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That Glad Morning

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I lost my voice, Sisterhood. It started in March, a hoarseness, a rawness when trying to express some words, some thoughts, and I discovered that it was easier–on my voice, on my ears–to just stop talking the non-essential words. To sort it out quietly. Then, in mid-April, I lost my voice completely.

Not my voice-voice. My here-voice. My to you voice.

I just . . . I don’t know, went out and began digging in my yard instead. I didn’t need a voice to haul brick and rock, to dig and till and rake and mulch and plant and sod. So I hauled and dug and tilled and raked and mulched and planted and sodded. More often than not, I did those things at the direction of The MotherSuch, she being a landscaping pro and me being the opposite. Together we hauled and dug and tilled and raked and mulched and planted and sodded.

As I toiled in the yard, a mountain of OtherSuch material piled up–jury duty questionnaires, Four-Why-Ohisms, ovary reports, courtroom verdicts, doctor appointments, illness, photos, the weird and funny randoms and life, stuff. Stuff that I was beginning to feel some pressure about getting back to the computer to share. But stuff that ultimately? Doesn’t matter. It will soon enough be covered over by other stuff anyway. That’s what life does: it layers stuff over the other stuff over the other stuff. That’s po’try, right there, in the stuff layering. Be sure to credit the source when you quote me about The Layering of The Stuff.

Most evenings I came in too exhausted for much other than a shower, a little food, and bed. No energy, no brainpower, for writing. And when my body began to adjust, began storing up late-night writing energy? Then I added a 5:00 a.m. bootcamp into the mix. And was then so exhausted that had I wanted to think, to write, it all just would have come out like: zebra-pantsuit trophy juror skurgles what zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I said I lost my voice. But really? It wasn’t lost. I just didn’t want to use it. I was avoiding it, directing energy everywhere else that I could. My heart didn’t want to see in black and white what was in my head. And if I stayed away from a keyboard, if I kept my hands busy elsewhere, then my fingers would not have the opportunity to collude with my head and force me to unpackage and examine things that I just didn’t want to unpackage and examine.

There would be plenty of time for unpackaging and examining after all of the hauling and digging and tilling and raking and mulching and planting and sodding.

I came in from watering the new flowerbeds this morning and sat down, trying to figure out where I would start, and discovered that the unpackaging, the examining, well I had already done those things after all. In the yard. I don’t need to go back over the last two months here. I stood looking out my windows, watching the sprinklers cast droplets over two months’ worth of The Stuff. It was already out there.

I had hauled The Stuff out there rock by rock, brick by brick, and laid it out. I’d dug into it, sometimes with a hand tool, sometimes by hopping up and down on a large shovel, wedging the tool down into the hard, compacted parts and breaking large sections free at a time. I had tilled over all of it, ripping up roots and working desirable soil in with the undesirable parts. I had raked it all smooth(ish) and level(ish). I had mulched over it, a pretty cover to help keep the weeds at bay and to encourage new plant life. I had come back and dug new holes, carefully moving aside the mulch, planting new and pretty things to draw my focus forward, away from The Stuff.

The unpackaging and examining, I have already done it. Most of it, anyway.

Thank God I have already been doing that after all.

*     *     *     *     *

Last Friday evening, we had a gathering of friends to our home. We grilled out burgers and hot dogs, enjoying a beautiful spring evening on the patio while our little ones, ten or so of them, ran about the yard giggling and shouting and making gleeful children noises. It was a wonderful, peaceful evening among good friends.

After everyone had gone, after our completely worn-out child had gone to bed, I asked my husband if he would take her with him to breakfast in the morning, let me sleep in. I might have prefaced the request with something like “because it’s Mother’s Day weekend and all . . . .” Not that I had to preface it that way, Saturday morning breakfasts being something they do, just the two of them, once a month or so anyway. Still, just in case he had other morning plans, I used my Mother’s Day leverage.

I sort of slept in the next morning. Mainly, I just stayed still and lightly snoozed while the two of them got themselves ready to leave. I didn’t really crack an eye until I heard her happy “‘Bye Mama!” and the close of the door. Then, the coast was clear for me. No pending breakfast orders! Quiet house! All alone!

I bunched the covers around me, propped up on the pillows, and spent at least an hour reading, catching up on games on my phone, scrolling through Facebook, checking messages and emails and voicemail.

At 9:50, angling to cash in on a little more of whatever Mother’s Day points I had, I sent The Husband a text asking if he would return a call about showing a rental property.

At 10:00, when he hadn’t replied, I sent a “??” followup to him. “Give me a few minutes,” came the reply. That was as good as a “yes” for me, so back to my reading and games and lazing I went.

Around 10:40, as I was washing my face and brushing my teeth and planning a call to my mother to see if she wanted to go plant shopping, I heard the garage door raising. When The Husband came strolling into the bathroom without a 40-pound shadow dancing behind him, I figured The Four-Why-Oh had met up with her grandfather and I had scored an afternoon of me-time. I don’t think I outwardly danced a jig, but I might have.

“Where’s my girl?”

“She’s running around with Pa.”

Ahhhhh! Me-time! We time?

“What are we going to do?”

“Well, I need to talk to you about something . . . .”

I continued fussing with contacts or hair or some manner of readying myself for my unexpected, and welcome, me-day. “Okay. Did you call that lady about showing the house?

“I’ve been at your Mom and Dad’s house, your Mom called and asked me to come.”

And I knew.

The motion of my limbs ceased, my heart too I think, and for the first time since he had walked into the bathroom I looked at my husband’s face. At his eyes.

