half mast and triumphal procession.


The flags are flying at half mast today in the Parsons family home. or at least, the temporary Home Depot paper window blinds are. It’s been raining outside on and off all morning and it’s Palm Sunday. It is also the day before the anniversary of my father’s death. On top of that, I have been in two hospitals in the last twenty four hours. I can’t help but think that the timing of all of this is planned. I can’t help but think it because I have found over and over that God is in the details, and He rules and creates not just the overall arc of history’s story, but in the minutiae of our story as well.

Rewind about 24 hours ago, and I had just finished witnessing a birth. I had the mind-blowing privilege of watching a new person become a name, a birthdate, an heir, and a member of the human family with those of us walking this mud ball. It was all of those cliche words we use too frequently but rarely have occasion to mean: awesome, beautiful, moving, powerfully profound. There was a moment – one of those total clarity and aha! moments – when the mother was cradling her squirmy, wet, and crying bundle and she said the most beautiful phrase: “Welcome! I love you. And this is the best part! This is the part where you get to live on this earth now. And I’m going to show you so much and I’m going to be with you.” I started crying. How glorious it is to be alive! How blessed to be loved and how marvelous to be a mother, a “show-er” of what life can be. It was holy.

In that moment the Voice in my heart remind me, this is why you’re here. I get to experience the power and glory of being created, of being alive and watching the Holy Spirit flow through me in love as I show my children what life is. it’s the best “job” and I couldn’t wait to get home and hold my babies. and I did. and then I took a 3 hour nap, because birth drains you, no matter what your role, but I also wanted to be able to go to sleep at an early bedtime that night.

Tyler has been sick for almost a week. it started minor, developed into strep throat, then a cough three days later (despite being on antibiotics for the strep infection), and as of last night around dinner time he was at an all-time low. He hadn’t willingly eaten in days and he had a high fever that would not go away. A helpful talk with a doctor from our church revealed that his respiratory rate was over double the normal amount and with a high fever not responding to meds she was concerned. She suggested I take him into the childrens hospital ER and so I did.

as we’re leaving for the hospital:

him: where are we going?
me: I have to take you to Emergency Room at the hospital.
him: zion’s hospital?
me: yes.
him: Oooh COOL! I have never been there for myself before!!. . .
me: tyer, I love you. Is it ok that i take you and not dad?
him: Oh yeah! There’s nobody else I would rather take me! just you!

(insert heart explosion, and thoughts of “oh my goodness, I love be a mother.” here)

His x-rays revealed something in the lower lobe of his left lung. That sounds familiar, I think. Then, a pit in my stomach. At this point, I am going on 3 hours sleep in a forty hour period – remember, labor and delivery the night into morning prior. And I realize that in just over a day, we will be remembering the anniversary of the day my dad’s life on this earth ended. because of lung cancer. because of a bad cough that turned into a doctor’s visit that turned into “we think you might have pneumonia” that turned into an x-ray revealing a mass in the lower lobe of his left lung. I didn’t text my mom from the ER. It was late. If it felt like Déjà vu to me, it would have felt too much like it to her, also. The tests revealed that tyler had pneumonia. Relief. The antibiotic he was on for strep may have helped it from getting more out of hand, but they weren’t strong enough to fight the infection in his lung, so they prescribed the antibiotic with “prison rules” guaranteed to kill this infection once and for all. We got home after midnight and went to bed.

It makes me wonder, the question that I have dared to ask in the late hours when no one else but God is awake: what if my dad would have just had pneumonia? what if he would have been treated and then started to feel better in a matter of days? If I were writing the script here, I would have written that in. But try as I may to be a writer, God keeps reminding me He holds the pen. So I pray thinks like ‘um, if you could NOT do that right now, that would be a huge help to me.’ I would write it differently, almost every time. And yet, I don’t know anymore. My dad’s death led to perspective in our lives. It led to dazzling hardship and brave struggle and magnificent changes in our family, our marriage, our business. It led to a workshop that we host in the mountains of Colorado where lives are revived, repaired, and restored. It led to us finally facing our fears and deciding we weren’t going to run anymore from the pull in our chest to adopt. It led to Zion being our son instead of someone we would have spent our lives strangers to. And Zion has led us to. . . oh my gosh, if you know us, you know how impossible it is to chronicle it all. In some ways, this catastrophic loss that I would write out of the story has simultaneously been a kiss on the cheek from God.

