Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Finding words



Nine months ago, my Dad died.

I remember the day I received the news. It was an afternoon in May. I'd just finished the final edits to the Pop Pouch pattern and listed it in my digital store, the announcement post was about to go live here on ikatbag and the only thing left before the big launch party was to stock my shop with the sample Pouches. I was at my desktop, about to upload the first Pop Pouch photos to Etsy.

And the phone rang.

When you are an immigrant living away from your family of origin and your parents in particular, you often think about all the ways you're not with them as they go about their lives and you yours. You think about them getting older and the possibility of them getting sick. And about them eventually dying and you finding out, as must happen, you tell yourself, because that's the way life is. If you're living especially far away so that one world sleeps while the other is awake, you also think about the logistics of that Finding Out. In my mind's eye, it would be a phone call in the middle of the night because isn't that how it always is - terrible announcements arriving at inconvenient times, the hearers thrown into a frenzy of panic and instantaneous mourning?

The postulating ends there, usually. After all, the Finding Out is the worst case scenario, the bogeyman in the closet, the climax of the nightmare. You never really think about what comes after. The dream always ends. You always wake.

So, the phone rang.

It was my uncle, calling from Singapore at some unearthly hour. Someone in the background was wailing. 

I remember going very still, and somehow removing myself from the computer and finding myself in my bedroom. On the other side of the shut door, Jenna and Kate were doing whatever they usually did to unwind after a day of school. I remember talking to Mum and fighting my own mind to believe what she was saying because if it were true, I need to fly home.

The thoughts came to me in a torrent then: you need to call the husband at the office, you need to call the brother in Australia, you need to get the kids together and tell them Grandpa's gone, you need to cancel their diving class that evening, you need to make sure they have something for dinner, you need to pack, you need to produce a funeral out of thin air, you need to make Mum better, you need to get online and book a ticket - does Delta or United have the fewer stopovers and dangit don't I lose two days flying from the US to Asia, you need to find people to drive the kids to all the activities they have after school for the next seven days, you need to pray that your passport isn't expired, you need to not fall apart, you need to breathe, you need to sink to your knees and beg for peace, you need to remember what his last words to you were and if they were happy words or not, you need to move, move, move.

I remember calling people and making arrangements. I remember the neighborhood being mobilized, the church being mobilized, the in-laws saying we're coming, we're going to help, we'll be there for the kids. I remember the i'm sorrys and oh, nos and what can i dos? I remember the set of my jaw, the tension in my face, the way my entire body hummed with cold dread. I remember looking but not actually seeing.

I don't remember crying. Or feeling.

I flew solo to Singapore on an overpriced last-minute ticket. On the first leg of the flight, I sat next to a lady who asked me where I was going and words came spilling out: My Dad died, I'm going home for the funeral. I didn't think about whether it was cruel to spring news like that on a stranger trapped in her seat, but she talked to me for the next two hours and made me tell her stories and talked about her own family and kept me from going crazy. When the plane landed, she hugged me and told me to take care of myself. If I'd had the wherewithal I'd have said I don't know if you know God but today he used you to help me and thank you for letting him and please have a good life, but I didn't have those words. The second leg was 17 hours nonstop from San Francisco to Singapore and I measured out Benadryl and melatonin and made myself sleep.

And then I woke, and it was time to write. A eulogy - words I didn't have, couldn't conjure about someone I barely believed had suddenly disappeared simply because someone else on the phone had said so. 

God, help, my mind said. Bring to memory all the lessons from Sunday School and the stories and the verses we learned by heart when we were yea high.

Nothing. Not a Psalm - not even the one about the shadow of death and fearing no evil.

But in the yawning silence, an urgent thought: Jesus wept

It would be the shortest verse in the Bible that would ultimately come to me; I suppose a mind paralyzed could hardly yield much more than that. Still, it was a good verse - preachers' choice for sermons about the Messiah's empathy in the face of human loss. It certainly resurrected other losses - terminal relationships, derailed careers, leaving home - old scars suddenly searing bright with a phantom ache. But also with the faithfulness of a God who had brought every one to completion. I have never abandoned you. Not then, not now.

