I have no idea how we’re already here: how we’re back at another anniversary and marking another year of life without you. How is that even possible?
Four years means I’ve now lived more of my adult life without you than I did with you. People have frequently noted that I lost you young, but at the time “young” was my normal and the reality of facing so much life without you hadn’t yet started to settle.
Needless to say, I now find myself wishing I could somehow go back in time and give a bear hug to that scared 17-year old girl whose world felt like it was collapsing around her with the weight of the word cancer and the thought of losing you. Or sit across the table from the 22-year forced to say goodbye and write the eulogy she wasn't expecting to have to stand and read until much much later in life. I wish I could tell both of them that even though it felt like everything was falling apart, they wouldn't feel this way forever. I wish I could cry with them and also promise them that it won't always hurt quite this much.
That yes, it will always hurt. And yes, they will always hate the idea - and reality - of a world without their father. But also that in there they'd find strength and joy that they never could have imagined would be theirs. I wish I could tell them that they were stronger and more brave than they believed they would be. And that someday they’d even come to find deep joy (and even humour) in all the ways their plans and ideas failed and how - in all the pain and loss and surrender - Jesus would continue write a story and a life far more meaningful and beautiful than what they had in mind.
But I guess that's all part of the journey, eh? The fear and the disbelief and the anger and railing against how much you hate what has changed or been stolen from you. The surrender and the tears and the moving forward too. The learning things through experience: even if that experience is something you never wanted to walk through and wouldn't hope for anyone. The reality that no matter how many amazing people tell you so many things (good, bad, and otherwise) about grieving and loss, there are so many parts of this journey you have to and can only learn and feel and fully process yourself.
Turns out that as much as you wish you could, you can't outsource grief.
That you, yourself, have to learn to fight for joy. That you, yourself, have to learn to give yourself grace for the days you wish you could just collapse into the exhaustion and pain. That you, yourself, have to make peace with the reality that there are parts of this that simply require a heck of a lot of time. And that you, yourself, have to learn to make your home in His presence and His hope, over and over and over again.
You know what I really want to do today?
I want to sit on a patio overlooking the ocean and these crisp January snow-capped peaks, curl up in a thick blanket, and talk to you for hours over perfectly brewed coffee or a glass of smooth Malbec. I want to tell you about India and Norway and the UK and my upcoming trip to Nepal (it’s.finally.happening!), that Tim and I went to Yosemite and that Half Dome is pure sparkly awe-inspiring magic in the snow, that I’m running again, and that U2 was every bit as good in concert as I/we expected them to be.
I want to tell you about my bike tour and my crazy road-trip from there to Mexico, about the community and family God has brought me in Vancouver that humble me constantly with how amazing, supportive, and fun they are. I want to tell you about CT scans and doctors appointments and channeling your humour and perspective when I had to face the fear and unknown and diagnosis of chronic sickness and I really want tell you of all the ways that Jesus has sustained me there and is bringing more and more healing.
I want to freak out together about the character and audacity of Jesus and the scope of His grace and sufficiency. I want to tell you about church plants and preaching and writing and grad school research and burn out and law school applications and thesis topics and how I've settled into the work I'm doing now. I want to tell you about the guys who've broken my heart (turns out, guys remain a vast mystery), of all the ways I've learned and grown because of that process, and I so badly wish that you could remind me in only the way that you could that God's goodness in that area of life, while sometimes mysterious and even frustrating, is absolutely worth trusting.
I want a big and strong Dad hug and to hear your laugh and watch you talk with your hands. I want to show you pictures of hikes and camping trips and show you all of my favourite places in these gorgeous coastal mountains and this rugged west coast. I want to update my National Parks list and show you that I'm now definitely winning the count (and remind you that, yes, it is entirely your fault that I am this competitive). I want to bemoan how the Canucks have played since the Cup run in 2011, revel in the fact that Crosby only keeps getting better, and tell you that I've nearly finished the "goal" list of watching a live game in every major North American sports league (only NFL to go! - and set to be completed next fall. #success).
