The firsts that I don't want to share.
When we started our adoption process nearly 3 years ago, Christmas was always a mile marker. We began in December 2012 and Christmas was always the one event that we wished for Tarik to be home.
"Maybe next Christmas" turned into "maybe next Christmas." When asked when we thought that Tarik would be home, we'd say, "hopefully by Christmas." The holidays were hard in the waiting time and just wanting the family to all be together for those holiday moments pulled at our hearts.
Finally, this year, 2015 was our first Christmas home with our new son! And the reality of Christmas, couldn't have been farther from what I ever imagined of our first Christmas to be together. It was Tarik's first Christmas home. A time to celebrate and be joyful! After all this time of waiting. But it also turned into the first Christmas without my dad. Not a 'first' I want to share.
My dad is a healthy, energetic, very strong retired high school science teacher, basketball coach, church board member, lay pastor, and a hard working farmer who knows more about the land and farming than you think is possible to know. He has a strong faith in the Lord Jesus and showed God's love to everyone he came in contact with. A good man and a godly man. A great husband, dad, and friend. He listens well and speaks with wisdom. He doesn't like to swim but he loves spending time with his family at the beach each year. At least, over the years, he learned to love it as relaxing isn't in this hard worker's vocabulary.
Our favorite thing to do together, since I was a little girl, is to wake up early in the morning, just he and I, and take a mile or more walk down the beach during our family vacations. Usually we'd set a goal to walk to the pier and I always gave him my sea shells to hold in his pocket. This past summer was no different and we walked together to the pier. My 7 year old daughter joined us on one of our morning walks this year and it was the best walk yet. We saw sting rays, dolphins, a rainbow, jelly fish- and it was absolutely beautiful. This year we talked about Tarik and waiting for that last call to finally get to fly to Ethiopia and meet him. We thought we might even have missed the beach trip because we'd be traveling, but that wasn't in God's plan. This year we would finally have Christmas together!! Surely we would. Or that's what we thought. There was no reason to think otherwise.
Then November happened. I never will much like November again. My dad thought he was having gallbladder problems from minor pains under his rib after he'd eat. After initial doctor appointments and sonograms to check his gallbladder, a tumor was found on his kidney. We thought it was contained and that surgery was an option. Further testing showed that the tumor wasn't contained - it was cancer, aggressive, and it was all through his chest cavity. His lungs, and his liver were already surrounded by the cancer. Within one week, my dad went from walking miles along the family farm checking the cattle and the fencing, to being very short of breath and unable to walk around the house. Another week later, and my dad was on oxygen with hospice being called to set up at my parent's home. A bed in the living room and the nurse passing out papers on "how to explain death to a child" referring to my children. It was all that sudden and so very fast. There was no time to make appointments with the specialists, and no time to schedule a surgery that wasn't going to help anyway. Almost every day I visited my dad and until the last day and a half, he was very coherent and able to whisper, smile, or respond in some way. His biggest smile came when the grandkids gathered around and told him they loved him so much. Awh, he smiled so big!
Every time I left my parents' house, I said goodbye to my dad. I didn't know when the last time would actually come, but it was very near. I told my dad that my daughter said she'd walk with me at the beach this year, and he smiled. He said "rain" and the last time we walked together it had rained on us and we were soaked by the time we got to the beach house. I remember that walk and I remember during the walk specifically thanking God for my dad and for these walks we have together. I was thinking that one day my dad would be too old to walk and so for this one I was so grateful. I never thought it'd be the last.
The next day, November 12th, my husband told me the news in the morning. That my dad was gone. He died peacefully in the night with my mom by his side. I know he is rejoicing in Heaven, well and still very much alive in his eternal place. I'll never understand the reason, the timing, or the whys. It's not for me to know. I do know how much I miss him and how every "first" for Tarik will also be a "first" time for not having my dad there too. Tarik's first Christmas was just the start. Tarik's first time at the farm, his first swim in a pool, Tarik's "first" time at the beach, will be the hardest first time of not having my dad there with us. The milestones and the 'firsts' that I don't want to share are so far apart on the emotional spectrum, that balance is well, for now, hard.
I wish I had answers or promises or words to inspire. It's all very new to us now and the feelings are very raw and real. The ups and the downs of the excitement of having Tarik home, but the downs of losing my dad so suddenly has been tough. And we thought the emotional roller coaster of adoption was difficult. It was, then something else comes along. Above all, God remains close and He is so close to me now as we go through this time of rejoicing and grieving all at once.
I am so thankful that my dad was able to meet Tarik and know that those prayers were answered that he lifted up for us. God's timing in our travel was giving mercy because if we hadn't traveled to Ethiopia exactly when we did, then we could have been out of the country when my dad became ill so suddendly. I can't imagine. For this I know that God is in the details and I trust Him to carry on his plans.
In the meanwhile, each day I miss my dad and each day I praise the Lord for our family being together with our Tarik being home. Miracles and tradegies and God still is on the throne!!
Please keep us in your prayers as we find the balance of our emotions and continue to grow our family while grieving the loss of my dad, granddaddy, and father-in-law to our family.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18