The next few years were busy years ... finishing high school, going to college, getting married, having a baby, being a "Pastor's wife". Outwardly I had it all together. I had no experiences with death since that episode in the nursing home. Eventually, the terrors at night came rarely. And when they did I would force my mind to repeat memorized poems, Bible verses, and anything else I could think of until I fell back to sleep.
Then, suddenly, I encountered death like I had never imagined. Completely unexpected to me, my dad died. Died. The man in whose home I lived for 18 years was dead. This time I could not ignore, I could not run out of the room and flee from it, I could not think it away. The grief was overwhelming and all-consuming. Along with my mom and siblings, I lived and breathed this loss, pretending to be so strong. As plans were made for the family service and the funeral service, my fears were added to my grief. There was no escape.
At the family service, the setting was beautiful. The soft music was playing, "Be not dismayed what e'er betide; God will take care of you..." Coming into the room I saw the open casket at the front. Praying, and acting strong, I made my way to the front. Dear dad; he looked so good, so peaceful, but .... so dead. As I was standing there alone, I reached out to touch his cheek. It was cold ... and hard. And suddenly, the assurance rushed over me - he is not here, this is only a shell. My eyes were opened and I realized emotionally a truth I had embraced mentally - the real person, the one we love, is a spirit. Our spirit lives temporarily in a body. When the body gives out, the spirit, the real person, moves to a new place. My heart flooded with peace, with understanding, with comfort.
I encountered death, up close and personal. Although the grief remained, the fear was gone. At least, the fear over the death of someone I loved was gone. I had finally reached the end of my fear journey -- or at least I thought I had.