I want to tell you that Bart and Kristin are parents of three now and that gorgeous little Stella joined the family this past spring, that Nick in is grad school and doing really well there, and that Tim keeps climbing the ladder of culinary genius and creativity. I want to tell you that, Mum: well, I want to tell you for the millionth time that you made the most incredible choice with the woman you married. She's always been the most beautiful woman in the world to me, and dare I say she’s only growing in beauty. She’s strong and brave and passionate and so fully surrendered to Jesus. It’s been the best gift this past year to see God bring healing and new life and new adventures for her too - in Australia, India, and Zambia.
Goodness. A lot of life has happened since you've been gone, Dad.
I write that holding back sobs, now peppering my notebook with salty tears.
I hate that you’re not a part of this. I think I always will.
You almost have to make peace with the idea of moving forward before you can. That there's only so much we can hold in our hearts, heads, and hands and in order to take hold fully of all that God has for us right now and moving forward, we have to be willing to let go.
It seems that, in order to move into newness and continued healing and freedom, we have to let go of what once was. We have to (and graciously get to) look past the people we used to be, the fears that used to hold us back, the narratives and labels and habits that no longer fit, and even sometimes we even have to learn to let go of the good things and incredible people that helped to get us here.
We’re never the same people, rather we are constantly growing and learning. Grace leads us forward: deeper and deeper into His crazy and vast love and the freedom that comes in knowing Him.
But, I think that's the hardest part still: The fact that you're part of the used-to-be now. Like trips and jobs and education and accomplishments in the past that, aside from their impact (to varying degrees) in shaping and moulding me into who I am today and the ways they impacted the trajectory of where I am headed, are definitively things in the past.
Living is a funny thing, eh? This making our lives in the tension of time? The dance between what was and what is and what we hope will be? We exist as the overlapping results of our historical, sociological, and sociocultural impacts. We're formed by everyone we meet, the conversations we have, the experiences we live, the education we receive, and the gracious leading and moulding of Jesus, yet the only thing we own is this very moment.
Our dreams and plans inspire this moment, but until they collide with the present, they aren't ours either. Like Jon Foreman said: today is all we'll ever have.
So, there's a perpetual challenge there: living fully alive in the right now. The task of fully embracing and living fully alive in the glorious and messy and mundane and exhilarating reality of today. The mind-boggling gift of this moment and the holy task of being alive: fully surrendered in worship and wonder.
It’s baffling really - that in Jesus we live and move and have our being.
That - in Him - even the most “mundane” tasks can be holy, that even the most “ordinary” interactions can carry glimpses and glimmers of the Kingdom. That - in Him - even the most difficult things can shine with possibility and hope. And that - in Him - even the most obviously good and exciting things only point in veiled shadows and blurred hues to the full depth of His beauty and goodness.
Right here: His mercy and peace sustain us and fills our lips with songs of joy.
He really is more beautiful than words can ever express, hey?
Every description of Him falls short of how good He is, how faithful He is, how glorious the reality of His salvation and grace and mercy and justice are. More and more I just find myself speechless and in awe of Him - captivated in wonder and amazement. I’m constantly humbled by the reality that He draws near to us and delights in making Himself know to us. His: The name above all names: unmatched and unrivaled in every possible way. And, in our suffering, we come to know Him in ways we never could before we became brutally aware of our own weakness and desperation.
Emmanuel is our Victory.
The God of endless mercy and steadfast wild love is our delight.
I bought a Joe Sakic jersey a few weeks ago and cried when I first put it on. It’s seems silly that something like that can make me miss you so keenly. How a piece of clothing can transport me back to the warmth and excitement of watching games with you, and freaking out together about the iconic Sakic-Hejduk-Forsberg combo. How the style and temperament of “Super Joe!” will always remind me of you and how deeply you loved the game and taught me to love it too.
