But Still – It Hurts


Dear Dad,

I’m up early and all is dark outside. They say it is going to rain and even now I hear the drops splatter on the pavement outside.

I woke up thinking of you – your life as it was before the last six months, your life as it was the last six months, your life as it was when I saw you a couple of weeks ago.

I heard the news from mom about 9 in the morning yesterday. “It seems that Dad has left us. Waiting for Sherry.” Short messages change our worlds in big ways.

I was at work in my small, government sponsored cubicle. It seems it doesn’t matter how long I had been expecting a message like this – it still came as a shock.

I am your only daughter. It’s probably a good thing. Knowing myself and my “Princess” tendencies, it would have been a travesty to have to share that status. Early memories make me smile. You and me at the beach in Karachi, you holding me by the ocean, letting the waves come onto my good leg while my broken leg was perched on your lap. You driving along treacherous roads in the Kaghan Valley and other long trips in our trusty brown Landrover across Pakistan. Camping in the apple orchard at Bach Hospital. You and mom meeting us at the train station – us a bit shy from being so long away from you, you with your bear hug so excited to see us. You protecting me when mom and I were harassed. You and me at the Old Mill restaurant in Westminster, eating a delicious dinner as you tried so hard to find ways to communicate with your stone-faced teenager. You and me, as I walked down the aisle to say vows that you already had learned are impossible to keep without God.

I remember saying goodbye to you and mom at Heathrow Airport as I walked off to catch my flight to Glasgow. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t look back because if I had, I would have been like Lot’s wife – paralyzed, turned to stone and unable to move forward.

And then there were the trips you made to wherever I lived: Chicago, Islamabad, Cairo, Essex, Phoenix, and Cambridge. You meeting each of our children for the first time, proud grandfather to all five of them. Family was your priority and we all knew that.

Every single day you and mom have prayed for this great, big, continually growing, messy, beloved family. Every.Single.Day. And usually, by name. My early memories of you kneeling beside your bed as you raised your prayers to God are solidly planted on my memory; your later prayers as I sat with you and mom eating breakfast equally so.

You’re gone and I now face what so many friends and family have faced – realizing that your death on earth is final.  I will never again see you in your chair, your face turned toward the doorway as I walk in to your home.  We will not share a good curry or bowl of ice cream together, I will not have the joy of hearing your voice on the phone asking me how I am doing. Your laughter will no longer be our benediction at family gatherings.

Worst of all – you will never again do the elephant dance on this earth.

I am so grateful that you did not suffer for too long, grateful that the end was swift. I am so grateful that you are free of pain, your body whole and strong, your voice and laugh echoing across the heavens. I am so thankful for so many things, too many to list. Your death is truly a severe mercy.

But still – it hurts.

“He was 91” I tell people. “His life was rich and full, lived across oceans and continents; he lived and loved well.”

But still – it hurts.

Your death is not a tragic death – except the way all death is – and you leave a beautiful legacy, a family so rich in love and grace, a family that is spread across the globe.

But still – it hurts. It hurts so much.

I will miss you so much. I will miss your tangible love, I will miss your audible voice, I will miss your concrete presence.

Oh I know I will see you. I know you’re in a better place. I know that “Heaven has yet another angel.” I know all those silly things we say to people to make ourselves feel better.

But what feels best right now is just to say that it hurts and I will miss you.

Oh how I will miss you.

I love you Dad. And for all of us still here? Please pray for us – I think you may have better access now.

With all the love I can give from your favorite daughter,

Marilyn


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22 thoughts on “But Still – It Hurts

  1. Dear Marilyn, reading this has brought tears to my eyes. By the time you get to read this comment I imagine the funeral will be over and now comes the part where you begin to adjust to your new shape. I say adjust because the truth is life will never be as it was. It will always be “before” and after and that’s okay. Actually, that’s more than okay for in missing our loved ones we realize afresh how blessed we were to have been loved so well by them in the first place. When my brother died some 11years ago now I wrote this poem which I’ve come back to time and time again. I hope it may help you, and also knowing that someone who doesn’t know you in the physical but who is connected in Christ is and will be remembering you at this time will help too. Do not stand at the gate to wait for me, I am already home….cry if you must and if you must, then let your tears fall gently to the ground and in that, I will be in each flower that you smell and in leaf which you touch…And when you feel the sun on your face, or a gentle breeze whispers my name in your ear, or the flight of a bird lifts your gaze to the skies, I’ll be there, no longer bound by this earths ties, but free to be beside you, within you, in your each and every thought of me….And let your sadness pass in time, for now, I am truly free….So do not stand at the gate and wait for me, I am already home. Comfort and His peace to you and yours this day…

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  2. Marilyn, I am so sorry. Sending sincere condolences to you and your whole family. What a wonderful letter to your dear dad from his favorite daughter. (I had to laugh at this. My mom–gone for some years–had 6 grandchildren; 5 granddaughters and 1 grandson. My son knew he was her favorite grandson.) Truly, your dad will be greatly missed. I pray that God’s everlasting arms of comfort surround you.

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  3. Marilyn, when you wrote that your dad was in hospice, that was my first time to exclaim, “Oh no!” Why then did I exclaim again when the news of his passing should not be a surprise. With this posting — and so many of your other good writings — you have helped to expose and clarify this phenomenon called death. Your heartfelt tribute to an amazing man, your father, is so spot-on. I appreciate knowing him through your words. Sending sincere condolences to you and your dear family from the whole Coster family. Praying for you all! Love, Ann

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  4. Dear Marilyn and Susanna,
    You are the two that I know the best. I remember both of your Dads. Of course I knew Ed better, but I do remember Ralph as a man who was kind. I could see it on his face and in his eyes. He respected me even though he did not know me well. I went to Shikarpur twice to cover for their Annual Conference. This has helped me so much to really feel what it was like to work in the Sind. I lost my mom at age 53 and Dad at 77. There are no substitutes. My heart hurts for you. Grieve well and you will be better off for it, and will your children. My love to all you as you meet this weekend and share in the memories of a humble servant who obeyed God and loved well.

