This week, Dad took us on a vacation to Destin, Florida. The sun is shining (maybe a little too much), and the afternoon showers never fail to make an appearance. The sand is soft, and the water is refreshing. But you are missing.
Everyone who has lost someone they love may not feel the same way, but for me, when we go on vacation, I can’t help but notice that our number for dinner reservations is one shorter than it used to be. The whole family can’t be here anymore. On top of that, there has always been something about beach trips that makes me think of losing you, and I’m finally starting to understand why.
There has always been something about the ocean in particular that makes me think of you. The beach is great, but the ocean symbolizes much more than 97 percent of the Earth’s water. The way the waves roll in and out with perfect timing reminds me of the constant comfort you always provided. When you were more ill than any of us could comprehend, you still found a way to be a mother to four children and home-schooled in order to use the time we had left together efficiently. This was a ‘just in case’ plan because we had faith that you would be healed, and you never admitted defeat. You fought through the doctor’s limitations of six months to be here as long as your fragile body could handle.
The ocean also reminds me of the book you gave me when I was 14 years old, right before you passed. It shares the lyrics from "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack, and page by page, the book goes through and elaborates on every line. When you gave me that book, I didn’t know it would be one of your last gifts. I didn’t see that you were trying to give me something with a message from you so I could still hear your encouragement once you were gone. As I stand on the shore and look over the ocean toward the horizon, “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean” is all I can think about. I find myself holding back tears and trying to listen to your little reminder of how big the world is. I know you’re looking over me, and I really appreciate that.
The ocean's deep waters represent struggle and resilience in my mind, and it makes me look back over all of the struggles you had while you were still here. Most of all, the last struggle, when the cancer had devoured too much of your lungs, and we watched you feel as if you were drowning constantly because of all the fluid, the same way people can drown in these rough waters. I look out and think of the way you found yourself out in the middle of the tide with no land in sight, but still found the strength to keep swimming. You never gave up.
I also find comfort in my questioning of why God let you pass away. You see, the ocean also makes me more aware that I am the daughter of the all-knowing Creator who made the sea to be perfect for all its inhabitants. The temperature levels, the chemical balance, and the habitat itself have all been made to sustain the lives of millions of organisms. This is powerful because it reminds me that your story and death were part of a perfect plan that I can’t begin to comprehend, just as I don’t comprehend how the ocean maintains itself in all aspects to support so much life. I know that scientists may be able to explain why everything happens the way it does, but I feel there is more behind the curtain.
We prayed for healing consistently for three and a half years, and right after losing you, prayer seemed useless. As time passed and I began to think through all that happened, I began to realize that the confusion of loss had blinded me to the truth of God’s faithfulness. Our prayer had been answered because you were healed of pain, far more than if you had been healed on Earth. You received the highest love and care when God chose to move you to the only place where pain is not. I may not understand all the depths of the ocean or all of what it holds, but while looking at it, I begin to comprehend the amazing nature of The One who created it. I may not understand why He made it all, but I understand that He is amazing enough to make it, and that in itself is comforting enough.
I don’t understand why you couldn’t have stayed here, but I am a little jealous of how lucky you are to be there, so here I am. Going off to another dinner where we will be missing a person at the table, but that is OK with me because I know that you sit at the biggest table there is.
Loving and missing you always,
Your little girl
Madison attended an Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat® with her family in 2009. She is now majoring in Psychology at Kennesaw State University with dreams of being a child life specialist in order to do counseling with hospitalized children that have life-threatening diseases. She is a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon and currently holds the position of Philanthropy Coordinator. She believes that we are never too young to make a difference. Madison is thankful for the life she has been given and plans to live every day in that mindset. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared online here.