Friday, April 13, 2012

Two years

My amazing father-in-law, Rick "Stretch" Conley
Two years ago, our reality was shattered and our 'normal' was shifted into a realm in which we had not set foot.  A phone call you never prepare for, never anticipate, never desire pierced the silence of my heart and sent our family on a path of uncertainty and grief.

The caller id on my phone display showed that it was my mother in law.  The voice on the other end, however did not match the expectation that I had for this phone call.  My breath caught in my throat and the world began spinning slightly askew, in such a way that my car had to naturally find its way home.

When I reached my husband, the embrace we shared was distant yet warm, comforting yet awkward.  The mixture of emotions began brewing and perccolating through our household as the uncertainty of events back 'home' wound their way into our lives.  Prayers immediately began pouring forth, a cry for help in this test of faith.

We sat and we waited.  We maintained a semblance of 'normal' in the way we tucked our children into bed, but once our feet touched the tile on our main level, we became transformed from parents into scared children.  And we waited.

The phone rang again.  In an instant, I knew that our prayers were not answered.  In that instant, I realized that my father in law, the amazing man I had grown to know and love over the past decade had left this Earth to be with God. 

Disbelief and sadness filled my heart as I tried waking myself from the nightmare.  I struggled to find the words or actions to comfort my husband, or to begin to fill this new role I had suddenly acquired.  Once again, prayers rained forth almost as voraciously as they had when I'd first heard from my mother in law.  The question of 'why' took on a new meaning, one filled with confusion like I'd yet experienced in my nearly three decades on this planet. 

In the days that followed, our family reunited for a reason none of us wished.  The mixed blessing of being with family I hadn't seen in a while or had never met clashed with the dampened blanket of the reality.  Randy traveled home right away, while the kids and I followed a few days after.  My span of time here in Colorado without my husband wore on me greatly as I thrive on being a caretaker and conversationalist when it comes to feelings (and, well, anything!)

Together we came together as a family under the roof of Randy's childhood home.  The farm on which he spent his years growing up had always been one of my favorite places to visit from the moment I first arrived two days after Christmas in 2002.

Out back, facing a large spanse of woods was a porch unlike any I'd been so fortunate to sit on.  It wasn't fancy and adorned with anything big, just a typical large porch with cozy adriondack chairs, a grill (dad loved grilling), and a few potted plants. 

It was on this porch over the next few years that I found peace and solace.  I lived on the other side of the state, which made visits fewer and far between than I would have liked.  That also is what made those visits so cleansing and fulfilling.  I soaked in the quiet, laid back approach of the country, and soaked up some rays on that back porch as the family gathered around telling stories and sharing memories.  With my feet curled under me in an andriondack chair, or hanging off the side of the porch that was *just* tall enough to let me swing my feet a little, I sat with a full body smile.

That porch is now where I go when I want to calm and refocus.  It's where I envision myself being when I sit down and talk to God.  My best talks with Him are on that back porch.

My prayers and tears are safe there, surrounded by woods and birds.  Every now and then, I feel dad, I see him sitting off to the side in his Harley shirt and jeans, listening and smiling as the conversation goes on around him.  I've tried to make my way to his side of the porch, to sidle up next to him and share a memory or ask a question. 

But there's a force preventing me from doing so.  It's impenetrable, as I've tried at times in desparation to reach him, just to hear his voice or touch his hand.  Sometimes after experiencing the letdown of not being able to get to him, frustration will drive me away from that porch.  I won't visit for a while as I try to make sense of God's will on my own, without guidance. 

The frustration becomes anger and I find myself needing to get back to that porch so I can pray in a place I know will bring me peace.  This time, however, is different.  This time, I see dad yet I realize the shift in our 'normal'.  No longer can we talk to him as we have done in the past, we go through God.  We won't get to touch his hand, hear his voice or his laugh.  We need to be satisfied and blessed by his presence, albeit quiet and off to the side.

Two years ago I shifted from physically visiting a beloved home to needing to go back there in my prayers.  I'm finding myself visiting often, especially this time of year, as I work on grasping a firmer grip on the answer to the question 'why'.

Tonight I remember a man who has permeated my life in countless ways, and still lives in many of the ways of my husband.  Two years ago the family received a phone call that communicated our greatest fears, and yet tonight I head to sleep visiting the back porch, communicating my greatest fears and praying for calm, peace, grace, and His eternal love.

We miss you, dad...there are no words to express my gratitude for raising your son to become the irreplaceabble father and husband he has become.  Your grace and guidance touches our lives daily, and for that, I am supremely grateful for His love.

memories of peace, solace, laughter, love, and joy...blessed to have had the experience to spend time there

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