I knew everything I needed to know to deny everything he was standing before me to tell me.

“No. No. No, no, no. Just, NO.”

And I walked into the water closet and shut the door, shut him out entirely for a few moments.

“This is not funny,” I told him through the door, willing him to be messing with me so that I could divert the approaching monsoon of emotion, knowing this was not a matter about which he would ever joke. Wishing, wishing that it was.

“No,” I told him again when I emerged.

He stood, watching me, waiting for me, letting me stop him for as long as I needed him to not say the words he didn’t want to say and that I didn’t want to hear.

 “Are you telling me that my Daddy died? Because no.”

His eyes. This man, the one from whom I have to so often drag words. This once, wanting him to just keep all of the rest of the words to himself.

“Yes. Shelby, I am so sorry.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” I told him, giving him one more opportunity to change the story, scrambling with futile hope for an out, a loophole, a way to make the news that I’ve known for 15-months was coming just not be coming today.

When I had finally used up all of my noes and denials, he answered my questions, watched as I tossed random toiletries into a bag, waited for me to crumble into him. Which I did. And then I didn’t. And then I did again. All in the span of about 90 seconds.

Oh, my father. Oh, my Father. Too soon! This is too soon!

In late March, scans had shown that his cancer was active again. A variety of doctor appointments and a handful of small procedures had shown us that there was not a whole lot that could be done medically.

We have lived the last 15 months with the knowledge that a goodbye loomed before us.

We have lived the last 15 months on a roller coaster of treatments and waiting for treatments and scans and waiting for scan results. In the fall we had the most beautiful of reprieves when for a time the cancer was inactive, the tumor having shrunk, his energy and health in general improving such that our family could do things (things! actual things! non-doctor-appointmenty things!) together. We celebrated Thanksgiving with great thankfulness for the grace that had brought us that time of comfort and healing.

We have lived the last 15 months knowing that goodbye was coming, and yet saying but not today! Today we will hold on, today we will love!

Oh, but Sisterhood, “today” had finally come.

It was too soon.

If it had been 10 years from now, it would have been too soon.

Thirty years from now, too soon.

Oh, my father. Oh, my Father.

Were I to try to explain, to honor the man in the way that he most assuredly deserved, I would never ever be able to close this post. He was truth and goodness and loyalty. He was humble and quiet and patient.

“‘Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands,’” my mother read to me yesterday evening from 1Thessalonians 4:11. That is what my father did.

He loved his Lord, his family, his friends, and he went about quietly doing good, we agreed.

As I stood in the back room of a funeral home this weekend, I tried to memorize his face. I watched my mother and my sister, knew they were struggling to do the same. Remember the shape of his brow, the bump in his nose where his glasses rested, I told myself. Commit these to your memory now so that they cannot escape!

As I looked upon my father’s face for the very last time I would ever do so on this earth, the words of his favorite hymn played through my mind. I cried, and the words played on. I found my voice, if for no purpose other than to sing, through tears, with faith, these words.

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, 
I’ll fly away; 
To a home on God’s celestial shore, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory 
I’ll fly away; (in the morning) 
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

When the shadows of this life have gone, 
I’ll fly away; 
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away) 

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory 
I’ll fly away; (in the morning) 
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

Just a few more weary days and then, 
I’ll fly away; 
To a land where joy shall never end, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory 
I’ll fly away; (in the morning) 
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, 
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

That glad morning, his glad morning, was Saturday, May 12, 2012.

And on that morning, he flew away.

Oh Glory, my Daddy flew away.

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11 comments to That Glad Morning

  • Melinda

    I don’t know what to say except that I am crying for you and I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Amber

    I am so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. It is a significant loss. You have my very deepest sympathy. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  • Sara G.

    I am sorry, Shelby. I am crying for you, praying for you. And singing. Don’t forget to sing.

  • Katie Keith

    What a legacy he has left for you and your family. Prayers of comfort and peace for you all.

  • Betty Jowell

    Shelby!!! I am SO sorry to hear this news. Please let me know about arrangements. We are stunned, as we didn’t know your dad was sick…

  • Woody

    Shelby, that is beautiful. I have tears in my eyes as I read it.
    Bill was a wonderful person. You, your mom, and Kearby are
    in our thoughts and prayers.
    Woody & Sarah

  • V French

    Dearest Shelby, what a glorious tribute to Bill! We were blessed to know him for a while…you have cracked the whole nut…no matter when it happens, it is always too soon…lost my father to the same situation…after 22 years I still long for him, yet I would not call him back from the joy and peace he now experiences, even if I could. I am so proud to be among your mother’s friends…she is a pearl of great price in my life…I see her handprint all over your writing. God bless you and all the family…some glad morning we will see your dad again…Love you. V

  • jenny allen

    I’ll fly away is my favorite song. Brad sang this song at church when Scott’s dad, Van, passed on. And then Brad sang it again when Helen passed on…and yes, when i get to go HOME, someone will sing it for me.
    we love you and your sweet family. Scott and Jenny

  • Sharon Kerber

    Shelby, I am so very sorry. I know how hard it is, even now that I am older than my father when he passed on. Please tell your mother that I am grieving with her, for I know how much they meant to each other. Your words, written so lovingly, tell a beautiful story of love.

    Sharon and Jim Kerber

  • Sharon Kerber

    Linda, my heart is breaking for you. You are in my prayers.


  • treva

    praying for you with tears and happy/sad/more sad all rolled up in one for you and your family. Your heart will always reside in two places as you await the time to see each other once again. Hugs to you…

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