A few years ago, Tim and I decided that someday when we had steady jobs, he’d get a Gretzky jersey and I’d get a Sakic jersey and we’d frame them and put them up in our offices or homes. I guess we must be growing up and establishing our careers a bit more, because He has his #99 and I now have my #19. It’s a small marker and an inconsequential homage, but it’s movement: holding on to memories, yet letting them point us forward too.
As bittersweet as it is, we are moving forward here Dad. In ways I think you’d be proud of.
Credit the sweet sweet grace of Jesus, we’re living in the space of answered prayers. Living into the reality of redemption unfolding in real time. There’s so much life and growth and goodness to tell you about. Hard-taught lessons in learning how to die are turning into joy-filled lessons of learning was it means to live: to really live.
Four years feels different than the years prior, in a way that’s hard to describe. It doesn't feel quite as hard to fight for joy anymore. Grief feels more like a sporadic headache now an than a constant storm cloud. You're more beautiful memory now, less jarring pain of an empty seat at the kitchen table or empty slot in my week and calendar that used to be set aside for talking to you.
As much as I will forever hate losing you and the crowd of incredible family that we’ve had to say goodbye to too, loss is, in the most unexpectedly backwards way, teaching me how to live: Less pressure, more grace. Less stuff, more moments. Less individual ambitions, more communally-driven dreams. Less closed doors, more open tables. Less concern about what people think or what society suggests my life should look like, more concern about quiet, steady, and rooted faithfulness to Jesus.
I will always have a love/hate relationship with January 22nd.
January 22nd will always stand as the marker of the day you were set free. The day you got to go Home. The day you were fully healed. The day where you entered into the presence and perfection and glory of Jesus.
Honestly, I’m jealous. So unbelievably jealous. I want to be there too. In the fullness of his beauty and presence without the stain and scourge of sin. The perfection of peace. Finally Home and fully free. Where justice and righteousness reign without opposition.
My heart can’t even begin to comprehend it.
But I’m not there yet. We’re not there yet.
I lift my head to these mountains and hear the kind invitation of Jesus that there’s still more work to be done, more love to live out, more ways to taste and see of His goodness here. As tempting as it can be to avoid the pain and try to numb myself to the reach of sin, I guess my task isn’t one of running away, is it?
Losing you early and losing you young holds me accountable to the fleeting breath that is our lives. In your wake, you leave a legacy of a life lived well, a life alive in worship, and an invitation to go and do likewise.
In response to the ache, we respond with worship. In direct reaction to the pain and the longing, we rejoice in His love, His presence, His salvation, and His enduring presence. In the midst of chaos, we anchor ourselves in His peace. In recognition of the pain and need that surround us, we intercede that His Kingdom would come. And we do this all with his coming victory as our motivation and our strength, not our avoidance strategy.
What will I do with this (one) wild and precious life? How am I living here? Is Jesus truly the joy and delight and consuming ambition of my life? Am I giving my time and life for those around me? Am I spending my time and efforts for the sake of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed?
Four years is grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.
Four years is a deeper glimpse into the beauty that comes after pain - not just in theory or in a seemingly far-off or desperate prayer, but in lived experience and tangible reality. Four years shimmers with the new life that comes after death. Four years is singing even louder to the anthem that death doesn’t (not now. not ever.) win and that our Jesus has conquered the grave and forever shut down the reach and power of death. Four years is finding myself even more in love with Jesus, being made more and more alive in His redemption and finding even deeper confidence in His goodness (against all odds) leading us forward.
Four years is awe at how gracious and faithful He has been to us.
And, four years is still being humbled by the reality that I got to call you my Dad. Four years is immense gratitude that you were brave enough to share everything you could with us - all of the mundane and the magical parts of this being human thing. Four years is a greater understanding and mutual love for your most favourite thing: the the paradoxical depth and reach of our weakness meeting the wonder and strength of being fully loved by a wholly sufficient and faithful God. Four years is immense gratitude that, more than anything else, you shared your deep deep love for Him - and in that you set an example for what it means to delight in the wonder and reach and depths of who He is.
I still count it amongst the greatest honours and joys of my life to have been your little Lider.
Miss you always and love you forever, Dad.