I've been at a loss for words recently. There are times in life that are so heavy, profound and intense that speaking or writing seems hollow and there are experiences too precious and fleeting to ruin with words. The last week has been one I haven't wanted to miss - every moment has downloaded itself into my heart to hold on to forever. I don't want to look away. I don't want to stop learning from what I've seen. I don't want to forget.
On August 25, 2017, at 6:14 PM, my father-in-law was senselessly and brutally killed. The worst day of our lives was also the best day of his, as he went to be with his Savior after 64 world-changing years on this earth. In that moment, my husband's (and mine as a result) world came screeching to a halt. Everything changed. Even time would cease to be the same, as every remaining moment will be measured in "before" and "after" that Friday evening that took his Dad away.
My husband left the next morning to be with his Mom, brothers and sister, and Lolly and I were able to join him several days later to attend the funeral and be close to family. My little sister, Annie, and Avery's favorite nurses, Jamie and Briana, took care of things here while we were away (my first time leaving Avery with anyone besides my husband!).
Before we arrived in Ohio for the funeral that day, my grief had consisted of sadness and anger, but by the end of the day on Tuesday, the pain had been enveloped by something else. The sadness was overtaken by hope and awe and I've spent every moment since unpacking the gift that is the memory and legacy of my father-in-law. His remains are dust, but the love he left behind is as tangible as the phone you're holding in your hand (or whatever screen you're reading this on).
His funeral was a glowing representation of his life. My father-in-law was a man of few words. He wasn't loud or pushy. In fact, he likely would have been embarrassed by the line of people that stretched from inside the church, down the sidewalk, out to the alley and up to a nearby bank, waiting to hug the family and pay their respects. He had made friends with everyone who crossed his path. He was kind and generous, his hand always outstretched to help. People mattered to him. His faith and his family mattered most.
I've been in quiet awe of what he left behind - his capable wife who is gracefully picking up the pieces, his daughter who he deeply treasured and a group of powerful sons who could easily take their revenge, but have each chosen to forgive, and will continue to forgive every day for the rest of their lives. The true measure of a man is how he cares for his family and his love and care for each member of his tribe is unquestionable. All of his children spoke of his complete devotion to them - his attendance at every game, every activity, their faithful cheerleader. It's easy to be the hero to a small child, but to continue to be a hero to grown, incredible men is a rare feat, not frequently achieved by most fathers.
I feel like I've seen love face to face, like we've shaken hands and I'll more easily be able to spot its counterfeit in the future.
You see, true, real love doesn't look like what is often portrayed these days. It isn't choosing whatever feels good in the moment and letting those affected deal with the consequences of your choices while you "live your best life". It doesn't look like lust. It doesn't look like putting yourself first. It doesn't have to be loud. It doesn't have to be flashy. It doesn't change.
Love looks like a faithful dad who provided for his family in life and even in death. Love is patient and consistent. Love pursues those it loves, even when the object of their love has wronged them. Love forgives. Love reaches out to help strangers. Love may not always know what to say, but it always knows when to sacrifice. Love is a dad, standing on the sidelines, in rain or shine, devoted to his kids and their interests, even if he worked another night shift and hasn't slept yet. Love isnt glamorous and it's rarely sexy. Love is a weary, mother who tirelessly pours herself out to help her baby beat cancer. Love is the mother who believes the best for her autistic child, advocating and working every therapy even when progress is slow and barely visible. Real isn't easily marketed, because real love is pain and loss. Real love hurts. It's giving yourself for the ones you love. Real love is two nails through two blameless hands. Real love is unconditional, Perfect Love dying on the cross to purchase forgiveness and pardon for His children. Real Love withstood pain to make healing possible - by His stripes we can be healed. Real Love paid my debt.
My father-in-law was a beautiful, earthly example of the sacrificial, selfless Love of Christ. I'm honored to share his last name and love the family he left behind. I'm so lucky to be married to one of the men that he shaped and trained. I know my father-in-law is, present tense, so proud.
So, that's where I've been, in grief and wonder. I have more to say (including the best news we've received about Avery yesterday) and I'll share more soon, but I'll leave you with this: consider your legacy. What are you leaving behind? Your follower count will not be listed on your headstone. Your physical beauty will not matter anymore. The only thing we leave behind is the love we showed others in our lifetime. The last week has shown me that I have a lot of work left to do. What about you?