I tiptoed through the funeral parlour, across the room to where my father rested. It was just Dad and I, one last time. I had come alone, when I knew no one else would be there. I needed it. Our most meaningful times the last few years had been with just the two of us.
There were so many things we had talked about. Things that would have never been spoken in a group. Heart things. Painful things. Raw. Honest. Beautiful. Forgiving. Redeeming.
The emotion inside of me needed one on one grieving to be released.
The night after Dad’s death had been hell. I can’t explain it. It just was. I could pretend it never happened. But it did. And it felt as if every demon that had ever tormented him had been sent to haunt me. Never was a night more filled with dark nightmares and trauma, than what I lived through that night. I constantly awakened, trembling, only to find it wasn’t real. Each time I could only whisper a prayer of protection, and make a declaration that I was unwilling to surrender to that darkness, whatever it was.
Dad’s life, apart from abuse with his family, had other sketchy realities woven through it. Some that we would never know about. Some we would hear of in the form of rumours. The latter, intertwined with a strange bled of fiction, made up my nightmares.
I don’t remember the next day, Saturday February 22, at all. I don’t know what I did that day. Or where I was. It is a blank spot in my memory.
But on Sunday, February 23, as I stood before him at the funeral parlour, I was at peace. The haunting was past. Over. In that moment with Dad, I knew one Truth more powerful than any past, any nightmare, any rumour–whether true or false. And that truth is Jesus.
My heart ached, and tears fell in a steady stream. I couldn’t speak, other than to whisper the name of Jesus, and say ‘thank you’, over and over.
It’s all that counted, in that moment, and I knew it was all that mattered for eternity. I embraced it, but my confidence would be tested, three years and nine months later, to the day. On November 21, 2006, I would be admitted to the hospital, in my own battle against death. And in the fight for my own life, the Truth would be my sustaining force.
I tiptoed back, the way I had come, and left the funeral parlour. I was at peace, ready for the demands of the next several days.
The previous day had been my brother’s birthday. The day following was our oldest son’s birthday. In the middle of grieving death, we celebrated life. Could it be more ironic, than to die the day before your son’s birthday and be buried the day after your grandson’s?
We laid my father to rest, on February 25, 2003. A crowd of people gathered around the grave. It’s a blur in my memory. Traditionally the Old Colony Mennonite church has open casket, right up to that final moment, when the body is lowered into the grave.
The family files past, for one final goodbye. I don’t remember the order, or if all of us filed by. I just know that I found myself kneeling down beside my father, in tears. Snowflakes fell lightly on his face. He looked cold. I placed my right hand on his heart.
The heart of an infant, once untouched by life and sin. A heart too soon broken by life. A heart blackened by sin. A heart that had grieved the loss of family relationships because of that sin. A heart with secrets, hidden from most, but trusted to a few. A heart that had searched desperately for peace with Almighty God. I heart reconciled, through faith in Jesus. A heart now still. Silent. Held in God’s hands.
I paused for a moment. Then rose to my feet and returned to my husband’s side. Tim put his arm around me. Held me as I wept. He understood, like no one else in the world, my journey. I had invited him into my heart, holding nothing back of the pain, the grief and the shame of those early years.
Tim had watched as I reconciled with my father. He was the one who got the call from the hospital, after the most powerful heart to heart with Dad. I had cried, “Honey, miracles still happen. I can’t believe what just happened.”
I felt safe in his arms. Loved. Healed. We turned and retraced our steps. My feet hurt from the cold. I needed warmth. People.
Back at the church I reconnected with cousins, from whom I had been estranged for many years. Doors opened that had long been closed. And in my heart, compassion stirred for my people. My culture. A silent vow was broken.
It is appropriate that through my father’s death and funeral, my heart softened, eventually creating a desire to bring healing back into my culture. A dream God has brought to life in various ways. And when I think on that, I am honoured to be a survivor–or overcomer, as I prefer–of a painful past. God truly has redeemed all things. He has made all things beautiful in His time.
© Trudy Metzger
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