantly I hope you can live your day like you are living, not like you are dying....it will allow you to find Joy in places you never knew or imagined you could.