Later I would write in my journal, "I am in shock and I only know two things to be true: God loves me, and He does not waste pain."

I opened my laptop and muttered, "You can do this. Write."

I wrote.

Somewhere between ocean and sunrise, I finished it. And later, when the plane had landed on soil that had inexplicably ceased to be home, I read it at the memorial service. Herein are his accomplishments and virtues. How recent and relevant they are. How well they have set him apart from other men, common men, older men still walking the earth stooped and frail. How utterly illogical that he - so much younger, stronger, funnier - be the one done now. 

Partway through the reading, I began to suspect it wasn't a eulogy I'd written but an argument. And that I wasn't a daughter adoring her departed father so much as an attorney building a case before the universe. I was angry, so angry, but I didn't recognize it at the time, because I didn't yet have the capacity to feel.

The rest of the service was beautiful and filled with gentle words - comforting, hopeful words about celebrating a life well lived. I don't remember them. I remember instead knots in my head and heart, wound tight as if they would shred the hands that tried to work them. I remember thinking death is ugly, isn't celebration, why are these words pretty and bright and blue sky and beckoning shore? These words don't match.  

Authors John W. James & Russell Friedman, founders of the Grief Recovery Institute, observed, "We're taught to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them."1


Minutes. That’s how long it took me to lose my Dad. On his worktable lay his tools and solvents and fishing reels where he’d left them when he went to bed that night. And for days after, spare parts and more reels continued to arrive from eBay to my mailbox and doorstep in Minnesota. He and Mum would've been here in person just weeks later. He'd unpack those packages, meet the cats, pick berries and spend the summer hanging with the kids, reading on the deck, trawling garage sales. Where are the other words, the congruent words, the ones about disruption and horror, of unfinished projects and unspoken thoughts and pain that came out of nowhere. Why are we taking a shortcut to fond reminiscences and thankfulness? How can we hope now in legacy and glorious reunion when we barely believe the goodbye? Not yet; we need to stay in the moment, we need to be honest, we need to be authentic, we need the dark words. 

In the days and weeks after, it became my quest. Not healing and meaning and closure, the quintessential goals of victorious bereavement. Not even to explain the nuts and bolts and pros and cons of dying one way or another. Simply to describe. To be able to precisely say what it was that was so large it could utterly derail a perfectly ordinary spring afternoon - and all the lives it touched - from thousands of miles away. To give it a name and bring it out of the shadows. To map out its fringes so that I might possibly begin to grasp the scope of it. To delineate losing - and specifically, losing suddenly.

It’s strange - I’ve written this blog for years, and the words have always come easily. I've dissected nebulous sewing concepts and spewed cultural angst. I've written about identity and countries and discovering humor in the losing (and finding) of both. Yet after the phone call - and for many months after - I had no words. None at all. I’d been rearranged; I was a stranger unto myself. 

But slowly - ever so slowly - the words found their way to me.  From memoirs and expert how-tos. From delicately nuanced fiction. From friends, family and strangely intimate forums whose people knew, who got it. From therapy. From the camaraderie of a grief support group. From the kindness of strangers on airplanes and the keen and patient observations of my husband and children. From obscure online articles that popped up in my news feed weeks after I’d desperately typed “grief” and its unhappy variations into the search field. 

Grief. 

Not at all the same as sadness, although there is some of that, tucked benignly in its underlayers. And not the same as mourning, although the world might see some of that, too, when we are ready. Grief is different, is more, is hard to pigeonhole. And there are so many kinds: normal, complicated, ambiguous, disenfranchised, compound, traumatic, anticipatory. It was a relief to say them, all those names, all those words. 

I gathered some of the words and saved them in my journal.

