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“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa.

It was a day.

One of those days.

It was April 2011.

I was lying sick on the couch. Watching a movie about a guy rock climbing and he had to cut off his limbs to stay alive. My stomach.  It was really icky. I had a turning in my stomach which was a common occurrence when I was in the same room with him, or maybe it was telling me something bad going to happen that day. It sounds bad, but it was true. He was sitting there in his recliner playing video games with headphones on. I was watching the movie, but wasn’t really wathing it either. Neither one of us was present any longer.

My dad was sick. Every time when I left dad, I always said my goodbyes.  You never leave things unsaid to people when they are sick and you know eventually they are going to die. So, I always said “Love you, dad” and those types of things that loving daughters say to their sick father when they are around them. You’ve probably been there. You drive off thinking and wondering if that was the last  time you might see them.

At this point, my dad had been sick off and on for over 15 years. Not a lot goes unsaid unless you are one of those people who stifle, who sweep things under the rug. Which, at the time…I didn’t think I did. But I did. I might have to write about that later.

The day before. It was a Friday. I had just started guitar lessons. I was thinking about going out to tell my dad that I had started them so I could finally play guitar with him. He only had been asking me to play guitar forever. I had been putting it off, I don’t know, forever. Until yesterday. I was thinking of running out to my parents’ house to tell him I started guitar lessons, but my stomach was icky and it was a little cold outside. I decided I was going to wait until after the movie.

It was April 2, 2011. My husband at the time (ex-husband now) was sitting there. I asked him if he wanted to go to parents house to tell dad about guitar lessons.  “Shhh” followed by a hand in front of his face.  He had his headphones on and was in his own little virtual world. He didn’t hear anything I had said. He often did that when he was in the middle of a game in World of Warcraft.

I laid there a little longer on the couch, blinking back tears. I was no-doubt feeling sorry for myself.  I craved his attention and no longer got it. As a mental health therapist, I get to listen to people every day. But at home — at home, I just craved to be listened to. Arg, I was becoming a victim again. Or should I say letting myself become one.


My phone rang, it was my brother asking me if I had seen dad lately. I told him I was thinking about coming out to talk to him. He said that I should come out, that he wasn’t feeling very well. I told him that I was feeling under the weather but was planning on coming out. As I was speaking this I got up and started to get ready to head out. It was a good 20-minute drive and knew if my brother was calling that I should probably take it seriously. It took me awhile to get ready as I was starting to feel worse. While I was driving there I received another phone call that dad had passed away. I was just up the road, so I only missed his passing by a few minutes. Gravel was already getting kicked up from the wheels on the tires going down their road. I drove faster. But did it matter now? I started to swerve a bit on the loose rocks and my car was fishtailing. Normally this would have been a fun event. But I was going pretty fast. I recuperated the steering through the tears and got my car back into a straight path although, not sure how.

While I was driving there I received another phone call that dad had passed away. I was just up the road, so I only missed his passing by a few minutes. Gravel was already getting kicked up from the wheels on the tires going down their road. I drove faster. But did it matter now? I started to swerve a bit on the loose rocks and my car was fishtailing. Normally this would have been a fun event. But I was going pretty fast. I recuperated the steering through the tears and got my car back into a straight path although, not sure how.

Hearing of my dad’s death hit me and I lost my breath. But not like you’d think. A memory came to me as tears came to my eyes while driving down the gravel road towards mom and dad’s house.

Mom didn’t drive; her parents wouldn’t let her since she had a sleeping condition. It was never diagnosed but she fell asleep often and her parents never allowed her to get her license. This type of mentality continued when my parents married at 17. She depended on my dad and when I was 16 years old my dad was a glutton for punishment and decided to teach both my mom and I to drive at the same time. It was kind of funny that we were both learning to drive at the same time.

However, my dad worked a lot of overtime. If we needed any additional things from the store or needed to go anywhere we relied on the kindness of our neighbors in our teeny tiny town of a population of maybe 80 on a good day. Going to church was one of those things. We would go with the neighbors up the street most of the time, and so we would be whatever religion they were…just so we could go to church. So, most of the time we were Lutheran and Methodist.

