This past week marked the first anniversary of my beloved Father’s
passing. After the pain I’ve endured for a full year, I can finally,
happily call it his graduation celebration as he received the eternal reward
that he so richly deserved.
All that his life on earth lacked was gained the moment he entered paradise and
saw his blessed Redeemer. My dad is in heaven. My heart is full at the very
thought that he is there and I plan on living in the shadows of righteousness
cast by him and of course, my Savior. I want to see them both!
The words you’ll read below were written in the first month after he
chose to go home. They are unapologetically honest because grief is real and
this was an experience I’d not faced before. Maybe others can go through
this with much greater
resolve but I felt it all to the core. I wrote with extreme detail only because
I was answering the questions that I would ask myself when others dealt with
personal loss. The who, what, when, why, and how had always pervaded my
thoughts but there
is no script or manual giving us the exact way to deal with loss. Because each
of our hearts are different, so are our reactions. This is my raw and
personal story and it’s the unedited version. I struggled with posting
out of fear of being
so transparent but if this is relatable and can help any person, then
it’s my sacrificial duty and honor. It may be about me but it’s not
I could write for days about the grace of God and the many lessons that I
learned; what He taught me about myself, the true meaning of forgiveness,
understanding and truths that forge a path to His love in me and through me...
About how as a patient
Father, He held up the mirror and let me see the real me. Some lessons
were insightful moments, some hard, and some reflections weren’t
pretty… but just like my dad used to say, “You’ll see one
day that this is for
your own good!” And yes, he was right!
I can conclude my overview of this past year by saying God is and was my
escort. Daily, it was though He waited for me to hold onto His everlasting arm
to walk through hills and valleys while showing, teaching, guiding, comforting,
gracing, and above all, loving me like I was something special. I’ve never seen myself that
way, but God does. All of us have value because we were purchased with the
costly blood of Jesus Christ and if we had a receipt it would read, "Debt is
Paid in Full!" We
have eternal life waiting and all He asks is that we be holy as He is and to
love one another. He left us an instruction book called the Bible which I
always saw my dad’s by his comfy chair. He knew WHO was right within his
*From my personal experience
I can’t form words about the death of my father. In this tidal wave
of emotions, there is that unmistakable rhythm that ebbs and flows... There are
the moments where the tide recedes as the sting subsides and pain diminishes
from welcomed distractions
and you can breathe again. It’s not long until your mind engages with the
truth at hand and the flow of the tide begins to intensify once again. This is
the rhythm of those that mourn.
In the beginning, the immediate shock remains telling you, “This
really didn’t happen, this is not real, I cannot wrap my mind around
this; it’s as though everything is in slow motion, it’s a bad dream
and I can’t wake
up. This is all so surreal. I can’t describe it other than to declare
emphatically, ‘I hate this!’”
Between the second and third week where you wonder how you’ve done
what you’ve done, you already look back and see how you couldn’t
stand but you did. Well, silly me I never did anything. I had an angel glam
squad getting me up and
ready to face the unthinkable moments ahead.
In hindsight, I can see just how much love sees beneath the surface. Like
my darling daughter, who was so thoughtful and prepared everything for me
personally. She saw me... really saw me… and where I was and what I was
trying to handle. I
didn’t even have to ask for help because she had done everything. Of
course, my son and husband were such comfort just being who they are to me. I
could sense the heaviness in my husband’s heart preparing to give the
eulogy. As a Pastor,
one rarely gets to just be a family member. He had the arduous task of
delivering the eulogies of both of his parents and his only sister. Now he had
to say what all of our hearts were feeling along with giving the honor that was
due such a highly
regarded man like my dad. What a considerable responsibility, yet done as a
labor of love. And thankfully, we had the privilege of a wonderful staff and
church family that stepped in to help in ways I shall never forget. I am indeed
So how was I supposed to be able to help my sisters and mother pour over
photos and handle details like we were planning a party? Homegoings should be
celebrations, but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t quite there yet.
This was a funeral.
My father passed on Tuesday and the next morning we were in a meeting at a
funeral home preparing for the service to be held at our church on
How did we do that? How was I not screaming since I knew (and I realize
this is morbid) that my dad’s body was in that building? How was this
happening? How was I holding it together? The answers are many, but ultimately,
they are results of
the power of prayer and the nature of a loving God who knows our human
limitations. We were all okay because God was in the room with us and people
The planning continued and somehow the auto-pilot button was pushed.