“Perhaps one of the most unfair aspects of grief is that we are forced to change the direction of our love. We are forced to shift a fundamental part of who we are, at the very moment we are not ready and are unprepared. Loving a person who can no longer receive it is heartbreaking.”2
"Sometimes we need help making the decision to say goodbye to them in life and move our loved ones into our hearts in death."3
“In reality, any death is a collective loss because it reminds us all deeply of the fragility surrounding us on this earth.”4

Four weeks after Dad died, I made myself stay in the pain long enough to describe it.
"I have spoken to Mum for 28 days and he has not been in the background. He has not sneezed his mighty sneezes. He has not smiled his impish, cheeky smile. For 28 days, I have been on FaceTime with Mum and he has not been on the screen, shared its space with her face. I don't understand what that means.
"But where is he - Dad? The soul, the essence of him, the particular vibrations of the air that is the sound of things only he says? Where is the change he brought to the world, the earth, by having participated in it, given and taken for 76 years? Where is he, exactly? How can he be displaced here so that a hole remains, without reappearing Elsewhere? How is matter conserved? Or energy, the will, the ideas, the affections and disgusts, and the bestowments of those affections? And where do ours land, who are still determined to love him?"

Last month, Frank Bruni, NYT Op-Ed columnist, wrote of losing his mother more than two decades earlier, "A person is here one second, gone the next. Breathing, not. Able to love and be loved, then only to be loved. The transition is instantaneous, no matter how drawn out the prelude to it. There’s no way to prepare for it. No way to process it."5


Here is irony. I am a trained and licensed (but lapsed) counselor. Decades ago, early in my training, I counseled a middle schooler whose father had had a heart attack on her birthday. In my memory, I thought I’d spoken with her in kindness but I came across the transcripts of our session a couple of months back and was stunned at how bland my empathy had been. How much I talked. How uncomfortable I seemed with simply sitting with her in her pain. How expeditiously I’d wanted her to see that she'd been coping well, that she had such powerful resources and gorgeous memories of their time together. 

I don’t believe I did her harm but some things you don’t really get until they happen to you. Yet when they do, it further surprises you how little you actually know even in the sameness.  People who’ve lost people over long and ravaging illnesses. People who’ve lost people to catastrophic aneurysms and cardiac arrests. People who've lost people because of suicide and natural disasters and someone else's carelessness or malice. People who've lost children and babies and dreams of babies. Similar outcome, yet a thousand distinct shades on a million disparate spectra. Utterly different griefs.

And all so jeopardous that we resort to metaphors to even broach them. Grief is a journey, we say, is a tree in a storm, chapters of a story, relentless waves, a grand adventure, metamorphosis. These depictions sanitize and comfort, but they are not the true words, do not say what we who have truly lost need them to say.

C.S. Lewis, in grieving the death of his wife, famously observed, "No one told me how grief felt so like fear."6 I found that to be true, albeit in a more literal sense than Lewis had meant it. All bereavement is wrenching but sudden, unexpected loss is a special kind of thief. It steals the person you love and the safety of knowing how death works, of believing you can see its approach, can set your clocks, prepare your affairs, muster your defence. And it lurks in corners long after, whispering if I can surprise you once, I can do it again.

Herein lay an epiphany: only after I’d found words for the trauma of his death - the dark words - could I access the particular sorrow of losing my Dad. Even now, nine months later, the memories are only just surfacing. Hidden and unreachable, those everyday things I once shared with this man, but here they are at last - a story one day, a dream another, a memory of a zipper lesson, an echo of an emotion on my birthday, his face and mannerisms in a stranger, his voice in my head, his wisdom in my soul. Slowly I am exhaling. I think the healing has begun; I am finally coming undone. 

And I am ready to tell you about my Dad.


