It’s been 366 days since I watched my dad take his last breath and leave this earth. I think I’ve cried at least 361 of those days. Maybe 362 if we’re counting happy tears, too. I miss him. It’s been hard without him here. My life is not the same.

So many of you were with me as I wrote of all we experienced during those months. And as I’ve said before, my dad agreed with me that I should tell his story here. This is where I’ve shared a lot of deep and significant things about my life, mixed in among the DIY projects and room makeovers. And this has been so very significant. Even twelve long months have not made it seem real yet.

Many times I wake up in the morning and have to remind myself: My dad’s body really did finally give in to cancer. My mom and dad really did move in with us for those last 3 months of his life. There really was a hospital bed my room, and hospice, and many friends and family always stopping by. There was my mom, my sister, my brother, my husband, and the rest of us, all around him, adjusting his feet, laughing at his jokes, hanging on his every word.

There really was the conversation as I sat by Dad in our home office when I asked him how I’d live without him, and he just smiled with a quivering lip, a few tears streaming down. There were the cups and cups of Chick-Fil-A ice dream he loved, which we always kept on hand, with extras in the freezer for Sundays when we couldn’t drive down to get him some. There was Lily’s 12th birthday cake, which we we ate in the bedroom all together because he couldn’t come to the table.

There was that last difficult night, all of us lying awake in that room, dreading when his last labored breath would finally come. And there was that bright April morning when we surrounded him, music playing, sun streaming in, when he shed one little tear and gloriously entered Heaven.

It all did happen. And it all was amazing. And it all was a gift. It was a gift from our gracious God, who not only allowed us to be a part of my dad’s death, but first allowed him to be a huge part of our lives.

But it was also Dad’s last gift to us– that he died well. It’s a hard conversation to have with your own dad–for him to ask how you feel about him dying in your house. Even in dying, he never wanted to impose. But what he did want, he explained to us all, was to let his grandkids see that death is not something to be afraid of when you’re a Christian. It’s our ultimate, undeserved reward that awaits us when this life is through. And as difficult as it was to go through that, it was also an amazing privilege. He died the same way he lived–always humble, always kind, always (always!) gracious.

Like many of you, we had heard stories of Christians who have died who saw angels or the Lord or loved ones just before they died. And we asked him if he would please try to tell us if he saw anything. And on the day before he died, as he was becoming more and more weak and very quiet, He whispered to us as we sat around him: “I saw the Lord.”

And we asked him, just to be sure, “You saw the Lord?!!” And he nodded silently, his eyes very sincere. It was a moment I can hardly believe I had the privilege to witness. Our God, whom my Dad loved and served and devoted himself to teaching others about for a lifetime had allowed Dad to see Him in some way. And as my brother so accurately stated later at my dad’s memorial service, when Dad saw the Lord, he didn’t see Him as someone he didn’t recognize. He knew Him so well and he was expecting Him. He had no doubt he would soon be with Him. It was everything he had placed his faith in all his life finally becoming sight. He had fought a good fight, he had finished his course, he had kept the faith. And he left without any of us having to wonder where he went. It was the last gift my dad ever gave us.

I’ve never known anyone to be a better example of a true Christian than my dad was. I’ve tried to put it into words many times, but I always fall short. I love this little note my mom recently found that a child in their church wrote about him…

They nailed it. And I love it,because it proves that even little children who met him recognized Christ in him.

Over the weekend, our family gathered at his grave for a little ceremony for this one-year anniversary. We did a little balloon release, and each spoke of him and what he means to us.

Can he see us from Heaven now and know how we’redoing? I think he can see some things, but we can’t know for sure.

Him being there has brought Heaven to my back door. I think of it all the time now. It’s a very real place. I know that’s where he is and that we will be re-united with him again one day.

That’s the gift he gave us, and the one I want to leave for my kids as well. If you’d like to know more about how to know Christ, please contact me. If you’re interested in knowing more about Heaven, I highly recommend this book. And if you’d like to read more about my dad and his last days, read my posts starting here.

Thank you for letting me share this journey with you, friends!