Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

I grew up going to church every Sunday but as a child and young teen, I never truly understood the love of God, or even what having a relationship with Him looked like. I was a high-level athlete focused on a college scholarship and really lived a blessed and very happy life.  I had the typical life challenges that come with moving away from home, gaining independence as a young adult, balancing college and being a d1 athlete, but I never experienced the level of darkness that I went through when I was 24 years old, the year my father died.

Throughout my dad’s cancer journey, I found myself turning to the Lord in desperation multiple times. Hitting low points when I would cry alone in my car in the middle of an empty parking lot, begging God to do something, anything. And it always seemed to work, my dad always got better, every time, he had cancer, but he ALWAYS survived.

I vividly remember the morning my dad passed away. It was 14 days after we found out his cancer was terminal. Most days, I want to block out every moment of January 22, 2020, because it physically makes me ill.  But in my heart, I know this is the day I witnessed my father walking into heaven.  If I ever had any questions about my faith, it was gone. I knew with every part of my being my dad was with Jesus. I don’t know how, but something in me changed that morning, and my faith has never been stronger.

My grief journey has been hard. The darkness that follows losing a loved one is heavy and isn’t meant to be carried alone. It is hard to face life without a parent, especially when you still crave their presence and guidance every day, I think I always will. I have had so many questions for the Lord during my grief journey.  I can truly say that I don’t think my relationship started with God until I experienced my father’s death.

I was doing a bible study with a close friend, and we were talking about the verse above, Hebrews 12:1. I have never experienced reading a verse and feeling so much comfort and motivation.

For the first time since my dad passed, I fell in love with being alive.  I was a witness to the power of God the morning I heard and watched Father Dale guide my dad into Heaven. His words being so powerful, yet simple. “Run to Jesus! Do you see him? Run to him!” My entire family watched my dad’s eyes open for the first time all morning and we all knew that he was looking at Jesus.

Reading the word of God, “by so great a cloud of witnesses” I also feel that my dad is with Him, now witnessing my life. That in heaven he is encouraging me to RUN and live the life I have before me.

I always tell everyone I meet, whether they knew my father or not, that my dad taught us all how to live. When I have days when waking up and living is difficult, I know my dad is with Jesus screaming and cheering me on to embrace this wonderful life I have before me, this beautiful life I get to live because of Him. I have so much comfort knowing my dad is home. I can feel his presence with the Lord in my bones and that,  is a gift.