I had wanted my next blog post to be about further reflections on Bible translation, my experience in Zambia and how freaking awesome the whole thing was. I wanted to blog about how much I was looking forward to coming back and having my life be intertwined to the Fwe people, to know and love them and be their sister in Christ.
But less than a week after I returned from Zambia my dad died.
It was sudden. It was horrible. It was heartbreaking.
I got the call on Tuesday morning around 1:30am. My sister had just had a visit from the Brisbane police because it's their (good) policy to tell people in person.
My dad had been found dead at his house that morning but had probably died Monday afternoon. He died of a brain haemorrhage.
We travelled up to Bundaberg, Queensland from where we live in Sydney, New South Wales, as quickly as we could. But that Wednesday we still had all kinds of appointments for our visa application to South Africa that we had to keep. It was a day that passed in a blur and I was numb.
My dad is dead.
I had to keep things together. I'm the oldest. I'm the sensible one. The one who looks after my baby sister. So I did.
We managed the funeral. We sorted through things at my dad's house. We called people. We organised stuff. We did paperwork.
Throughout it all I had hope in God. I know it sounds glib, but I did. I don't know where my dad is now but I do know that he is being dealt with justly and lovingly by a gracious God. I trust God to do what is right with my dad. I'm not under any false, self-mollifying illusions that my dad is in heaven because 'everyone goes to heaven'. No, everyone is judged. Some are saved from hell. Some are not. God is just. I'm happy with that.
At the funeral I said this:
My name is Diane Lovell and today we are burying the body of my dad, Lawrence Ross Walker.
Dad was a good dad to me. He loved me greatly and was interested in what I was doing and was always ready to boast about his children to whomever he could make sit long enough to listen.
I remember once in high school my Granny telling me in a birthday card that Dad had visited her to tell her the marks I received at school. Her words were that he was so proud that he couldn’t keep his hat on.
Dad tried to teach me things that you don’t learn at school:
How to tell tall-tales that know no limits when it comes to exaggeration and veracity in the face of impossibility.
How to give truck drivers a wide berth. Living opposite Lindsay Brothers Trucking Company gave us ample opportunity to practice.
Being almost paranoid about organization and being on time. Dad had no problem turning up an hour early for appointments.
An appreciation for food and where it comes from. I always knew that chicken didn’t come from Coles and that carrots tasted best if they still had a bit of dirt on them. And if you hadn’t ever had the opportunity to eat Dad’s chicken stew then I’m sorry, but you’ve missed the best meal you could have ever eaten.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I’m bicultural. Half Aussie. Half Filipino. Dad didn’t see that divide but I felt it in my heart. I’m not different, just more. What I know about being an Australian comes from my dad: loyalty, honesty, a healthy respect for work and pride in where my country has been and where it will go in the future.
Although my dad didn’t really understand why my husband Nathan and I are moving to South Africa in a month’s time as missionaries, he was able to share in my joy only last week when I returned from Zambia and could tell him about me starting my dream job as a Bible translator. A few months ago when we were last up here he enthusiastically looked at all of the pictures we had of Africa, and asked lots of questions about what we were doing in my new jobs. And showed that he really thought the world of me, and that he was excited by what I was doing. That was one of the things I loved about Dad. He didn’t always understand my life, but he loved me anyway.
Death is something that it seems not many people can deal well with. But for me, I have hope. I have certainty. And I have assurance. I do grieve for my dad. I am sad and will be always. But I have someone in my life who brings meaning even at times like this. That Jesus Christ came and died and was raised again has huge significance for me today.
It can be really easy when something bad happens, like this, to question whether God really is a good God, or if he even cares at all. But then I remember that he is the kind of God who didn’t just stay up there in heaven—he came down here and got his feet muddy, and joined in our suffering, and died. And even though I can’t always answer why these bad things happen, it’s because of Jesus that I know that God does have a plan and a purpose, even when that can seem difficult to believe. And so as I say goodbye today to my Dad, I trust in God that he will bring something good out of this as well.