With LiEr, circa 1970s

This is the wonderfully funny man who told hilarious and irreverent stories of his rebellious youth, who as a child ate baguettes spread with butter and (very stinky) shrimp paste because there wasn't a lot else to eat in post-WWII Singapore. Who chose a teaching career because he was a champion of the underdog and because it gave him free afternoons and extended vacations to spend with his family. Who built all our furniture from plywood which, because it wouldn’t fit on a bus, he and mom carried on their shoulders as they walked the miles between lumberyard and home. Who never met a sport he didn't like - or eventually pick up - and whose dream it was to watch a live MLB game in a bona fide American baseball stadium (and which he happily fulfilled multiple times in MN). 

With my mother Mae, Twins Stadium, 2011

Who in his heyday was the coach of the national softball team of Singapore and later its umpire-in-chief. And whose sport-related injuries later redirected him to darts, snooker and archery, the latter which he so loved that he coached it professionally in his retirement years. 

With Jenna, Indonesia, 2018

Who remembered and gleefully recounted the earliest stories I wrote and illustrated as a wee child, vile and embarrassing though they were. Who was a devoted husband and adoring (and very jokey) grandpa. 

With Kate, 2011

Who built the kids’ picnic table and easel, which we use all the time at their birthday parties and craft fairs. Who never owned a car because he loved taking the bus and watching the world go by outside his window. Who in my childhood was always drawing, painting and manipulating any medium on which he could lay his hands. Who taught me the old arts of silkscreening, papier mache, lettering, basketweaving, macrame, decoupage and woodworking and the kids paper marbling and the ingenious use of clothespins and popsicle sticks in doll furniture and baskets. 

With Emily, 2011

Who sewed zippers better than I ever could and introduced me to the wonderful world of utility fabrics and bagmaking. Who could've easily been remembered for everything he did were it not for how amazing he also simply was


With Mae & the grandkids, Indonesia, 2018

Who,
himself touched by much early loss, remained surely but gently flawed yet generously, ferociously tender. Who deeply cherished his family - and made sure we always knew it. Who joyfully stewarded his talents. Who taught and inspired just by being. Who had such a curious wonder about his world that he, in the words of Cassie Beasley, "thought inexpensive things were just as interesting as expensive things"7Who rode his bike to the beach in the early mornings to fish as the sun rose, then gave away his catch to strangers on his way home because he didn't like the eating nearly as much as the casting. Who had just discovered the joys of repairing and restoring vintage fishing reels as a newfound pastime and growing source of post-retirement income.

And who had never been in a hospital with a serious illness until he had a heart attack nine months ago that was over in minutes

Ah, there are the dark words, sneaking into our resplendent memories and shading them bittersweet. How politically incorrect. I concede that not everyone will welcome them in their grief vocabulary as I have. And some will feel drawn only to the bright words and fix their eyes on the light so that the shadows lie only and ever behind them. Before I lost my Dad, I was a light-gazer. But now I know an odd truth about dark words: do not fear them, because when you find them, they will set you free. This is emotional resonance, and it is immensely powerful.

"And who had never been in a hospital with a serious illness until he had a heart attack nine months ago that was over in minutes."

I am thankful that my Dad had never been in a hospital with a serious illness. I am thankful that my Dad sat in his chair that night, exhaled, lifted his gaze and took the fast pass home. I’ve often written about the losses of leaving Singapore but there is a flip side too: living halfway across the world from Dad and Mum in these last fourteen years has required me to be intentional with our opportunities to meet and spend time together. That clarity is one of the unexpected gifts of loss, and when I look back on those years, I see full days, meaningful, edifying conversations and not a single wasted moment. And I am thankful that when my Dad died, he'd been doing what he loved and was excited about. 


Almost ten years ago, I made this shirt for Dad. I'd always suspected he was somewhat leery of it - the blazing color, the shameless self-promotion; which self-respecting Asian father would dare wear such a thing? After Dad died, I remembered this shirt and thought to take it back to the US as a keepsake. But I couldn't find it, and eventually Mum told me why it was missing from the house: he was wearing it that night. I remember howling out of a raw devastation that on top of everything else, I'd lost even that. 