There we were looking at photos of him alive and happy, when just hours earlier
we were looking at his lifeless body. No one can tell me that God doesn’t
exist. No one can
tell me that God doesn’t have compassion that fails not. No one can tell
me that God doesn’t have an all-sufficient grace that affords us the
strength and fortitude to stand and go on when we want to fall down and
The day of the funeral, I thought maybe I won’t go. Ok, I am not, I
just can’t! I can’t do it! I can’t and that’s it! I
CANNOT DO THIS! As I’m sobbing, two of my friends come running.
“You can do this,”
they pleaded, “your Dad would want you there.”
They were rushing me about literally helping me get dressed as I was
melting; grief was heating up again. ‘Daddy would expect me there,’
were the magic words… and for him I would and could find the courage. I
knew it, I just didn’t
want to believe it. So the angel glam squad had to come again because I wanted
to stay in my robe and slippers.
I was in the car going to the church. I could drive that route with my
eyes closed since it’s a daily trip, but this one was different. I was
going to a service honoring the life of my father who was now gone. I was never
going to see him again
or walk into service right to his seat and give him a hug and kiss on the
cheek. He always wore his special cologne (a bit much!) on Sunday and we used
to tease him that we would smell like his cologne when we hugged him. I was
never going to hear
his voice, hear him come through the back door after mowing when we went to
visit. He would never again be at that house where I grew up. The “never
agains” of the rest of my lifetime raced through my mind on an unceasing
loop during my
twelve-minute drive to the church.
When I arrived, there was my daughter with her embrace awaiting me and I
could breathe again. After getting ready, I walked into the tabernacle; another
familiar walk I’ve done thousands of times, it seems, but never shaking
and trying to make
sure that tidal wave didn’t crash against the shore of the emotions I was
holding back. There was the greeting hour prior to the service and my precious
son had waited for me...once I held his arm, the waters became still.
The service was ready to begin as I surveyed the crowd of so many loved
ones, extended family, church family, and friends from near and far. That is a
life that speaks volumes. My father never did anything that would gain him
great notoriety in the eyes
of the country, but his character had won hearts filled with love and respect
and he left this earth a highly decorated soldier. My heart was pounding as my eyes
filled with pools of such gratitude. I have always been proud of my Dad and the
fact that others
noticed his rare and exemplary combination of being humble yet distinguished
has made all who knew him lifelong beneficiaries ... and students.
As the tribute began, I had my moments. It was beautiful, heartfelt,
funny, filled with stories and ended in a special way I’ll get to later.
There we were on the front two rows; another surreal moment. Thankfully, my
husband’s arms stayed
around me. When someone loves you, it’s a natural response to pour out
every bit of extra love and compassion they have. Love feels the pain of
another and rushes, with hearts wide open, to bring comfort.
As we stood together as the Askoff family, I was so overwhelmed. I love
my family beyond any ability to describe; I have written about them over the
years but each one of them is a treasure I cherish. My love for them was also
feeling their pain,
not just my own. My mind wandered at times thinking of my dad with each one of
us and I couldn’t help but think of what was on the minds of everyone
else. Although this was a common loss, it was uniquely personal to each family
member. How proud
my Dad would be to see his beloved family: his wife of 63 years, his three
daughters who adored him and all the grandchildren who brought such joy. All
the times we were together were always occasions marked by happiness, support,
and celebrations but this was unimaginable-we were saying our last
Time after time, I discover why grace is called amazing and God is called
a wonder. His wonder and His grace stayed amazing and took one step as I took
the other. God not only knows all...He actually cares so deeply that His
presence becomes your robe
and slippers. He was not only walking for me but walking with me… God
Himself was continuing to escort me down a trail as I surveyed all the beauty
that had been in my 58 years. I read a lovely quote by President Ronald Regan,
a beautiful soul has been, there is a trail of beautiful memories.” How
Those memories became like my teddy bear onto which I held. It’s
interesting how child-like we become when a parent passes... Regardless of age,
I feel somewhat orphaned. The days that had felt gentle and serene changed
quickly as though a hurricane
hit and I was not prepared.