The process of getting ready for the church was a process done on Saturday night. Mom would put my blonde hair in curlers, wind my hair so tight I couldn’t blink. I would try to sleep on those silly spongy things and wake up with springy curls. Sunday morning someone would pull up in their car and we would run out and go to whatever church they would go. Dad would be stay sitting in his chair watching some western on tv.  It was weird. I hated it. Hated it.

However, mom found it to be important enough for us to go to church she would ask for rides, put God in front of her pride…and walked away from dad sitting in that chair. If you knew my mom, that is huge. To date, I think that is the only time I ever saw my mom put anyone or anything before my dad. Any question any one of kids would ask would be “ask your dad”, and dad would always be working.  So for her to be bold and leave the house, and leave dad at home…was a big deal. She couldn’t make a decision on her own even if her life depended on it.

One day something got into me. I was probably getting irritated that other people were taking us in their car, or the kids in the car asking for an explanation why we need a ride to church when they pull up and see a car sitting in the driveway. I don’t know what prompted it. I just spoke up. Something little girl Tammy didn’t do very often. I was super shy, even to mom and dad. I typically only talked to my neice and the pets.

I walked over to dad, probably having weird curly hair all janky from those pink foam curlers. He was probably watching John Wayne and sipping on a . I was 8 years old so my memory is a little vague.  I do remember that I climbed on his lap, he sat down his ice water, which was always in an amber color glass. glass. I asked him why he let other families take us to church when he could take us to church. We were his family, and I reminded him of that. Those other people weren’t our family. He looked at me. He put me down off his lap. He took us to church. ‘Nuff said.

Game changer.

From that day on my dad changed. My dad was home more, he worked less. Mom was happier. Other families no longer took us to church. My dad did. Mom was so thrilled she didn’t have to ask other people for rides anymore. I still had to wear those stupid curlers to bed on Saturday night though, that didn’t change.

But my dad, with nerves of steel…taught my mom and I how to drive at the same time. I remember our first time driving on gravel and my dad had to take the wheel from me when I screamed when I saw another car coming.

The gravel under my tires stopped as I pulled into my brothers house. My memory shifted as I pulled into the driveway. The day happened. It was today. This day. Even though you know it’s going to happen you aren’t really prepared.

As I ran into the house dad was in his leather chair, where he always was. He was sitting there with his foot propped up. It looked like he was napping. He looked peaceful. His chest wasn’t struggling for air like it used to. My mom, sister and brother by his side, they were all gently crying and I was greeted with hugs.

My dad had just got done reading the book Heaven is for Real. The one they eventually made the movie after. I regret I hadn’t gotten there sooner. I didn’t see him pass., but I was there to witness the rest thereafter.

Regret. What an awful feeling. If I only had put my stomach ache aside and drove out when my gut instinct was telling me to! I was so mad at myself.

They all saw dad was suffering and my brother and sister told dad that they were going to take care of mom, that if he wanted to go ~ that he could. They then asked him if he was ready to go and he shook his head yes. They all kissed him goodbye and he closed his eyes and he was gone. It was that peaceful and beautiful.

Death can be as beautiful as birth if you look at it like that. We come in the world with our eyes closed and we slowly open them to see the world. We leave the world slowly and close our eyes peacefully into the next one. He was ready to leave.

It was just the day before I started guitar lessons;  I was going to drive out the same day to surprise him and show him the little song I learned, Smoke on the Water. Dad was a country music guy and would have preferred a song by George Jones or Johnny Cash. I wanted my dad to know that. But he never knew. I needed him to know.

I procrastinated too long.

I waited too long.

I have that regret.

I couldn’t play him anything now.

He was gone.

WOW. Depressing much? Sorry.


I was left with loads of strange feelings. I felt as if I had a choice and a type of freedom. So, when I’m faced with difficult choices I did what I typically do, I visit the dock and my tree and kite. With my journal in hand, I sat in my car and cried and journaled to God and recalled a conversation I had with a friend of mine. She stated that I’ve been standing in the doorway of my marriage and I’ve been standing one foot in and one foot out and now with my dad being gone I have the chance to finally go into a room.

