When telling my story, I say that becoming a Christian and becoming a runner were the two most life changing points. Each one can be connected to specific dates on a calendar, and each one has a clear B.C. and A.D. aspect to them.
I “officially” became a Christian in third grade while at camp by raising my hand when a leader asked who would like to let Jesus into their hearts. I am 99% sure that every little hand in that room went up because it seemed like a pretty sweet deal. It was Halloween my senior year of high school when I realized that faith was supposed to impact life, and not just death. That night led to changes in plans regarding college, career, and ending some negative patterns.
After I became a runner, my schedule changed to include regular time at the gym and much less on the couch. My eating habits shifted to smaller portions and fewer drive-throughs. My budget started to include a section for races (because running is just barely cheaper than therapy). And I gained new friendships through this weird new part of my identity.
When my father died 10 months ago, that day felt like it would be another defining moment. I know exactly where I was when I got the text from my brother, and the silent sobs that took over for a few minutes after. Then I had to get back to work, to teach that afternoon, and to lead a volunteer training session that night. So the emotions were shoved down with the expectation that the next day, and days afterward, would be spent with tears on my cheeks, pillow, and loved-ones shoulders.
But that didn’t happen.
Yes I cried. I cried a few times that week, the next, and the ones after that. In fact a tear or two have escaped while I’ve been writing this afternoon. But it was never the overwhelming grief that I thought the death of a parent would create. Instead there are days, perhaps even weeks, that pass without me thinking of it or him, and then there are a few days when his absence is a haunting ghost.
I’ve written before about my father (First Words) and how he was physically absent most of my life, and probably emotionally absent for the rest. So when I think about what my life was like before his passing versus afterward, the difference is only hope rather than experience. I had retained this ridiculous, perhaps naive glimmer of hope that I would one day know the man whose DNA is half of my own. That he might apologize for all that he did, and all that he missed, and be a dad in my life. It was a hope I barely spoke of to myself, let alone anyone else, because his impact on others was so negative and his absence from my life over three decades long. And yet hope I did.
November 15, 2017 ended that hope.
So while that date may not have created the same life change as the others, it will be a critical tent pole in this journey.
#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge. The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron). The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.