A lot can happen in ten years, especially while wearing a little black dressJ I mean, let’s be honest, what girl doesn’t feel like she can take on the world in her LBD? It can make you feel confident, beautiful, ready to take on the world.
Still, I can’t say that was my little black dress experience. No, mine was entirely different, but I wouldn’t change it, because, this black number reminded me about love. And who would want to miss out on that?
Ten years ago, May 18, 2002, my life changed drastically. Never to be the same.
Ten years ago, I lost my hero. My rock. My best friend.
Ten years ago, my dad went home to be with Jesus – and my world was shaken. I went home from the hospital, the night he died, completely lost, not knowing what in the world I was supposed to do next. Feeling more alone than I ever had in my life, not knowing if I would ever feel normal again.
So, for the sake of being transparent and real, I will tell you what I did that night.
My grandma drove us home from the hospital, and I sat in the back seat while my brother bawled in the front. I wish I could have cried so freely, but I couldn’t. What I wanted to do was shut my brain off entirely, but that wasn’t happening. We got home, and my mom got there shortly after we did. I sat down on the couch, and, well, I turned on the television. Maybe I should be ashamed of that, or maybe I shouldn’t. Ten years later, I really don’t think that it matters either way. I turned on the tv, with a blanket, and curled up in the spot where my dad had sat just the night before.
Looking back, I think I just wanted to be close to him, and that was the best I could do at the time. Adding the television was just a way of keeping me from thinking too much. I stayed on the couch for awhile, watching some makeover show about this couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. How I remember this, I have no idea. I do remember getting really ticked off at this point, because I knew my parents would NEVER have that, so I got mad and turned it off.
The next morning we went to church as usual. And the love that we were shown that day… It was almost unbelievable. But at the same time it wasn’t. Growing up in the same church has its advantages, one of them being, length of tenure gives room to a lot of love from cultivated relationships. Although I only remember snippets of that day, I can never forget the love shown to us….never
Later on that week we had my dad’s service. It was….inspiring. Because my dad was a Seattle Police Officer, there were quite a few service men and women at his funeral. But here is the awesome part – most of them were there because they knew and respected my dad. That was such an honor to him and his reputation as a man and an officer. I couldn’t have been prouder. Six hundred people packed out the auditorium that day. Twenty five of them accepting Christ, and countless more encouraged by the testimonies given about my father. How I stood in front of that many people I will never know. I was 14 years old, and I stood in front of 600+ people like it was nothing. I didn’t even cry….
Some people might refer to it as having composure, but probably, I was still in shock and just going through the motions. I don’t remember most of what I said, but the one thing that I do remember is this. As I was trying to wrap up my tribute to my dad, I mentioned that I didn’t want people to forget him. That was and is still a fear of mine. That people will forget what an amazing man he was. That they will forget how he touched their lives. I could never forget, and I didn’t want other people to forget either. And you know what? Ten years later, people still tell me how much they loved my dad… Check it out Dad, you’re famousJ
Time continued as it does and will, and I grew up, or tried to at least. I tried to be strong, to fill his shoes, to step up to the plate. But, I never felt like I did it justice, I couldn’t ever seem to do it right. I now know that it wasn’t my role to fill. That I wasn’t him, nor should I have expected myself to try and be him. Yet, I somehow thought it was my responsibility to emotionally take care of my family. To fill in the gaps that he left behind.
Grief does crazy things to a person. For me, my grief put responsibilities on my shoulders that didn’t need to be there. Did I need to grow up? Sure I did. But I needed to grow up as a teenage girl, not grow up trying to fill the shoes of a grown man who had been a husband and father. However, I believe the Lord uses everything for good and to His glory. And my expectations of myself are no different. The Lord took this crazy drive inside me and used it for good.
In high school, I hit the ground running, and in all honestly, haven’t stopped since.
I was involved in everything: Nursery, bus route, teen choir, 4-5 yr old junior church, playing piano for church service/sunshine church/junior church. Did I mention that I also worked at the school, cleaned houses and babysat, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA? Yes world, I was Wonder Woman. Haha, just kidding….. I was straight up crazy is what I wasJ
But it was through all of these experiences that I have become the woman that I am today. It was through one of these particular experiences, I was reminded about love and thoughtfulness in a most unexpected way.
One of the sweetest elderly couples in our church had been running the children’s church hour for years, and when she broke her arm, her husband asked if I would step in and be the pianist. Of course I said yes! I hadn’t learned to say no yet, haha, and I am glad that in this instance, I said yes.
So began my junior church piano careerJ Should I really have been nervous in front of 10 year olds? Probably not, but sure enough, I was. Once I got the hang of it though, it was a lot of fun. One Sunday evening, after a long day of ministry, this man approached me and handed me $20. Puzzled, I looked at him, waiting for an explanation. He then said something I will never forget. He said, “There is a store in town where you can get a nice dress for around $20. Whenever my granddaughter is in town, I take her there, and I buy her a new dress. I want to give you this so you can go buy yourself a new dress too.”
I stood there, not really knowing what to say. I was moved beyond words. This was a thoughtful and generous gift. This was something unexpected and lovely. Tears came to my eyes as I thanked him. I went home, feeling very loved and very humbled. You see, the last person to buy me a new dress had been my dad. This man didn’t know that, but Jesus did. And just that was enough to keep my tears coming for awhile.
So here is where I tie it all together.
Today, I am going to wake up, walk into my closet and put on my little black dress. Yes, the little black dress that Mr. Pennington bought me, I am going to wear it. I am going to wear it and pray for him. I am going to wear it and think about my dad. I am going to wear it and go to work with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
For the tenth year in a row, I am waking up without my dad. And one day, I am going to wake up knowing I’m not going to see my friend at church anymore. One day, I will take my beautiful dress to a thrift store because it no longer fits or is out of style or is worn. But, even though people and things pass away, I will always have these precious memories. I will always have the memory of my dad – teaching me about baseball, and life, and Dick’s Drive In. (Praise the Lord). I will always have the memory of his laugh, wishing all the time that I could just hear it once more. The memory of my time playing piano in junior church will always be there. The feeling of buying that brand new dress will never leave me. The smile on my friend’s face will always be imprinted in my mind and on my heart.
A lot can happen in ten years, especially in a little black dress. A lot can happen, a lot can change. But let me tell you folks, Jesus never changes. Jesus is always the same. Jesus will never leave me. Jesus will never forsake me. And He is always there, reminding me of how big and great HE is. Yet, in all that greatness, He still finds the time to remind me of how precious I am to Him.
And He reminds me of that fact every time someone talks about my dad, and every time I put on that little black dress.