Just a few weeks had passed and I was somewhere different. The thick,
foamy insulation of shock that acts as its own absorber was beginning to wear
thin as the reality hit me. Until then, I felt as though I was wrapped in a
blanket, wearing that robe
and those slippers and then, in an instant, it was all torn from me and left me
shivering in the cold. I was alone. I wanted to call for my dad but knew he
couldn’t come. He always told me if I got lost or separated from him to
stand still and
just call out for him, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” He emphasized how
important it was that I never run and try to find him. If I just stood still
and yelled for him he would hear me because he knew my voice and would come to
me. I am lost...it
certainly feels that way now and I’m separated from Daddy but he will not
hear my cries for him. As David said after the death of his son, “I will
go to him, he will not come to me.”
My cries now are for my Heavenly Father. I’m misplaced not knowing
how to do this life, and though I may be in a room of people, still I am alone.
I know My Heavenly Father knows my voice and I continue to take my dad’s
stand still and just call out for GOD...He will come to me with love as His
When I got to see my dad, after he was taken by squad and passed shortly
after arrival at the hospital, things did change. I met my husband there and
fell into his arms. Soon thereafter, I disobeyed Daddy’s instructions. We
got separated in
an unthinkable way and I did run trying to find him. “Room 19,” the
nurse said, and into the room I ran where his lifeless body laid. I did cry
out, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” my face on his cheek crying into his
“Please don’t leave me,” but that was about me. He deserved
to choose to go home.
Later that evening, a young man told me about a conversation he’d
had with my dad the previous week. He let him know that he was finished and
would not see his birthday which was in a few weeks. When the young man said,
to get through this and we’ll all celebrate your birthday.” His
reply was, “I won’t be here by then.”
My dad was a man of his word and went into cardiac arrest 9 days
prior to his birthday. I believe and know by the gracious words of the Holy
Spirit, late that night, that he asked God to stop his heart. He collapsed when
no one was in the room
at home. My mother was fixing his food while talking to my sister, Jenny, who
then called me; a phone call that changed my life in an instant. In turn, my
sister Julie, who lived nearly an hour away, had to be called and I did so en
route to the hospital.
To have to give this news to my big sister was another role-reversal. She was
always my protector when we were little, and the deciding factor in the fun and
plans we’d make. How could I give her this news? How did my little sister
have to be
so grown up and take my mother to the hospital, be with her, call me, and have
to stay in control? I was always the overly emotional, overly sensitive one to
the point that it was annoying. I was hysterical since this news was unexpected to
us ... but not
to Daddy who was ready. He was, even in his last moments, considerate enough to
wait until he was alone. In retrospect, the signs that he had finished his
course were evident. He was choosing to not do the things to sustain his
health. I didn’t
pick up on it then because I didn’t want to. Still, God honored his
prayer and his proclamation. He didn’t die from cancer and at age 89 he
reached the finish line with his dignity intact as he wished.
As I had my face on his, he was still very warm but as time went on he
became so cold. That’s how I feel. The man that was my covering as a
father, which is much different than a husband’s, was gone and his
absence has taken my breath
at times. I felt as though my warmth left as well and I too was cold and
lifeless. Life left my life. His life left mine. I never imagined my life
without Daddy. He was to live forever because that’s how I wanted it.
Before we had to leave the room that unforgettable night, we had prayer.
Daddy was covered with a blanket to his neck but I suddenly thought to take his
hand. I reached under that blanket and took his hand for the last time. How
many times have I
held that hand; his hands were very distinctive maybe just to me; maybe as a
little girl holding onto the safety and security I always knew was present if I
was with him. Those hands dried my tears, put iodine (why iodine?) on my cuts
folded in nighttime prayer where, as a child, I blessed everyone I knew
including pets and all my pets in heaven. Those hands were evident when I was
disobedient, pointing that index finger of authority indicating my errors as a
teen where grounding
was sure to follow … but those hands also patted us on the shoulder as an
act of love, assurance, and approval. As an adult, his hand held mine as a
nervous bride; he escorted me down an aisle and patted my arm whispering,
and I did.
You have to know that my dad loved jazz music and Big Band music. He
loved all the greats to many of the unknowns. The interesting coincidence is
that our dear friend, the incomparable Phil Driscoll, was one of my dad’s
favorites especially when
he played his trumpet. Phil was at my wedding to sing and play a favorite hymn
as I walked down the aisle, “My Jesus, I love Thee”. Graciously, he
accepted our special request to end the memorial service by singing and playing
beautiful song that he wrote for his mother’s home-going and my dad loved
it. Well, few may know it but he is married to the godmother of our children
(we call fairy godmother after years of indulging!) so, Ashton had a little pull
us. I thought while he escorted one daughter, on his arm with those special
hands I had to let go of life with him to another life and Phil Driscoll was
playing. At the close of his memorial service, when I was saying goodbye to a
Phil Driscoll was playing the last song “On the Other Side.” The
lyrics are exquisite and included in my next post.