I don’t mean that in a stupid, Christianese, “when God closes a door he opens a window” kind of way. I hate that shit, and yes I swore there on purpose. I have never seen empty placates bind up any broken hearts, and Jesus is about binding up, not covering up. I don’t like admitting it because I hate the loss. I hate the pain and the oceans of tears that have been shed in the past four years. I hate the fact that I still catch myself reaching for my phone to call or text my dad and feeling the cold sting of death realization that I can’t. I hate watching my mother, Elizabeth, as a young widow who lost her soul mate. I hate that I had this astonishing father, who would give me a “best day” each year where he would show me the world and my beautiful place in it, this father who loved me so completely and so well, this father who never knew a stranger and had genuine Holy Spirit love flowing through him, is gone. I still doubt the Writer. I still question what He was doing and why He had to let it happen this way. And yet, I can’t bring myself to not trust Him because I see the beautiful implications of this playing out in my life.

me: where are we going?
Him: into the valley of the shadow of death.
me: but I have never been there for myself before. . .
Him: Ashley, I love you. Is it ok that I take it from here, and not your dad?
me: yes. There’s nobody else who would be able to carry me through, just you.

I doubt The Writer, but as he was dying, my father never did. And in his last private entry of his journal four years ago before he died, he wrote these words I am sharing with you below. So on this palm sunday, I offer these words as my waving palm branch, these words as my “hosanna” as my crying out to a loving and mysterious God, “Save us!” and thank Him that He already has. It will be so good when the “best day” really comes. Lest we forget, friends, this is not actually the best part. The best part doesn’t involve half mast flags or window coverings or cancer or children’s hospitals. The best part is coming, and each breath we take, we are getting closer to that triumphal procession. . .

my father’s last journal entry:
Day 348
A “Best Day” coming on!!
Psalm 99; Leviticus 5:15 – 6:7, Isaiah 3-4; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
These readings today are precious.
Psalm 100; Leviticus 6:8 – 7:38, Isaiah 5, 2 Corinthians 1:12 – 2
It feels like with having E’s care, the meds and everything else, that my body is living up with God’s perfect plan for my life.
Lord, I love following you and discerning you anew and afresh each day. I feel your presence with calm & rest. I love you.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” 2 Cor. 2:14

P1000696 from WE ARE THE PARSONS on Vimeo.

show hide 3 comments

jac I freaking love you ash. so grateful you have the courage to write the words so many of us are scared to think. every time you mention your dad I’m so bummed I was never able to meet him. however, you are evidence of the amazing gift he was to this world and I am so incredibly grateful for him and the woman he encouraged you to be.April 14, 2014 – 5:02 pm

Athena I’m finding it difficult to put into words exactly how my heart feels right now, but I can’t not comment after reading these beautiful words, dear friend. I hope that today is filled with not only sorrow, but also endless amounts of joy for the time you did have your father. For the way he was written into your life and woven so irrevocably all over your sweet soul. I wish you and your boys (all four of them) so much love and reminiscence today. For a courageous and powerfully profound man who lives on in beautiful and powerfully profound ways through you and Jer. and I pray that some morning you’ll awake with a start, when the sky is still dark and the birds haven’t yet begun their chorus, and you’ll have another aha! moment as you realize that everything your father’s death did for YOUR life, you are living to do for others in theirs.

That is the best part of this story. Yes, it’s got sad bits, really really gut-wrenching sad bits, but when you stand back and read all of it – not just a single chapter, you realize that it’s one of the most incredible things you’ve ever experienced. And you clutch it to your chest like an infant it and long to carry it with you for always.

My heart is yours today dear friend. XoxoApril 14, 2014 – 3:43 pm

Renee Pratt Beautiful. Especially being able to remember Pastor Kent’s voice, accent and smile. I miss that kind hearted man. He was a fine example in this life.April 13, 2014 – 9:08 pm

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