The sun set on Daddy's life on December 29, 2009. That was nine months, three weeks and two days ago.
I've spent those nine months, three weeks and two days in Mudville.
You know where Mudville is, of course. It's the town in Casey at the Bat by Earnest Lawrence Thayer. One of my dad's favorite poems. Ever since he died, the last stanza has been running through my head:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.
Dad was my hero. My mighty Casey. And he struck out.
Well, of course I'm in Mudville.
Mom came for a visit a few weeks ago, and she told me God had given her the freedom to stop crying. That she could still cry if she needed to, but it was okay to hold back the tears now, if she wanted to.
I understood what she meant. It feels like the constant weeping of my soul somehow honors Dad and preserves his memory. (Also, I can't help it. A few days ago, I bawled so hard it triggered a head cold that lingers still.)
On the last day of Mom's visit, we went to Oceanside. Daddy's favorite beach. Yahweh only knows how many hours Daddy spent meandering along the shore of that beach, staring at the sand, looking for agates.
We went to watch the sunset and feel closer to Daddy.
He wasn't there.
The sunset was spectacular.
In Mudville, watching that sunset was like experiencing Dad's death all over again. The sun just sank. Inexorably. There was nothing I could do to pull it back.
Just like Daddy.
But after it set, I noticed something. Even though the sun had gone, its impact remained. The mark of that day's light was reflected in the sky, and it lingered,
and shot brilliant streaks outward in every direction.
As I watched, I realized that even though Daddy is gone, the impact of his life remains.
In the people he shared Christ with.
In the sermons he preached.
In the lives he touched.
In the pictures he took.
In the words he wrote.
In the songs he sang.
In the love he gave.
And I realized that even though Daddy is gone, the reflection of his life remains.
In the wife he loved.
In the children he nurtured.
In the grandchildren he cherished.
I remain in Mudville.
There is a time to mourn, after all, and it is good that I am taking my time. I'm not rushing, I'm not stagnating. I'm just... being.
But today, my sister, Kimberley, said on her blog, "it's okay to mourn and to cry the pain out, but there comes a moment when you decide that [God] is so much bigger than any circumstance that gets thrown at you."
Even a tragic circumstance. Even when your hero strikes out.
There is a time to mourn. But after Mom's comment, and Kimberley's post, I wondered what comes after mourning. I hopped over to Ecclesiastes 3:4 to find out. It said, "A time to mourn, and a time to dance."
Dancing is the opposite of mourning?
Apparently. Psalm 30:11 says, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness."
Yes, but... dance? Now? Here? In Mudville? How could I possibly?
I was reminded of something my Uncle Nick told me on Facebook back in May, when the cloud of grief which blanketed me was still so thick I felt as though the umpire had just bellowed, "Strike Three!" and all the crowd at Mudville was frozen forever in shocked silence.
He said, "Child of heaven, leave your mark!"
No, Uncle Nick. They don't allow dancing in Mudville. I can't.
Scanning back through my Facebook archives to find his comment, I discovered the rest of what Uncle Nick had said, which I had read back in May but hadn't been able to process at the time.
He said, "Is it not the footprint that we leave in others' lives that leaves a lasting impression that no amount of rain or storm can wash away? We were made for eternity and that is what we must leave in the hearts of those we love ~ eternity. Which is why we have the fruit of the Spirit and the Word of God. Child of heaven, leave your mark!"
There it was again. The footprint we leave in others' lives. The footprint Daddy left in my life. The lingering brilliance reflected across the sunset sky.
Could I leave my mark? Could I dance?
No. Not alone.
But the psalmist said, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing."
As I contemplated this, my gmail notification window popped up, announcing a new email from the David Crowder Band. Yeah, they write to me. We're tight. (Just kidding. I'm on their newsletter mailing list.)
Their newsletter today introduced the video of their new single, "SMS (Shine)". I was in the midst of trying to wrap my brain around mourning and dancing; I intended to follow their link later. But they said it was a stop motion video made using a Lite Brite, and how cool is that, so I had to check it out. (I love Lite Brite.)
I also love God's timing. The chorus hit the nail right on the head.
Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel loved
Can You overcome this heart that's overcome?
(Note: you may need to visit my blog to view this video.)
Did you watch all the way to the end? You have to watch all the way to the end.
Because at the end is hope. Lots of it. Big, green, leafy, dazzling, blushing, blooming hope.
Radio Bible Class published a booklet in 2007 by Tim Jackson called When You're Left Behind: Surviving the Aftermath of Suicide. That one booklet has provided me with more answers and real comfort than all other sources combined, save Scripture.
One quote in particular has banged around in my head this year. "Suicide doesn't end pain. It only lays it on the broken shoulders of the survivors." ~Ann-Grace Scheinin
Too true. So many people are broken by Dad's death. I've carried the pain of his suicide on my broken shoulders now for nine months, three weeks and two days. I've cried more this year than all of the rest of my adult years combined.
All year, God has carried me. Loved me. Blessed me. Protected me. Kept in His bottle each and every tear I've sown.
But Psalm 126:5-6 says, "Those who sow in tears with reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."
That's a promise from Abba. The God who keeps His promises.
Because of Abba, I will reap with songs of joy.
Because of Abba, I will behold vine upon vine of new growth burgeoning from despair.
Because of Abba, I will leave a footprint in the lives of others that no amount of rain or storm can wash away.
Because of Abba, I will rejoice in brilliant light shooting across the sky.
I'm not ready to say goodbye to Daddy yet. His ashes still rest in a box my brother crafted. Someday I will let them go. Let him go. Someday. Not yet.
But I am ready to take one teeny tiny step forward.
I am ready to say goodbye to Mudville.
Because of Abba, I will dance.