Now, I see it differently: that early morning when he woke and made his journey home, Dad was wearing my words.


So now I rebuild. Even as I miss him - so many layers of missing, one for each of the myriad of nuances in his relationship with me, and with others in his life. Without him in it, the world feels a little less funny, a little less clever, and altogether quiet and dim.

With Kate, 2008

The day will come when I will be a light-gazer again, when I will fix my eyes on glory and nothing less. That Dad and I will meet again is certain, to which end my aspiration will be to have lived my own life in honor of him and his. And at the very end of time, I will answer the question Samwise asked Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, "is everything sad going to come untrue?"8 

I believe it. It will be a good day, and the wait will have been worth it. Until then, however, I will continue to search for the words, both the dark and the bright, because grief is both. As it is so many other dichotomies also: the swell and the ebb, the peak and the valley, the roar and the silence, the old and the new, the pain and the love.

Pain, which Kessler noted, "is evidence of [the] love,"9  love which, as God Himself promised, "many waters cannot quench."10

Come, then, swell and ebb. 

I am grateful for the words.


References:

1 John W. James & Russell Friedman (2009). The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition, p.24


2 Jamie Cannon (2020/2/3). Stop Saying 'I'm Sorry for Your Loss.


3  David Kessler (2017/6/9). https://buffalonews.com/2017/06/09/grief-evidence-love-says-bestselling-author-coming-wny/


4  Jamie Cannon (2020/2/3). Stop Saying 'I'm Sorry for Your Loss.


5 Frank Bruni (2020/2/12). New York Times Opinion


6 C.S. Lewis (1961) , A Grief Observed, p.3


7 Cassie Beasley (2015). Circus Mirandus, p.274

8  J.R.R. Tolkein (1965), Return of the King, p.283


9  David Kessler (2019). Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, p.92


10  Song of Solomon 8:7




77 comments:

  1. Dear LiEr

    Thank you so much for sharing. It came in the perfect moment for me. My loss is of a very different kind. But still, your words are soothing and help me get over it. To embrace life and all I have again, instead of mourning after what I cannot have (any more).

    You are a blessing for many, probably especially because you went through hardship and pain. The hole that your Dad left in your life will never be filled, and need not to. But the more time passes, the more it will remind you of all the good that was instead of what you have lost. And yet, there will always be times you miss your Dad (probably less and less frequent). Which is ok.

    May God shine through you and your family, and thus bless everybody you meet!

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    1. Anonymous: Thank you for your kindness and for your hopeful and comforting words. Whatever your loss is, my heart hurts with you and I hope that you, too, will find peace, comfort and wholeness again.

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  2. I am so sorry that you lost your Dad from this life. You drew me in by the first line, because my Dad died in August. It feels therapeutic to read your grief account, just to know that I'm not alone in this sadness. Your Dad sounds like a wonderful person. I'm sure you and your family were all blessed by his love. I'm truly sorry for your loss. Though he probably couldn't hear or understand due to his illness, I told Dad, "this is just goodbye for now. We'll soon meet again where we'll never have to say goodbye." God bless you.

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    1. Alice: big (virtual) hugs to you. August is so recent, and this must still feel so raw for you. I am glad for you to have had the opportunity to say goodbye(for now) to your precious Dad. Hold on to hope, friend. Someone told me that "one day, the absence will take the form of a constant presence . . . in your own life, your mother, your kids." I pray it will be the same for you as you emerge on the other side of grief to find all the more love for your Dad.

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    2. Thank you for the thoughtful reply.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your words and your witness.

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  4. I am truly sorry for you loss. Such beautiful words are a remarkable tribute to your father. I too live far from my family, and it's so difficult when there is a crisis. My father, who has been obscenely healthy all his life, went through a a quadruple bypass after a heart attack last year, and just last month suffered a small stroke. I want to be there with my parents to support them and help, but I feel so helpless so far away. Your words really resonated with me. I wish you and your family peace.

