Bethany’s Story – Finding Life after Loss
It was 5:15 a.m. 27 December 2012 when a horrendous scream jolted me awake. At first I thought I was having a nightmare, I could hear words being formed but I refused to believe that they were true. ‘He’s dead, He’s dead!’ It was my mother’s voice and within a split second I was fully awake.
My father was dead.
I jumped out of bed and ran to my parent’s room. My mother was sitting in the hallway outside their room sobbing. I didn’t know what to do or how to act. I cuddled her. It wasn’t long before she was calling the ambulance, then our family and friends. I slowly walked back to my room. I sat on the end of my bed with my back against the wall cuddling my knees tight. I screamed until my screams became tears. My throat was burning and my body was shaking. My thoughts were running wild. Was it really true?
The rest of the day was a blur of voices and faces. Some came to my room trying to help me and love me, all of them trying to find the right words to say. But there was nothing or no one that could fix this. I remember the sound of his body being lifted and carried out in the body bag. He was really dead.
My father had suffered from excruciating kidney stones my whole life. Sadly the high dosage of medication that was used to treat them had resulted in him developing end stage liver disease. A few years earlier he had ended up in Intensive Care and almost died but mercifully he recovered and we were able to enjoy life as a family again. But it was only a temporary reprieve.
Watching someone you love, deteriorate before your eyes, is the most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced. Over the next few years I literally watched his life get sucked from his body. We later discovered that the doctor had told him that he did not have much longer to live. I think he wanted to try and spare us from any more fear and worry so dad had kept that information to himself.
The night before my father died I wasn’t going to say goodnight. I was just about to walk into my room when I was stopped by a voice. I clearly heard the Lord say,
‘Go and say goodnight, you don’t know when it will be your last time.’
I went over to where my dad was sitting and gave him a cuddle and a kiss. I had no idea that it would be the last time here on earth that I would hug and kiss him. In the early hours of the following morning his stomach ruptured and he passed away.
Nothing was normal anymore. Our house was filled with people but I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to eat and I didn’t want to think. Over the next month my beautiful, forever friend Bridget would pick me up each day and take me out of the house. We would go and get a bread roll or an ice cream because that’s about all I could stomach and she would take me to the beach. God blessed me with Bridget and she probably doesn’t even realize how much those small gestures meant. When my world was falling apart, she helped give me some normality. She took me to my happy place, where I was able to just be. I will be eternally thankful to her for that.
My dad passed away while I was on summer break from school. My first day back at school was hard. I walked into the school office with my mum and the staff just stared at me with no idea what to say. It wasn’t in a sympathetic way either. It made me feel like something was wrong with me. It seemed like now that my father was dead they didn’t know how to have a normal conversation with me. At times teachers would say things to me about crying too much, they didn’t know what to do with my grief.
It felt like my grades were more important to them than my feelings.
I tried so hard to ‘hold it together’ when I was out in public that I started having anxiety attacks. In trying to contain my feelings I lost control of them. The panic attacks would come without warning and I felt like I was suffocating under the weight of my sadness and grief. With the help of a fantastic psychologist and in God’s strength I eventually came through the heaviest stages of grief.
Psalm 68:5 became such a comfort to me.
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
I can’t tell you how true this verse is. Every time I needed a daddy cuddle, some advice or love, I literally felt my God wrap me in his arms. My heart would calm as he gave me comfort and he never, ever left me alone. The verse ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ has never made more sense than in this season. Meeting with my beautiful psychologist Fiona gave me the opportunity to grieve without judgment, to process without having to justify or explain my feelings. She also gave me some great strategies to help with my anxiety and encouraged me to journal, a practice that I love and still do regularly.
I was only 16 years old when my dad died. Since his death I have graduated from high school, qualified as a preschool teacher, travelled and worked overseas and met the man that will soon become my husband. So many adventures that my father has not been a part of.
A few years before my dad died he and I planted a camellia tree in our front yard. It never bloomed when he was alive. In 2015 I wrote this in my journal…
‘This morning, I was praying to God and telling him how much I’ve been missing dad lately. I asked him to show me how dad is going and to tell him that I love him and miss him. I also asked that he would give me a sign that I guess in a way he told dad what I just prayed about. Tonight as I was walking out of my house I looked down to see the plant my dad and I had planted together. The only time this has bloomed was right after he passed away and tonight! I can’t even begin to stress how good our God is, he honestly cares for us so much that he would give me the peace of mind after something so small!’
As I looked back I realized that our special plant has also bloomed when I was leaving for America, when Gideon and I started dating, when we got engaged and as I write, it’s blooming now. It’s bloomed in all different seasons for a short amount of time.
As silly as it may sound, I honestly believe God is using that plant to remind me that my dad is still a part of these precious moments in my life.
For the last 5 years we have been holding on tightly to dad’s ashes. Over time conversation came up about scattering them and every time I would shut it down quickly. ‘No, It’s not time.’ I couldn’t bear the thought of completely letting go. That was the last stage and I wasn’t ready. Then, my beautiful mum fell in love and re-married. What an absolute blessing. Ian is incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a more loving and perfect step dad if I tried. God doesn’t miss a thing. So I knew it was time, if not for me, for her.
26th of December 2017 was our last goodbye. I’d love to write about how beautiful it was to scatter dad’s ashes with my family but I can’t because I couldn’t mentally or emotionally bring myself to do it. I spent the day weeping in my fiancé’s arms. My mind was at war.
‘Would I regret this? Would dad be angry? Am I too weak?’
I eventually realized that the answer to all of the above is ‘No’. Grief is a crazy thing and everyone does it differently. I couldn’t spread my dad’s ashes and I’m not ready to say my final goodbye, I don’t think I ever will be. My dad’s death shattered me in ways I can’t explain and my heart still breaks for him everyday.
I know everyone says it but I really did have THE BEST DAD EVER! He had the most beautiful heart for Jesus, he had the most adventurous spirit, and he was so strong. Even when he was so sick he went above and beyond for us – always! He never complained, he was generous; he was kind and so loving. I am so proud to say that he was MY dad.
Death is a part of life.
I can sit here and ponder all the reasons why my dad should have lived longer or questioned why he got sick or think what if we had found him earlier but at the end of the day it was his time. I am thankful to have spent 16 precious years with my beloved father, I am thankful that my dad is healed and finally out of pain, I am thankful that he is now in heaven living a full life, one that was robbed of him here on earth.
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
My God is so incredible. I am who I am today because of him, because of his grace, his mercy and his everlasting love. If you are facing grief, hurt, heartbreak or sadness please don’t be scared to turn to him. His promises reign true and He wants you to fall into his arms and be completely overwhelmed with his perfect love. He is the only one that can turn the most broken situations for good. He can give you joy for mourning, He will lift your head, He will make a way when life seems hopeless! Trust him. My story is a testament to that.
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