Perspective is a funny thing. In some ways it’s nothing more than meaningless whispers in our mind, calling us to believe something that may or may not be true. But, in other ways it’s the most powerful force we hold, defining who we are and how we act. I never knew how much my perspective on my dad’s death affected me, until the day my perspective changed forever.
I remember the night I said goodbye to my father. It was May of my third grade year. My two younger brothers (7 and 2) and I took the elevator up to the familiar floor and walked down the hallway toward his room. Although we knew where to go, that night we took our time, trying to take it all in. We knew we were going to see our dad and it was going to be for the last time. There’s no way a child can make sense of that and it’s terrifying. I’m not sure we really knew what was happening or what to expect as we reached his room.
As we walked in, the room was dark except for the bed where he lay unnaturally peaceful. Shadowy people lined the dark walls, watching over my dad like ominous angels preparing to take him home. My brothers and I took turns attempting to tell my father goodbye. I found the activity terrifying, overwhelming, and embarrassing. I didn’t know what to say. Third graders don’t prepare speeches for things like this, but did the best I could. When we were finished we left, never to return to that hospital room again.
How does a 9 year old say goodbye to his dad? What could he possibly say? Over the years, I’ve gone back to that moment and thought about all the things I wish I had the words to say. I’ve talked it through with counselors, friends, and even God Himself. Whenever I thought about that night, I was always drawn back to the dark and mysterious room where my dad lay dying. Those thoughts described how I felt about his death; dark and confusing. But, all that changed one afternoon in a counseling session.
I was in grad school and had seen a counselor on and off for many years, but this was my first meeting with this particular guy. Our time started with the traditional chit chat explaining who I am and what brought me in that day. Surprisingly the counselor suggested we pray and allow God to speak to me during our session. I thought it was a bit unusual, but went with it.
We asked God to bring up some memory needing to be healed and the first thing I thought of was the dark night I said goodbye. We then invited God into that memory and asked him to heal it however he would. It was a strange moment, sitting there silent, thinking of myself standing in the dark at my father’s beside.
But, then the strangest thing happened. God turned the lights on in my memory. As I thought of myself standing before my father’s bed, the room was no longer dark. I looked around and could now see the faces of my family standing around the room and suddenly didn’t feel so alone. My previously held fear fled in the presence of each familiar face. On top of that, and this may sound strange, I could hear music. A band like you’d find on the streets of New Orleans was playing when the saints go marching in and I knew my dad was going to be with God. It was like God himself had entered the room and showed me that everything was going to be ok.
As we said amen and our counseling session ended, I knew this prayer changed me in a significant way. I could never view that night the same again. It was comforting to know that God was present in one of my darkest moments.
Most of the healing God does in my life is so gradual it’s hardly noticeable until you look back and see how far you’ve come. But, every once in a while He does something special like what happened during this particular prayer with my counselor. These are the moments we hold on to and remember that God is present and prayer makes a difference.
What about you? Is there some memory or moment from your past that needs healing? Is there a dark place you need God to illuminate or a broken place you need Him to rebuild? I think so many people sit in the dark for so long, holding onto their fear, they’re now afraid to let it go. I hope you will invite God into your moment and allow Him to turn the lights on for you too.