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My mom called me this morning at 2am and asked me to come to the Emergency Room as quickly as I could.
Some context will help.
Just before Christmas 2021 my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and has spent the last 15 months …
In and out of chemotherapy.
Seeing multiple oncologists.
Meeting with a variety specialists.
Having one surgery after another.
… And living every day in unbelievable pain and discomfort.
He's a private man who didn't want the world knowing his business and so out of respect for him, we kept his condition among family and only made a select few people aware of what was going on.
This past year … I cannot even begin to describe the agony that he went through and the agony that his family went through as we saw this terrible illness take over his body, leaving us incapable of doing anything to make it better.
Last night he was in such unusual pain that it was clear something was very wrong … and so I met my mom and dad at the Emergency Room and was able to hold his hand along with my mom as he took his last breaths and rested beneath the words of the prayers we spoke over him.
My dad is actually my "step-step-dad". My biological father checked out of my life at an early age and the last thing he said to me was that I'd make a horrible pastor. And then my step-dad told me that he never wanted me to be his son and (honestly) made me feel like I was never good enough at anything.
My dad, though - the man whose last name I took as my own … I cannot begin to put into words what he means to me, all he's done for me. His name is James Siepert. He taught me how to mow a lawn. He taught me how to fix a hole in the wall. He taught me how to change a tire, how to work a chain saw, how to fix a clogged sink, and how to shave. We quoted random lines from Seinfeld to each other and rooted for Aaron Judge to hit number 62 last season.
More than that, though.
More than ALL of that, he told me that he believed in me, that I could do anything, and that the work I did in the world, whether I was …
Making lattes at Starbucks.
Selling Macs and iPhones at Apple.
Preaching sermons at the church I once pastored.
Planting a church in our garage.
Recording podcasts on the What If Project.
Writing heretical books.
Upsetting the powers that be at the Seminary I went to.
Having insults hurled at me left and right from good Christians.
Just sitting back and doing nothing at all.
… that the work I did in the world was valuable, important, and good, and that he had my back and the backs of my mom, Dana, and Jordan - always.
I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wasn't for my dad. I met him when I was deep in a hole of self-doubt and filled with uncertainty, self-criticism, and a ton of confusion about my place in the universe. Thanks to him, though, I'm at a place in my life where I believe in myself and know that I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to.
My heart is shattered today. I am a shell, and I'm scared about tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. A huge and important voice in my life has gone audibly silent even though the echoes of that voice will forever reverberate in my heart as his spirit hovers around me and takes up residence within me.
You see, I don't believe in a "heaven" these days as a place where the good people go who believe all the right things about Jesus. I don't believe that there's a place in the sky where Jesus' tribe members go to await Jesus' return to wage war on the world, destroy it, and usher in a new one. I don't believe there will be a "Second Coming", that there will be a "Rapture", or that Jesus gives 2 rips what we believe about him.
Today I think that the life we live on this earth and the body we reside in is merely a manifestation that is here for a few momentous decades and then gone to become something else.
Sort of like a wave in the ocean - we only see a wave for a short time before it crashes upon the beach and is drawn back into the ocean from which it came.
The wave still exists, right?
Waves are just droplets of water that have manifested for a short time. And although they pop out of the water for a short while to become a beautifully random and majestic work of art with their forms and spray and foam before crashing into invisibility … they still exist, they just melt back into the form they were before they became visible to the human eye.
Today my dad was drawn back into the ocean, back into the Divine, back into God.
We got to enjoy his beauty for 71 years, but today the wave of his earthly life collided with the shore and he was drawn back into the ocean of the Divine where he still very much exists even though he is no longer visible to my human eye, even though his voice is no longer able to be heard by my human ears.
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus The Christ said something profound. He said …
"The Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you."
… and (to me) this is a reminder that the beautiful soul of the wave I love so much will never cease to exist for it hovers around me and takes up residence within me along with the souls of my other loved ones who have long crashed into the shore.
James Siepert is not gone. He's just no longer visible to my human eye. He's here, floating around in this great ocean of the Divine, whispering to me the same words he's spoken to me over the last many years. And one day when my time comes to crash onto the shore and get drawn back into the ocean from which I came, I know that he will be right there to greet me … to take me by the hand and show me around the cosmos as he takes me on adventures to explore the stars and planets and all of God's creation that he loved so very much.
For now, though … I mourn.
My universe feels as if it has imploded, my heart is in a million pieces, my face is covered in tears, and I'm unsure of how to keep going.
… And that's OK.
That said, the What If Project will be silent for the rest of March. There has been an episode every Monday since August of 2018, but now we hit the brakes, put it in park, and turn off the ignition - a few moments of silence for my dad who believed in this project so much and encouraged me to shoot for the stars, to stir the pot, and to imagine bigger and grander ways to follow Jesus and walk with the Divine.
Here's to you, dad. I love you and will forever be grateful for all you've done for me. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for loving mom, me, Dana, and Jordan so well.
You fought cancer like a champ and in our eyes, you won.
This Week on the Podcast:
Glenn Siepert, a deconstructing dad, former pastor, author and podcast host of the What If Project, is our guest this week.Glenn creates a safe space for people to explore this idea: What if there are ways of thinking about God and faith that are different than what our traditions have handed us? . On this episode, we ask a big What If question: what do we do with our grief during deconstruction? What if there are ways of thinking about and approaching grief than what our traditions have handed us? What if the grief process can be very different and can be more healing and whole? What do we do now that we don't necessarily have the certainty about the afterlife that we once had? And how does this work out in our parenting? Glenn is a kind-hearted, brilliant, and passionate soul who has walked the journey of grief, due to the recent death of his dad, and shares vulnerably with us in a way that will make you feel heard and held, and will give you some tools when you find yourself walking the path of loss. You can find Glenn at the following spaces:
Support Us PLEASE and Join Our Private Facebook Community Don't forget to sign up for our private and exclusive Deconstructing Mamas community on Facebook for those of you who want to move to the next level with us via our PATREON platform.
At this level, for as little as $3, you can ask questions, experience a safe and welcoming community with others who are deconstructing and receive special surprises along the way from Lizz and Esther.
We've been doing this for several months now and it's been more than we could have imagined. We love it there and think you will too! Head to this LINK to sign up!!
Our guest has a book that is a must-buy. Here's the recap: Has loss stormed into your life? Has a dream shattered before your eyes? Has a relationship ended? A job? Has a healthdiagnosis taken you by surprise? Have you helplessly watched a lovedone close their eyes for the last time and slip away?
When these carefully constructed Holy Temples of our lives come crashing down on top of us, sorting through the rubble and finding the strength to take a step forward can feel next to impossible.
In Emerging From the Rubble, you'll explore the Gospel of Matthew from the New Testament Scriptures and discover how the stories from the Gospel as read through the lens of Matthew's original readers/listeners can help us find some fresh perspective and feel less alone in the midst of our loss and grief.
Can't wait until Tuesday and need just a little snippet from our podcast episode. WE asked our guest what would he want his daughter to know and here was his answer.... (also, Esther cried right in the middle of it because it was so healing for her soul)
One last thing. We want to remind you that we are so glad you are here. We wouldn't be the same without you. You will always find GRACE for where you've been and who you are now, and SPACE for who you are becoming and will be.
Carry on, our new-found friends. Welcome to the twisty-windy, full -of-adventure faith path that's laid out before us all. Love,
Lizz & Esther P.S. SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER HERE!