I have big exciting news.
This post was supposed to be me sharing that. I tried to write it all day. But I couldn’t. So, I gave up and realized that sometimes when you write and it comes out differently than you planned, it just might be the elixir for what ails you. This is that.
The moments of grief crash hard at inopportune times, like today.
The last time grief interrupted, I find myself abandoning my grocery cart with items carefully selected for their affordability and accordance with the clipped coupons rustling in my coat pocket. I have a list and a budget and no room to splurge. Josh hasn’t worked in two months.
I am suddenly pulling Kaia through Fred Meyers making my way through shoppers, past the Salvation Army jingle of good cheer to bless another and fill the tiny red pail with pocket change and crumpled bills. On the way in, I had given Kaia the change escaped from my wallet and she dropped each coin in one at a time.
But now we rush past as the bell rings in my ears and I break into sobs, heavy and racking before I even make it to the car. Kaia climbs in behind me and wraps her tiny arms around the back of my seat, restraining me like a swaddled child. And I feel the need to be pressed in because this Christmas I am a fatherless child.
A month prior, the anniversary of my dad’s passing went by like any other day. It’s been three years. I don’t grieve hard or often. On that day, I thought more of my mom. I gave her space and she stayed in her room, I sent Kaia up with a plate for dinner. It came and went.
But this is something else. Because my dad wasn’t great at the every day. That’s where my mom shined. The hard work of mothering and making a life, that was all her. But when it came to celebrating. That was my dad.
He would wake us when the sun was still hiding, and we’d emerge from our cocoons to donuts and hot chocolate and we’d throw all the wrong things in bags and go explore. Sometimes it was camping on the first warm day and we’d find ourselves freezing and huddled when the temperature dropped fiercely at night.
Sometimes it was a trip to the mountain streams where he’d tempt us with $5 bills to jump in with all of our clothes, while my mom shook her head and scrounged for dry things, and we’d sit frozen and grinning all the way home. He was adventures and wild faith and making up for a childhood where he had no reason to celebrate. He was birthday cakes brought home on the wrong day. Sometimes the wrong month, but cut into anyway and passed around in celebration of Happy Thursday instead. He was holiday dinners when our normally small budget would be ignored and we’d pile up treats and make memories. He told the best jokes. He could hold a room with his voice.
And so last Christmas, I found myself standing in the meat department, knowing that my dad would have gone all out. And wanting just one more year to celebrate with him. And I ached and cried and longed for advent to show me the way home.
My dad never saw me blog. He had been gone a year before I ever thought about writing online. He was working on his memoir in fits and starts when he passed away but by then his mind was failing. His body was wrecked and the stories I grew up on were hard to pull up. He died before they were written down but I’ve heard them a hundred times.
I inherited my love of reading on the lap of my mother, her voice like a lullaby over my childhood. But I learned to tell stories from my dad. I learned to speak and when to drop the punchline with a straight face. I learned how to weave memories and make them matter. I learned to see God in words and voices and brokenness. That was the gift my dad gave me. I am a storyteller because of him.
Today, I am celebrating some amazing news.
I have been asked to join the (in)courage contributors. I am blessed and honored and so happy to be storytelling along with so many gifted women in a place that values everyone’s voice.
My dad would have celebrated like crazy.
So part of me is grieving today. I was shocked to find grief waiting for me as I sat to pen these words telling you my good news. Because I know he would’ve shared it on Facebook way too much and told the lady in the checkout line and handed out my business cards and blog url to unassuming people and I would’ve been mortified. I would’ve asked him to stop. But he wouldn’t have. Even well into my thirties with a family of my own, he would’ve been proud of his little girl. So today I cried and let myself grieve in the midst of celebrating.
I let myself remember his stories and the gift he gave me to learn to tell my own.
I remembered that lament and joy are not opposed. We grieve the lost things even as we celebrate the gifts along the way.
It wasn’t the post I was going to write but writing is funny like that. Sometimes it’s less about trying to make the words fit the occasion and more about letting life bring out the words.
If you’re not a regular here, I’m sorry if you stumbled on my grief in the midst of what should be a warm welcome and a grand hurrah for all the new women joining (in)courage. Take a look around, I swear I don’t always cry, just sometimes.
Today, I’m celebrating in remembrance of the man who taught me my story matters. We will happy dance and cry and eat too many cupcakes. Join me?
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Ps. 126:5)