Joy in the morning

Your memory's the sunshine every new day brings

I still find it difficult to put into words how the loss of my father has impacted me, but at the same time, I can’t write about this summer without speaking to that loss. I miss my dad, and yet a part of me still doesn’t really believe that he is gone. Shock and the suddenness of his death contribute to that disbelief. I feel guilty when I enjoy things these days, or when I feel happy. It’s part of why I haven’t posted much since he died at the end of June. It made me feel guilty when I thought about coming on here to post about all of the fun things we did this summer. I know that my dad would want me to keep doing these things and keep making memories for Coen instead of stagnating in my grief, but I still can’t help but feel guilty for moving on with my life.

Mom & Dad before dad’s high school reunion

Don’t get me wrong; there are days when all I can do is cry, even when I want to and need to hold myself together. Other days I feel guilty for not grieving enough or for feeling happy about good things that are happening.

In the days that followed my father’s death I started listening to the original Nickel Creek album on repeat. There is really no reason why other than the fact that the songs are soothing to my soul and bring me comfort. Coen got into it too, and now anytime I switch to something else he invariably asks for “the fox song” and we’ll go right back to listening to those sweet and soothing bluegrass melodies.

The song When You Come Back Down is not about death, but it always makes me think of my dad. The song is about letting someone spread their wings and follow their dreams even though you want to hold onto them and keep them with you. I know that does not describe every parent/child relationship, but it is indeed the way both of my parents were with me and my siblings.

The line, “Your memory’s the sunshine every new day brings” is a kicker for a whole other reason though.

Not long after my dad died, I read an article about a woman who documented her parents going through terminal cancer at the same time. Her dad told her to look for him in the rainbows. I would never wish terminal cancer or disease on my dad (my family has faced its fair share), but I do wish that I had been able to talk to him and say goodbye.

I may not have had the chance to hear him tell me where to look for him after he was gone, but I do have a trove of memories of my dad. One thing about him that never changed was that he was an early riser and a morning person.

Because of that I’ve decided that I will look for him in the dawning of every new day.

Unlike my dad, I am not a morning person. However, I choose now to make mornings about joy and spending time with my dad’s memory. Instead of grumbling when my early riser comes into my room demanding breakfast, I am determined to smile, get up and enjoy that time with him.

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” -Psalm 30:5

Or, as Cool Hand Luke puts it in their song, The Fires of Life:
“Weeping may last through the night–the longest night of your life–I can promise you that rejoicing comes in the morning.”

I’m holding onto that promise.




Gray Matter

Woods family church photo

During my junior year of high school I took a liking to the color gray. That’s not really a strong enough statement. It was a borderline obsession. Not just any shade of gray–a dark, charcoal gray. It was a time when my youngest brother, Russell, was battling an aggressive brain tumor. Maybe it was a manifestation of mourning.

Woods family church photo
The Woods crew (Russell is the sweet blond)

Biking at DeGray Lake State Park
If it was, I didn’t realize it at the time. Each time I went shopping I would come home with at least one item in a dark charcoal. Each time I reached into the closet I would invariably pick out an outfit with this color as the central theme. So pervasive was this color in my everyday wardrobe that a friend’s mother began calling that particular shade of gray, “Julianne Gray.” Soon, many of my friends were calling it the same. Even now, each time I’ve picked up a paint brush to paint the living room of the three houses we’ve owned, I have chosen a shade of gray (a much, much lighter shade).
Photo op at a rest stop in ArkansasFamily photo on the Carolina coast
It feels appropriate that I remember my little brother with the color gray. My parents gave Russell a family name: first name Russell, after my mom’s grandpa, Russell “Rusty” McGlothlin; and middle name, Gray, after my dad’s grandpa, Virgil Gray Davenport.

Russell with a posse of cousins
Russell with a posse of cousins
Russell after his treatments for brain tumor started
Russell and I after his treatments began in 1998.

That brain tumor eventually did end his short life on this Earth, and the world has been grayer ever since. So in part, the name of my blog is a dedication to his sweet soul. More so than I ever realized before penning this post.  Save