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    1. Katie: It sounds like you've had a tough year, too. It is so hard to be far away, and only seeming to be able to watch from the outside. It's a unique challenge to count the days and months and learn to be present with family from a distance. Let's pray for creativity to find ways to be intentional with the time and opportunities we have. I hope for your parents to be well, and for you to enjoy them in all kinds of ways for many, many years to come.

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  5. Thank you, dear friend. For sharing your heart. And touching mine. ❤️

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    1. GG: I remember emailing you when it happened, and being grateful for you and your friendship even in such a dark time :)

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  6. I read every word. Thank you for sharing your pain and your love. I lost my dad to suicide 17 years ago. It still hurts.

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    1. Dawn: I am so sorry for your pain. I know my words cannot go where you need them to go, but I pray that you will continue to find your own words which will truly bring peace, comfort and wholeness.

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  7. Oh my. Raw and true words. You have touched my heart. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. So honest and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing both the darkness and the light.

    Elle

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing. You've described grief and the pain so well.
    I'm so very sorry you lost your Dad.

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  10. So very sorry for your loss. You cried into the void that is the internet, wondering if anyone was there to hear. Well, I heard you this Thursday morning, cried with your palpable pain, unearthing my own griefs that are always with me, just there under the surface. Thank you for sharing your pain, for telling us about your dad, for reminding us that even in this world of apparent doom and gloom and one looming disaster after another, there is hope, hope that springs from the love between dads and daughters, in families, in interpersonal relationships. Hugs from the void, which maybe isn't such of a void after all (-:

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    1. Jessie: thank you for understanding (and the hugs). Love is so powerful, and I am glad my words reminded you of yours :)

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  11. Maybe these are just words from a stranger miles and miles far apart, but feelings are just something inside us, and we can share it here. I'm sorry for the loss of a human being so special for you, for your mom, who need you for the most, but as you said, he taught you to craft, to love and to live.
    Remember him with joy.

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    1. Menduca: thank you. And yes, I am slowly beginning to realize the many ways my Dad will always be a part of my life.

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  12. I am so sad for your loss. God bless you and your family

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  13. Well-written, well done. What a loss for this earth and your dad's people.
    I miss my dad too. A big comfort is being with the people who miss him too.

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    1. Sansuey: YES. Such true words. It is real comfort indeed to be with the people who miss my Dad. Thank you for sharing that, and for telling me about your Dad.

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  14. There are a few phrases in the English language that I feel completely inadequately portray what they are meant to portray. Like ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘Thank you’. After reading your words I want to tell you I’m sorry. Also thank you. And I hope you understand what I mean when I say that.

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  15. You have parted the curtain on a loss that I know will come, that I dread. You have reminded me to be present. Horrible yet beautiful. May God bring peace.

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    1. Anonymous: Someone once told me, "the phone call will come some day. But when that happens, trust that you will have the resources then to handle what is needed." I've found that to be true. Sometimes the fear of something is far greater than the thing itself. And if it reminds us to be intentional with the present, it can be a good thing. May you have peace, too.

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  16. This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your grief and love with us.

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  17. Oh, LiEr. I am so sorry.

    What a wonderful man you were raised by. I've loved reading about your father over the years.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

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    1. MaryAnne: I remember sitting in Schipol Airport writing to you earlier last year. Thank you for hearing me and for always writing back :)

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  18. I'm not sure I believe in the hereafter,or if I believe in God, but the first thing which sprang to my mind after finishing your tribute was, "AMEN".

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    1. Anonymous: thank you. That means a lot to me.

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  19. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my own father last year, still processing, still finding words xx

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    1. Anonymous: I am constantly surprised by how many lives out there cross mine in similar circumstances. My heart aches for you. I pray you will find your own words and with them, peace and wholeness.