I guess my hand left his hand for another and he left his hand for
another; both of us had escorts as we embarked on an eternal union. Though mine
left his on this side, on the other side, love never leaves. Maybe my hand left,
but my heart didn’t.
I must add that his hands were significant for a reason. All was well, or
would be, when I was hand-in-hand with Daddy. His hands just seemed strong. How
much more strength are in the hands of my Father God? “How much more must...”
that is a phrase
I always told myself. My father informed my ideal of God as Father. My Dad
would do anything for us; in a crisis or just in the everydayness of
life’s difficulties. So I would say to myself, If my Dad would do this
and fix this, how much more
will God do? How much more must God love me?
As my husband and I became parents, that boundless love that gives you
breath yet takes your breath away, likewise informed our ideal of God as our
Abba all the more.
I miss Daddy so much that it physically hurts. I loved him and still love
him. My love is eternal so it will always be referred to in the present tense
as I move beyond. I love you is supposed to be forever.
I hurt for my family and those who are in pain. I know we all need to
stand still and call for our Father God. I know the God of mercy and grace will
bring my warmth back, and I know The Holy Spirit wraps His presence around me.
His warmth is why
I think He is referred to as the Comforter that so lovingly envelops us. He
blankets us with love and grace and obviously patience because I’m a bit
emotional and not acting like I normally do. I am in pain. It’s not a
pity party and I
will refuse the temptation to shut down. But for now, I take each day and each
hour and allow myself this time to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3 affords me a season to
mourn with a unique grace just for each of those listed. When I’m ready,
escort me, once again, into the next season to come. Yet for now my tears are
many, I’m thankful every night that I made it and was graced with another
Although nights sink into a silence that is oddly piercing and darkness
always seems to contend with sadness, I know morning is coming.
New mercies await me even when I open my eyes and my first thought is
that my father is gone. Those new mercies will carry me through this crippling
I keep in mind the words of others that bring comfort like those of
Washington Irving, “There is a sacredness in tears, they are not marks of
weakness but of power. They are messengers of unspeakable love.”
Why power? I think the answer came when I heard someone say that to
grieve is an honor. “It’s an honor to have been given the chance to
love someone so much that their loss leaves you broken.”
Words are so powerful and can impact you in a moment. I was impacted as
such when I learned that, “I miss you,” directly translated from
the French ‘Tu me manques’ is, “You are missing from
me.” I don’t know
a better description of the feeling called grief.
My Dad is in Heaven, suffering no longer. He is at home with his Savior;
for that I am thankful. For that I rejoice and often imagine him in Heaven and
what he might be doing. What a reunion he must have had! I’m overwhelmed
that He gave his
life to Jesus and we have the hope of walking the streets of gold together.
Yet, I am still here. There is the stark reality that until we meet again...he
is missing from me.
In his native Serbian language, so rich in love of family, they
beautifully refer to father as Father, Always, or, “OTAC YBEK”. He
is Daddy to me and also fondly Father, Always.
As I wrote this I sobbed feeling like that lost orphan and I
couldn’t help but stand crying out “OTAC YBEK,” “Tu me
“Father, Always, You Are Missing From Me! FATHER, ALWAYS...FATHER,
ALWAYS FATHER, ALWAYS...
Now as time has passed that sentiment has not been lost. What a
beautiful thought that I can call on my God as Father, Always.
I know so many of us have lost loved ones and no matter how still we
stand or how loud we cry, they cannot come to us. I know it sends our hearts
into a panic – running to see them… to find them… to bring
them back. Our hearts…
they run… like my feet to “Room 19,” – just to keep
spiraling down, upon arrival, into the seemingly bottomless chasm of
unfathomable yet true loss. But we cannot let our pain keep us running to a
dark nowhere finding only
exhaustion and emptiness. Like my daddy told me to stay physically still when I
was lost, so our heavenly Father shows us to be still in our hearts in times of
loss… which I think is beautifully described in this timeless hymn.
Every word is truth, is love and is from Him ... Father, Always.
Be Still My Soul
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev'ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Read an Earlier “Diary
of a Daughter” Entry Here