Fasting From Worry: When the thing you’re worrying about actually happens
Journey with Jesus this Lent
If you had asked me last year what my greatest worry was, I would've told you that it was the fear that my dad would die before my brother's wedding.
Dad's health had been in pretty steep decline since the spring of 2017. At that time he had been battling a rare form of lymphoma for over seven years. My brother, Zach, had been seriously dating Victoria for several years and so it was not surprising to anyone when they got engaged in the Fall of ‘17. We were all so happy for them, but in particular, my dad was elated.
With the concern for dad’s health at the forefront of all of our minds, Zach and Victoria went ahead and scheduled their wedding for February of 2018. Four months is not a long time to plan a wedding, but they put everything together quickly in hopes that dad would be able to be there.
We all watched in helplessness and worry as dad’s health grew increasingly worse. And two days before the wedding, after a week and a half in the hospital, my dad passed from this life to the next on February 21 at 10 pm.
The thing that we’d all been so worried about had happened.
We were in the middle of what was supposed to be such a joyful season and yet a huge piece of our hearts was missing. We had to plan a funeral and settle his estate. We had to alert family and friends of his passing. All the details that needed to be attended too were overpowering. Not to mention the wedding we were in the midst of throwing.
To be honest with you, I wasn't sure we'd be ok.
I worried about my brother. Would he be able to celebrate with this huge loss looming over him? How would we honor dad at the ceremony when everything seemed so trite? How would my mom be able to bear that evening without her husband of 49 years by her side? I was going to officiate the service and I was not sure I would be able to maintain composure.
It felt very overwhelming in the face of such a huge loss to try to celebrate.
The day after dad died, we loaded up into the car and drove to Austin for the rehearsal and dinner. The venue Zach and Victoria chose was a beautiful Hill Country spot overlooking Lake Travis. Before we ran through the rehearsal, I walked the property, crying and praying. The evening felt gloomy, overcast skies tinged with sadness and darkness.
I remember lamenting to God, saying “I don’t think I can do this. This is all too much to bear.”
But as I was praying, I noticed the clouds parting just a little and beautiful rays of sunlight began to cascade all around me.
My dad loved the Hill Country. As I stood in that place looking at the light breaking through the dismal sky, I realized that his spirit was with us in that beautiful spot he would have loved so much. Now, I needed to set aside the grief and worry that were plaguing me to be present to two of the people I love most joining together as one.
I was resolved, even if not totally sure how, that I would try to fast from my worry during that weekend.
We made it through the rehearsal, and we went to dinner, and I prayed again before I went to sleep. “Help us, Lord. Help us be here, now.”
The day of the wedding came, and words cannot express how beautiful it was. We celebrated, we cried, we reminisced, we danced, we partied. I read the following passage from one of my dad’s books to my brother and Victoria before their vows:
"Soon after my son was born, I carried him into our backyard, as far from the glow of artificial lights, as possible, held him up toward the thousands of stars that shone down from a clear moonless night, and offered his spirit to the universe. Somewhere years ago I had read that an ancient tribe performed that same ritual with their newborn. For me, it was a gesture aimed at instilling in my son the timeless value of honor and a sense of belonging in the historic scheme of things."
There was not a dry eye in the place.
It was the best wedding I've ever been to, in the middle of the worst thing that's ever happened to us.
And it was a beautiful and powerful testament to the resiliency of the human heart.
My dad was present there that night, in our hearts and minds, in the fact that I was able to read his words to my brother as he married his wife, in a perfect Hill Country setting, while the birds sang and the wildflowers bloomed.
I am thankful today for the light that shines brightly even when everything is just the worst. That even at our lowest moment, there is still much room for joy and hope and love. We were able as a family, to set aside our worry and to be present to each other. We were able to celebrate amidst the hardest thing that has ever happened to us. To this day, I cannot fully explain how we did that. All I know is that God was in the midst.
Through our faith and love for one another, we came together and supported one another.
My family is forever changed with the loss of my dad, and there have been many hard days that followed the wedding. Many days, where I find myself again, sinking into worry. But, it helps to remember that night and our strength in beauty and in love. And it helps to recognize that life is a series of births and deaths, weddings and funerals, times for celebrations and times for mourning. We honor God and one another when we are present for all of it, with our whole heart.