From Bittersweet Last Times to Breathtaking Amazement

Years ago, I read something...I have no idea what or where, although it seems like perhaps it may have been in one of the stacks of Reader's Digest magazines in my grandmother's house...about the fact that if we knew when the "last times" were going to be, we'd savor them more.

I've experienced that many times since, in many ways.

Seven years ago today...July 1, 2006, was one of those "last times" that I had no idea I needed to savor.

We'd gone through some hard stuff. The birth of our 10 week preemie and her six weeks in NICU and my dad's final illness and death were the biggest and hardest, but by no means the only, in the couple of years preceding that day seven years ago.

After my dad died in December 2004, I went through 18 months of very intense grieving. I was a Daddy's girl.  While I rejoiced that he was finally healthy and whole and without pain for the first time in years and most of all worshiping Jesus face to face, his death left a huge hole in my world.

By the end of June of 2006, the deep, dark, gloomy grieving clouds finally lifted, and I told a friend, "I think we are finally settling in to a new normal."  I was so thankful, and looking forward to moving out of "survival mode" and into a new routine, minus the heavy grief that had been my constant companion for well over a year.

The thing about those "last times" that we don't realize are last times is that we don't realize that we are going to want to look back and cherish them, so we don't necessarily even remember them.

That's how it is with July 1, 2006, for me.

I remember some minor, sketchy parts, mostly because of how they relate to the way our life exploded into a million teeny, tiny pieces over the next two days, never to be the same again.

But the important parts, the parts that are important simply because they weren't important, and they were the last thing approaching "normal" that we would know for a long, long time...those parts I don't remember at all.

It was just a normal Saturday. Time spent enjoying family and friends and getting ready for Sunday.  I wish I could remember every. single. moment.

But I can't.

What I do remember is the next day, almost every detail, in slow motion, as the realization descended that my very worst nightmare in the world had come true.  Wanting to scream and not being able to, having to maintain a calm exterior not just for the well-being of my family in those moments, but for their very safety in the coming days and months.

I remember the next 18 months being far from normal, and making the 18 months of heavy grieving over my dad look like a beach vacation.  Grieving the loss of a parent is a very difficult, but normal, part of life.  There was absolutely nothing remotely normal about the post-July 2, 2006, trauma our family was then dealing with.  No family should ever have to experience it, but sadly, in the fallen world in which we live, more families do than we realize.

I don't know of a word in the English language that sufficiently describes the following months and years. Horrific, traumatic, terrible...these don't even begin to scratch the surface.

We will never be the same. Our lives in that day were irreparably changed.  There will always be pain and struggles and new "layers of the onion" to peel off and deal with.

But God...there are those wonderful words again!...But God has worked amazing healing in our lives and in our family. He has brought us so far that I almost lose my breath in amazement when I think of all He has done in our lives in and through the horror that began for us on July 2, 2006.

He has taught us things and shown us Himself in ways that I could never have imagined seven years ago today.

Last night I came home from a long, good, blessed Sunday full of church and fellowship and the celebration of the Lord's Supper and time with family and friends.  The weather had cooled off here, with the forecast promising at least ten days of below-average temps. Yes, please!

I looked forward to the week ahead.  Three days of resting and catching up from last week's busy-ness and doing some much needing cleaning and organizing around the house preparatory to starting our summer school term the following week. Billy off for a four-day weekend.  Bayley running in the 5k she's worked and planned and trained for for months.

I kept trying to remember post-VBS/Independence Day weeks in recent years and had a hard time remembering. All I knew was that it felt weird to be looking forward to this week.

And then I remembered why. I have dreaded the first week of July every year for the past six years.

But this year I don't.

God continues to work in incredible ways in our lives, and His faithfulness continues to astound me.  Anniversary dates are always hard, but so far, God has removed the heavy weight of this one from my heart and mind this year.

He is good.  He is faithful.  He is sovereign.  Those are just a few of the things He has shown us about Himself in entirely new ways in the last 7 years.

And I am thankful.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
 Psalm 107:1

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Psalm 119:71-72

You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
                                    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his love endures forever.
Psalm 118: 28-29

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