learning to die...revealing the first layer

 

how do i start to show you who i am?  it takes thought!

going over and over it in my mind, and after a close friend just recently said good-bye to her dad, i think this a great place to start....

it's about me...who i have loved, who i lost, and how i lived...honestly, i KNOW that it is because of life experiences such as this, that i feel so passionate about photography.

i feel sometimes like a broken record.  

my dad died 7 years ago.... 

he did.  it's the truth.  but through the years, i find myself going  back and back and back again to that statement? 

the fact is, when you lose a parent, your life changes.  

a common line i hear from someone who is experiencing a death of a loved one is,

"i don't know how i will live without them."  

the fact is, you don't.  the life you lived with them is gone.  from the moment their last breath exits their body, your life is completely different from the one you have lived since you took your own FIRST breath.  it's now a life that you learn to live without your parent...

there is no way around it.  it changes you.  and life itself is different. 

i have learned so much SINCE my dad passed in 2006, but my dad lived with Glioblastoma for 16 months, and i learned volumes during that particular time. 

some time into his illness, i decided that i would start to write a living tribute to my dad.  i wanted him to hear my heart during this time, and i wanted him to know things that i had to say.  i didn't want his funeral to be the time that i voiced all the ways i felt, and all i had learned.  

i've shared these writings with others as they go through similar circumstances... 

there are quite a few of them.  they are not written perfectly.  they are written freely...never thinking that someday others would read them...it was just a daughter pouring her heart out at a time it was hurting...

today i'll share the beginning... 

Treasures in the Water

-A Living Tribute to My Father-

Reflection in life is a gift in itself and this past week has been full of its graces. Memories are priceless and sustain us many times through difficulties that we face. I’ve spent the past week away on a family vacation to Ocean City Maryland. It was a week of very much needed rest and enjoyment. I spent a lot of time looking at the ocean, standing in its waters feeling the force and it’s strength. The ocean brought back many memories of my life and of my dad and instigated much reflection of God’s enormous power and wondrous creations.

As I looked out to the ocean, the thoughts of past times there and of time with my dad flooded my mind. Dad has always had an uncanny way of making everyday life’s moments into special remembrances and has always taught us to store them in our hearts forever.  I’ve begun to think of those special moments as “life’s snapshots”. I store them in my heart just as I do in my photo albums. I pull these snapshots from my heart constantly, especially lately, as we as a family have been facing Dad’sGlioblastoma. But always, even since a little girl, have memories been so important to me, clinging to them, treasuring them and learning from them as they have helped to shape me into the woman, wife and mother that I am today. I contribute this to the importance that my dad has always placed on making each moment special, and making those moments last.

The memories that I carry of my childhood in Ocean City are precious and priceless, particularly now of my dad, and the special fun that we shared. I relive days of him playing with us in the waves, boogie boarding, laughing all day long. I recall the sunburns that he endured (through sunblock and his detest to the hot sun), only because it was a small price of “play time” with us kids. The drive down to Maryland that he would guide during the night so we could sleep and magically wake up at the shore, as well as many other memories that I have, make me realize that they were all gifts that he gave to us always, in Ocean City and at home.

Many gifts that he has given, wrapped in laughter, love and time; I will hold them in my heart forever. I treasure his gift of music that he passed to all of us. Although my mom has the talent, my dad has the music. Music is in his blood and he feels it through and through. He dances, sings, and makes each note and word his own with a passion that I believe all 5 of us carry today. Me in his arms, being whirled ‘round and around again as my head bobbed all around; giggling, laughing, singing…these are snapshots frozen in time, in my mind, to keep forever.

There were the stories that he made up and told; they were so tender, they would make me cry. It touches me deeply to hear him telling my children those stories and to see the wonder in their faces as they listen. There were the games that he would make out of everything, and what seemed to be endless games of Frisbee and softball, swimming and hiking through streams. 

 I can still feel his arms around me as he would cuddle me and sing to me, begging me not to grow up. I used to think he was so silly for wanting me to stop something that I was so excited to do. Even as an adult, I could not understand what he meant until I could cradle my own babies in my arms and wish the same thing.

His words were and are priceless gifts to me. The encouragement that he would whisper to me, that I was his little girl forever and ever…some days lately, I can’t make the snapshots in my mind stop. They play over and over the wonderful childhood that I had and the special relationship that I shared with my daddy. But he also gave eternal gifts, and I relish the gifts of hope and faith that he instilled in us as he prayed our way through difficult times. I believe that the strength that I can carry during the trials in my life, can be greatly contributed to his example of the simple belief than God CAN.

