By Donna Brendel
I’ve lost many family members over the years, starting with my mom when I was only 10 years old. I didn’t watch her die, but we were both in a house fire that took her life. Although my siblings and I all escaped the flames and toxic smoke, neither my mom nor her boyfriend was able to get out of the house in time.
Precious, Short Season with Mom
My sister and I had just recently moved back in with Mom after having lived with our babysitter-made-grandma for several years while my parents recovered from their divorce. Mom told us, “If I don’t take you back soon, you’ll be 18 before I know it and I won’t even know you.” This gift of time with her was even more precious than my little 10-year-old heart could know at the time.
My mom’s death at only 47 years old was sudden and tragic. When I heard the news of her death, something inside me snapped into sudden-adult-onset syndrome (not truly a medical term, that I’m aware of anyway). I determined to instantly be a little adult, strong and unfettered by the loss of my mom.
Bonus Years to Cherish with Dad
My dad died much later at the age of 78. Although he had many near-death illnesses and ailments, which I was certain would take his life while my siblings and I were scattered across the country, God spared him for many more years. Finally the damage to his body was more than the doctors, even with all of their marvelous technology, could do for him. This time some of my siblings (the ones still living) and I had already been gathered by his side for the gravity of his condition and the amputation of his leg. Worse than the loss of his leg though was his inability to speak to us because of his need for ventilation.
Going into this short time of caring for my dad and saying goodbye, I was unprepared for the level of difficulty I would face. You see, I’d considered myself to be a pro at facing death because of my family’s tragic amount of loss and suffering in the past. But by this time in my life, my heavenly Father had done a lot of work to soften my heart.
I did not learn about my precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ until my young adulthood, and by then I had erected many cold and sturdy walls of defense around my heart. Although I had peace as I sat by my dad’s side, holding his hand in silence for hours, my mind journeyed through all the years he and I had traveled through this life together, reviewing all of its ups and downs.
Hearts Softened by God’s Grace
Without the grace of God, the tough times would have left me icy and hard-hearted. But because of God’s forgiveness and healing power, my final goodbye to my dad was tender and emotional. It was incredible. I felt much more connected to my dad at his end than to my mom at her end, so much so that even without words he and I were able to communicate to each other. Our eyes spoke volumes in a language no one else in the room could decipher.
As he took his last breath, he was as much Daddy to me as he’d ever been—and much more so with every loving sacrifice he’d made for me along the way. His love made it easy for me to accept the sacrificial love of my heavenly Father, an attribute for which I’m eternally grateful to them both.
Donna Brendel is a freelance writer in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.