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  20. What a tribute to your dad! Thank you for sharingn

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  21. I'm so sorry we have loss in this life. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm thankful for your faith, and our Hope. It was so hard, so sad, so good reading your post just now. Then I read to the part of you looking for your dad's t-shirt you made and I just lost it. I've just finished making a t-shirt quilt of my dad's shirts. My sis and my brother have their own to make. My dad is 84 and everyday, I know, is a gift. This was very close and personal to me. Thank you for sharing, from the phone call to now. Thank you so much. May God's Presence be with you and bring you peace and comfort. Love.

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    1. TerryKes: I loved reading about your T-shirt quilt. My Mom and I have had a conversation about turning Dad's T-shirts into a quilt someday. It may not be soon, but it's always been a prospect that felt good and hopeful and honoring. When she's ready, I shall bring it up again, and possibly offer to help. I imagine it could be very healing. Thank you for your kind words.

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  22. I'm so sorry for your loss. And ...

    Oh my ... from the phone call to now ... Oh my. You conveyed so vividly your feelings and thoughts. Thank you. And then when you asked about the t-shirt, it was like a swell of grief overtook me. I just finished quilting a t-shirt quilt of my dad's shirts. He's 84 and everyday a gift, and even though I know it's coming, I won't be ready. I'm thankful for your faith and the hope we have in Christ. May He comfort you and your family and may His peace fill you.

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  23. Beautifully written! Many parts resonated with my own exprience of loss. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Eirini, and I hope you continue to find peace and wholeness, too.

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  24. I'm so sorry for your loss. My father died four years ago, and I even now I still have moments where I am surprised he's not there. We were not made to die and to grieve. It is so very wrong.

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    1. thecurryseven: My heart hurts for your loss, too. Isn't that the truth though - how our loss surprises us. Death is not the true default of the world as it was meant to be; hope and enduring life are. May you continue to find peace and wholeness.

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  25. Dear LiEr, I’m sorry for your loss ( and this late condolence). Your tribute is beautiful and the memory of your dad is as vivid as though he were alive. Take heart in God’s comfort and love, and know that I am praying for you always (tho we seem to be no longer in touch) and wish you all that is happy and peaceful in your life ❤️ I love you and miss you still ❤️

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    1. Chris: And I miss and love you! Thank you for stopping by to read this and share your heart. And thank you for your prayers - I feel them.

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  26. Dear LiEr,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. Pl forgive this late condolence. Know that I pray for you and your family every day and - tho we seem to be no longer in touch - wish you nothing but peace, strength and love. ❤️

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  27. LiEr,
    Like you, I tend to be a light-gazer, though unlike you, I'm not very good with words.. I've loved reading your blog for years. You always manage to strike a chord, but I wanted to thank you especially for writing this. It's such a relief to read your words. So much of what you said resonates so deeply. It's incredibly hard thto finde strength to stay in those painful wells of grief and hurt and accept the feelings as they are, but it's also healing in ways I can't explain.. I'm so sorry for your loss, and so happy for you and your father and the rest of your family that you had each other.

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    1. Shoshana: thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart here. I like your description of staying in the wells of grief and hurt. They often feel bottomless, don't they? And yes, there is so much healing in them, counter-intuitive as that sounds. Peace and comfort to you, too, my friend.

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  28. Thank you so much for sharing your grief. I have been following you for several years now, back from when you did the zipper series and I love how you write and your intentionality about everything you do. My Dad died five years ago and was a creative type like your father. I still can't believe that I can't pick up the phone and call him. He was techie and helped me figure out glitches in the computer world. He was spiritual, funny, a pack rat. Like you, I am split between cultures. My parents were missionaries in Brazil for 18 years which greatly impacted how I see the world. I have always seen their courage and eccentricities as gifts that landed on fertile soil with me.

    Grief hurts, but it also underscores the importance of the beloved. That he was wearing your t-shirt when he passed squished my heart. Wow... And, your Dad had the best death we can hope for. Mine suffered terribly for several months (stroke after heart surgery) and it was torture.