I thought about that conversation and she was right. I knew if I was going to get a divorce, it needed to be now because I had already been walking the tightrope, I’d been standing at the crossroads, I’ve been standing one foot in/one foot out. I’ve been making a decision by not making a decision. Besides, I can no longer blame my decisions on my dad any longer. Take responsibility for yourself kind of sucks, huh?

Another life changer moment. Another day that I thought was kind of like any other day. But not-so-much.

I sat down and I talked to my mom about what my marriage was like, and the pressure I’d been under with dad’s wishes. That I tried 2 other times to divorce him, but I even failed at that. Timing was off and I wasnt supposed to then. I know that now.

Mom listened. She was good at that. Really good honestly.  I really needed that at that time. Considering she just lost her husband I was shocked she was so present with all my verbal vomit at the time. I’m not sure I ever really made that connection until this very moment. She told me that she believed that dad was giving me his “blessing” to divorce him. She doesn’t “believe’ in divorce, but gave me her blessing to do so. Not that I needed it, but I kind of did. The conversation was a blur after that. But ya know, timing is everything. I believe I wasn’t supposed to divorse until then. Because if I had, I wouldn’t have met my husband that I have now. God’s timing is never too early never too late. It’s just perfect. I needed a reminder, cause at times I rush things when I want things to go my way. My way is never good unless it’s followed up with what God wants for me.

It was a conversation with mom. I guess this day was a HUGE day in the beginning of a new day in next phase of my life. Going back to that quote from “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa. When I look back now, I’m not sure what would have happened if that conversation would have gone differently. I mean it could have. She could have had the same experience as my dad and ask me to stay married. But she didn’t. Honestly. What would I have done if she did? What would my life look like if she did? What if?

That was the start of a tough year. That was the start of my faith getting tossled around like a bottle tossed at sea.

Dad died. Got a divorce from a 22-year marriage. Lost a great home. Children dispersed. Worked at a stressful job 15 hours a day and got off around 2-3 am in the morning to start a with 2nd job at 9 am to make ends meet. Mom got real sick with a strange illness. Mom recovered slowly, but fully. Then later she a brain aneurysm. We were told she probably wouldn’t make it. She is one tough cookie, she did and is still doing very well.  After she healed went to live with a brother. Brother died in a tragic car accident.

Everything was different. I was different. Never dated before and didn’t know how to be single, kind of got lost in that mess. But during that mess met the love of my life by accident while journaling and being mad at God.

I moved 2 times that year and got rid of almost everything I had. My nice house was in foreclosure, I was having idiotic text messaging arguments with my ex, working 2 very stressful jobs in the mental health field. I lost a lot, but I had a lot. I was mad at God when my brother got into his car accident. Many of us in the family felt like it was a breaking point that year. But it wasn’t. We are still here.

Small bits of faith got us through.

Sometimes that is all it takes.

We are still here.

I constantly think back to that time of my life when everything was completely like a title wave.

I tried to go to my next guitar lesson. I sat there with the Gibson Guitar on my lap with tears dropping down my face as the instructor at Reiman Music in Des Moines, Iowa just stared at me. Ironic, the guitar was my dads, he gave it to my son years befoe he passed. I was holding onto it as if I was holding onto him, the last bit of my dad I had left.

The one main thing that got me through – faith.

It was small at times, but when we have just a small glimmer of faith we can get through anything. Like I’ve said many blogs before, we need to appreciate what we have. Others have it way worse than us and we can be one moment away from having it all taken away.

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa

This photo was taken in Florida. This bottle actually came in from the ocean on a wave.  It was like a scene from a movie.

The bottle I found was floating on the water and was crashing on the waves in the vast ocean. The ocean is like life. The ocean is so vast. Tides come in and out and we can feel so small. But if we have faith we can stay afloat and ride the waves and let God take control. There is a lot of freedom and beauty in that.

My faith can be like glass.

It’s been shattered at times.

My life has been a wreck at times.

I’ve been a hot mess at times.

Most of my faith has grown because I’ve been under fire, under pressure, tossed, turned and felt like my world has been torn apart at times. Other times, it’s small stuff…either way I know it’s all in how I look at things.


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