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  5. My dear Marilyn…and, by extension, all your dear siblings and DEAR Polly. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man, Ralph Brown! Your whole family is precious to me. Dear Ralph and Polly were such an encouragement and help to me during those days in Pakistan. I will always be grateful to them, and grateful to God for putting them in my life. Yes, the pain you feel (and all of us are feeling) will become more bearable as time flies by…..but the love and joy will never fade. And what a joy it will be when we are all together again, with HIM and our other loved ones. Maranatha!

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  6. My eyes are tearing up as I write this. I loved my father so much and he is gone. I was fortunate to be able to fly from KL to be with him as he took his final breath. I hope he knows I was there. I feel like he waited for me. I miss him every day. When I was moving to KL (a woman in my late 40s) he choked up when it was time to say goodbye and said, “But it’s so far.” It was never, ever too far to feel my father’s love.

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    1. I was in the middle of expressing my condolences to you and not sure what happened. I wish peace and comfort for you and your family. Hoping that those warm memories comfort you during this difficult time. I don’t know if it ever actually ever seems real. But you go on…that’s my experience.

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  7. I am so sad for your loss, Marilyn, there is a big hole now in the fabric of your family, even as you rejoice that he experiences ‘fulness of joy’ before the face of his Lord. But he doesn’t have better access in prayer just because he is in heaven, he simply has no distractions. I am glad you have photos and good memories, and you may even have some good dreams! I had one really special dream of my dad several months after he died, maybe close to a year, as I finished executing his will. I knew I was dreaming even in the dream, but Dad came out from somewhere and stood before me, looking well and strong and loving, and I said something like, “I know you probably can’t say, but what is heaven like, Dad?” And he smiled and said, “Heaven.” And then the whole scene faded, but I was happy with the message I got, and actually was able to remember the dream the next morning. God will bless you with what you need to have peace in the future, if you do need it. But godly heritages from parents is a precious gift, and I still count myself supremely blessed, as I can tell you do, also. A hug to you and prayer going up.

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  8. Yes, dear sister in law- it hurts and it is so confusing. I mean, we know he will now be free from all those constraints of the ills of the body. I see him smiling his big smile again, now, that was missing when we saw him last. But, how to reconcile that with the hole that he leaves now….it is just not mathematically possible. So, we will try to “reconcile” the pain and confusion with the happy memories we willl talk about as a family this weekend, and as a larger family as time goes on. I have very mixed reactions to the feelings I had when we lost my dad at age 71 and to losing Dad Brown at age 91. After the grief and emptiness I had when we lost Dad, I was angry for a long time. Angry that he was taken from us before out children were into adulthood, were married, or had one single great grandchild. I was angry that they were not able to experience his sharp intellect and quick wit, his keen knowledge about so very many things, his interest in each one of them as an individual. It took a long time to get over. This loss is different in that all of the grandchildren knew Grandpa Brown, and many of the great grandchildren. They did get to see his humor, his big heart for everyone, his loving care of Grandma, and so on. I am hoping that after the grieving time wanes, you and all of us will be able to have a deep warmth in our hearts that will glow. I have that for my dad, most of the time now…..so be patient, and healing will come for the hurt you have now.

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  9. Weeping with you, remembering my dad. A parent’s loss is the loss of shared worlds of memories and secrets, and a whole world of future possibilities. Especially when you’ve shared other worlds and cultures as well. Just last night Mom said, “but you can’t explain so that they’ll understand” about our shared overseas world, culture and memories. And a friend just lost her Mom yesterday while living a world away overseas. A severe mercy indeed. Blessed will be the reunions on that day!! May the Father of mercies & God of all comfort embrace you and all who mourn….. In hope that will not be disappointed, and grateful joy that runs deeper than these tears, Anne

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  10. A wonderful tribute, Marilyn. Your dad’s death has left a hole in your heart, but it will heal eventually and leave a beautiful scar. As his oldest niece–at least on the Brown side–I too will miss him deeply and am so grateful that he was in my life from the day I was born. How he grinned when he told others that he used to babysit me! Blessings to you, dear Marilyn, as you grieve for him and also celebrate his life and legacy.

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  11. Dear Marilyn, OF COURSE IT HURTS. And it will continue to hurt – sometimes the flashes of pain come unbidden, unexpected. Your wonderful Dad – “Unca”Ralph – is gone from us now, and we live with delightful memories. For me – your Dad and my dear husband, Sam, — yucking it up together at Rockedge in Pakistan. Life wasn’t easy over there BUT what good times we all had together. Now you must surround your wonder Mom – Auntie Polly — with love and tender care – and I am sure you will. I am so thankful Polly is already settled there with Tom and Terry – and she will be fine, with your wonderful help. What a great reunion for Ralph and Sam. God bless you all. I wish I could be there for his memorial – but – that isn’t possible. God bless you all and surround you with His great love.
    Auntie Grace

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  12. Beautiful, Marilyn. Thank you for your phone call yesterday morning. I couldn’t say anything then and I still can’t. Words? None. But I feel. I feel for Polly. I feel for each of you children. I feel for the grandchildren. I feel deeply. I feel overwhelming love and gratitude for the Brown family who have been and continue to be like our own.

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  13. Ah. Yes. It does. Forever. Bonhoeffer said it best:

    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

    Love you, cuz.

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  14. The grief is indescribable and takes your breath away literally at times. May God’s Love and Mercy fill the gigantic hole inside of you.

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