    May your words come to you with clarity and wisdom. Be at peace.

    Rachel

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    1. Rachel: thank you for sharing your story, and for telling me about your Dad. I ached for you as I read about his passing - both the actual goodbye and the painful prelude to it were losses stacked on each other. That we have hope at the end of all things is somedays the only thing that holds us up, but you reminded me that we also carry so much of who our loved ones are (were) in us. May we display the best of them in the people we are becoming. Blessings to you!

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  29. Hi LiEr, my deepest condolences to you and your family. I agree with what you said, "... but some things you don’t really get until they happen to you". I can't say that I understand what you've been through, but thank you for sharing with us how lovely a father and grandfather he was. Hugs from SG

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    1. C: Thank you. And hugs from the the homeland always especially treasured!

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  30. This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart (and your father) with us.

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  31. What a lovely tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing some of him with us.

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  32. I came today looking for a zipper tutorial I'd read here a while back. I'm grateful to have found this instead.

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  33. I'm sorry to hear this - and beautifully touched by your words... thank you for posting this.
    I thought about you often the past months, noticing the (almost) silence on your blog and thinking something must have happened. I'm so sorry to read this now. And at the same time, there's a silent , gentle beauty in the way you cared for yourself, and i can feel the deep love for your father. I feel honoured to be witnessing this. Blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Florentine: thank you for thinking of me, and for your sweet words.

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  34. I am so sorry to read that. I know what it does to be so far away and then to do that travel, but too late, not fast enough. Your words are beautiful and your dad was lucky to have a loving daughter like you. Thank you for sharing that love with us here.

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    1. Cecile: thank you. Yes, being far away is a whole additional layer to the grief of losing someone, not only when it happens, but for the months and years after, trying to process it out of context, as it were. I am, however, very thankful that it happened back when there were no flying restrictions as there are now. I was able to fly home and back again, and visit Mum several times after. I couldn't have, had it happened in 2020.

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    2. Yes, you are right. I am thinking about that now and hoping that my Mum will be fine. She is in France and they are confined home, so she's alone in her apartment, thankfully with good neighbors all around. I hope your family and yourself stay safe.

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  35. I'm so sorry for your loss, Lier. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I lost my father three years ago. I thought I knew something about grief from previous losses, but it turns out that I didn't know anything about grief until I lost Daddy. The C.S. Lewis book you quoted was one of the few writings that comforted me.

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    1. amyo: My heart aches for your loss, too. I have also lost precious people prior to this, but it was nothing compared to losing a parent, and from so far away, after having already said goodbye (or so I thought) when I'd left Singapore to begin a new life here on my own. I hope you find comfort and continuing wholeness over the months and years and you, too, rebuild your world. Big hugs.

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  36. Dear LiEr, I've been following your blog for many many years now. In fact, my eldest daughter is Kate's age and I remember having made something for her from one of your tutorials when she was about three or four. So I wanted to say I'm really sorry for your loss. I really can't imagine how deeply sad you must be, your words convey part of your emotions but I'm sure words can never be enough. Fortunately you have a beautiful family to lean on and see as a source of illusion and motivation to carry on. My thoughts and good wishes are with you.

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  37. Oh wow. That was beautiful. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us strangers. I think I'll be thinking about what you've said for a while. Death is never okay. But thank you Jesus for the hope of resurrection and a new world where everything sad will come untrue.

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  38. Thank you for sharing, and I am truly sorry for your loss. Five years ago I made the same drop-everything trip to the Philippines for my father's service. It had been coming for awhile, and being as bull-headed as he was he decided that he didn't want the hospital confinement. Our mother was devastated regardless, and it was that that really brought the grief. He and I never had the connection you and yours did, but he loved my sister and i and was proud of our accomplishments. Fathers' memories live on no matter what we do, in their words and in their dispositions, and how we act with our own kids. Articulating what they mean to us helps. Love and healing vibes.

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