Again, standing in the ocean, I have pondered about what God can and will do in Dad’s life with the power that He has. As the waves pounded against me, I marveled at the ocean’s vastness and it’s power. The waters my family played in are the same waters that have taken lives, brought destruction, and received ashes. These same waters have held majestic ships, sustained life and have heard my children’s squeals of laughter and brought joy to their faces.

The contrast in these waters have caused me to reflect on God and how He works waters in our lives, particularly now as we experience this trial with my dad’s cancer. I see how only God holds the power for the waters in the ocean and in our lives. Jeremiah 5:22 says…”I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross, The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.” I can see now that only He can put barriers on the waters in our lives, and I can also see that only He can take those fierce, powerful waves of water and create in the turbulent waters, beautiful sculpted seashells- treasures of the ocean – that my children find and keep as remembrances of our time at the shore.

We walked the beach searching for these treasures; standing in the waves during high tide watching for them to be pushed to shore and sinking our toes through the sand trying to feel them. We stood and waited for the waters to recede to see what they had brought to shore.

My children found their ocean gifts and held these seashells tight in their fists and close to their hearts. As the waves would start to calm and the sea water still enough to be able to gaze down to the ocean floor, it was an amazing observation to me to realize that the best and biggest seashells were found after high tide. 

It sparked encouragement as we wait for the waters to calm in our lives to see the miracle and the gifts that God will leave at our feet.

Even with faith, it is still frightening to be in a battle for your life or the life of a loved one. I know that God will help to carry our hurts and burdens, and I have been reminded of that, as I held my children in the water, tight against my body, walking with them and carrying them in the sea. 

 The weight of their bodies was surprisingly less in the water than out of the water. It reminded me that God is carrying us through this, as my children’s legs remain wrapped around me trembling with the cold, excitement and even fear. I held tightly to them, stronger than I expected to be, holding them easily and securely, letting them cling as I relished the time and the memory of them relying on me and waiting on me as I carried them through the waters together. The thought occurs to me that they are neither tall enough, nor strong enough to have waded the ocean waves alone and I am grateful that I can be there for them, just as I am grateful to have the Lord with us now.

In some ways, it seems like Dad’s seizures were just last week and the first time we heard of Glioblastoma, only yesterday. Though painful and difficult, the time has seemed to linger, just as time at the ocean seems to last forever. Playing in the sand, riding the waves and sitting and listening to the ocean’s music seems to make summer days stand still and hours and days that would fly by at home, linger on, waiting for memories to be made in it’s time at the shore. I am thankful for the time that God has given to us through these waves of water. Time that even through pain, we can rest in, and let stand still as we take time to enjoy each other more, weigh the words that we utter more and are careful not to take for granted as we wait for God’s precious healing.

My faith for that healing has been strengthened at the shore. Ocean City has always been a special place to me and I am sure will always continue to be. Faith has always been a driving force in me, and today I see how the two have come together. Even at 14, when we first started vacationing at the shore, I cast my prayers out while looking at the ocean from our condo balcony, praying for the man that God would give to me, praying, hoping and begging for a godly man and a life full of children. 16 years later, as I looked out to the same sea from the same building that we stayed at when I was a teenager, I cast new prayers out, holding the hand of the wonderful man that I love, and watching and holding my 3 children closely to me. Surely, God has heard my prayers here and even after experiencing life and waters that I had not prayed for nor expected, I can stand with renewed faith in God’s mercy and grace and with new hope in His healing touch and concern for my dreams and desires. I am grateful for the unquestionable peace I can have in His almighty power.

I’m thankful for my week of vacation at a place so full of meaning. I’m thankful for the rest I have been able to receive in my body and in my spirit. I arrived home refreshed with even more memories now and strength and hope to make more. These memories and the gifts that Dad has given to me are the seashells that I carry with me from not only our time in the water, but even our walks on the sand. I’ll cling to them through the years relishing the legacy that he has left to me in my heart and on my soul.

I have faith that Gliobalstoma is not a good-bye to my dad, but a walk through the water, for my Dad and all of us who love Him. The waters, I expect them to be turbulent and stormy at times. They may even be able to knock us off our feet, but even the ocean calms and gives peace in it’s sound, it’s smell and it’s touch.

With God’s help and our great love for my dad, I’m willing to sink my toes into the sand to let the waves crash over my legs and to stand strong as I squint through the waters looking for the gifts that we all have yet to uncover.

Dad, today more than ever, I love you.

Love your little girl,

Joelle

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