29. Paper Cards

29. Paper Cards

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Paper Cards

Faith is the vision of the heart; it sees God in the dark as well as in the day.

~Author Unknown

A few years ago, I went to the grocery store to find a card for my dad’s birthday. Sure, there were funny ones. Serious ones. Cards from the cat. Cards from the dog. But none of them was right. Shaking my head, I dropped them back in the rack. Even if I did find a good one, what would it say? Dad, I hope the cancer goes away and we have another year to celebrate?

They don’t make that card.

Beside me, a teenage girl grabbed her card and smiled, carefree. I fought back tears. I wanted to know why the doctors wouldn’t run more tests or why they wouldn’t try chemo. And how did they know the brain tumor was inoperable? The teenager bounced down the aisle, leaving me to choose alone.

Part of me knew I would lose my dad one day, but I never expected it to come so early. Not when he was only fifty-three years old. He was supposed to live to see my husband and me have children, to see our new house morph into an old one, and to walk my sister down the aisle.

I left the store empty handed.

A few weeks later, Dad was moved to the hospice. There were moments when he would awaken and let loose one of his infamous corny lines as the nurse came in. Other times, he couldn’t keep his eyes open. But always, his arm was chained to the IV, a constant drip to control the pain, a constant drip to give me a few more moments with the dad I loved so much. As I sat by his bed one day, holding his hand, I realized I had no control over the outcome, no way to fix what was broken, no matter how much I wanted to. I prayed, but God didn’t answer me.

At least not in the way I thought he would.

Dad died that year, two and half months after his birthday.

A week after his funeral, I had to go back to work with the pain still fresh in my heart. I was a seventh grade history teacher. On the inside, I didn’t want to be at school talking about cattle drives or the Texas Revolution, pretending to smile and be happy when I still felt disconnected and alone, hopeless at times.

When I reached my classroom, I pulled out my keys and found the door was already unlocked. I opened it, feeling strangely uncertain. Inside, a Welcome Back banner spanned the whiteboard. Stacks of brightly colored construction paper cards covered my desk. Two of the culprits were still inside.

“Mrs. Harp,” Gina said with a smile. “We missed you.”

Lizzie stood by my desk. “We’re so sorry about your dad.” She held out a paper card signed by several students, each name with a little note expressing sympathy. For a moment, I knew warmth again.

Every class period, more students hugged me and told me they were praying for me and my family. I was touched by their young hearts full of compassion. I read every one of their handwritten cards, notes and poems. By the end of the day, my fingers were stained with blue and red marker, but that didn’t matter.

They cared.

They were there for me.

Searching for Dad’s last card had seemed so important at the time — a gesture of love and an expression of how I felt. But as I held those construction-paper cards, some folded crooked with bent corners, others with a simple sorry scrawled across the inside, I realized it didn’t matter what the card said or that I never found one. It was simply being with my dad during his last days, holding his hand, telling him I loved him.

God did answer my prayers that day.

He surrounded me with friends of all ages to hold me up. He gave me an amazing family to encourage me and walk beside me. And He gave me a husband who held my hand through all of the worst moments, when I wanted to give up.

That year, I lost Dad, but something inside me changed — my faith grew.

Before, I thought faith meant everything would somehow turn out okay if you believed. Now I know faith means believing even when you are a wreck. Faith means leaning on Him in those dark times, when everything is out of your control.

Even when bad things happen.

~Rachelle Harp

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