last photo of Pinke 5 (two days before his death) October 2017

“Do You Get Angry?” I Asked, My Voice Trailing Off

It was as if I needed permission.

Reaching out, I trailed fingers on blue velvet. My fingers flexed, tensed, cupping the top of the recliner, patting it in a shoulder pat I could no longer give to my dad.

He used to sit right here. I glanced at the wide flat seat of the chair below me. An upraised ridge sat off kilter on the cushion, barely possible given the thin emaciated frame of my Dad in his last months.


Framed photos of Dad stand on the wooden table to the left of the chair. He smiles out from one in his navy blue police chaplain uniform. Another frame shows Mom and Dad hugging, smiling out at us, and early on we never guessed he would die.

“Do you ever get angry?” I ask Mom, coming up behind her in the kitchen.

She’s standing on a cream-colored circle rug under yellow light, unpacking grocery bags and her suitcase from several days at our house.

Tears choke my words, cutting them off, and I start again.

“Not anger at God, but anger at cancer. Angry at death…”

Mom stops, looking up. She smiles and answers, in soft understanding.

I grip the wooden chair in front of me, staring out the window. Pink house finches swoop down for seed, and a brown juvenile cardinal stands in tall snow.

“I just miss him. The grief comes and goes, and usually being here in your house is nice, surrounded by all of his stuff, things that remind me of him, but today…” I swallow, tamping my jaws to hold it back a bit. “Today, it just hurts. He should be here. It’s been so long since I’ve talked with him, seen him. I hate that he’s not here.”

We’re quiet for a few moments, rustling paper bags to folded and flat, storing them in neat labeled cupboards. Carrying the snow shovel and a case of furnace filters downstairs, I stand them next to the tall silver furnace. Dad’s handwriting is taped to a paper on the furnace, checkmarks tallying when to swap in a new air filter for the old. Folding chairs hang suspended from a bungee cord in the far corner, Dad’s computer printed sign labels them Pinke in bold print. Everything is in its place and labeled. My Mom and Dad are orderly, neat.

My eyes trace his handwriting on cold metal, the months listed out, check marks accumulating. His handwriting has halted, and Mom’s check marks continue the count, and that about sums it up.

His handwriting has stopped. I am marked as one of his; Pinke is written in bold strokes across my  life. I am honored, proud, and yet so sad. His handwriting fades, and I am furious that he no longer writes and moves and lives here.

“I hate that this life no longer has him in it,” I mumble to Mark an hour later. I have hugged Mom, and driven home in slow-moving, heavy-limbed grief.

“This is the hard grief again,” I explain to Morgan, my twenty-two year old daughter who leans lanky against the door jamb and watches me, her eyes concerned. “This is like the first year of grief — the slow-moving, no energy, just sit and stare grief.”

I’m not sure where it comes from, and why it hits harder some days.

Today –out of the blue– grief hits hard, and it leaves me slow-moving, heavy-limbed, and in quiet staring.

I like to be honest, speaking the hard things too. Trailing a happy day of Happy New Year, after wonderful weeks of savoring family and cheesecake, I want to peel back my life to you now though, and say, “You too?” about any grief you may have. “Me too. You are not alone.”


Feel free to tell me about who, or what, you are grieving in the comments below. I can be sad and pray with you too. 

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  1. Cheryl Barker on January 2, 2021 at 4:46 am

    I felt that kind of anger too, Jennifer, after the death of my mom. It’s so hard to lose someone we love so deeply. May God continue to heal your heart, friend.

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you, Cheryl. You know that pain too, huh? I’m so sorry for the missing of your mom. She would be so proud of your book, writing, and ministries.

      Thank you.


  2. Michelle Tomiak on January 2, 2021 at 9:27 am

    I lost my best friend of 25 years. She passed away Tuesday (12/29) morning from COVID. Faith was much more than a friend, we were like sisters. I will not even be able to attend her funeral because of COVID. At least I can have some comfort knowing that she is in heaven with God and is no longer suffering.

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:37 pm

      Oh Michelle, I’m so sorry! Losing your best friend Faith to covid just last week… wow! And not being able to attend her funeral, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine the ache you must be feeling. May you feel God’s strong tender arms around you as you grieve and miss her in this time to come. What are three things you love about her?

      Praying for you this morning, Michelle,

  3. Jana Botkin on January 2, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Oh Jennifer, been there and felt that. I remember being astonished by how much time would pass with me doing nothing but sitting and staring. There is no way around it, only through it. I’m so sorry. It is the price we pay for loving.
    I read a book by Timothy Keller in which he said the reason Jesus wept at Lazarus’s grave is that he was enraged by the illness and death that was causing his creation to suffer.

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      Hi Jana,

      You know grief too, huh? I’m so sorry. Yes, that sitting and staring, or moving with slow limbs is a heavy, timeless place, it seems.

      Neat to think about Keller’s thoughts on Jesus and grief.

      Thank you,

  4. G. on January 2, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    I am angry about deminished relationship with my (adult) daughters. I am angry that the enemy confuses conversations, and creates manes way for mistrust in each other. I al also angry for the lies that erode faith.

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:47 pm

      Oh G, I’m sorry about the pain of demolished relationships with your adult daughters. Watching conversations derail, and distrust, hurt, and misunderstandings bring pain and further separation is so hard. And for lies that erode faith. G, I am praying for you and your daughters right now: for humble apologies from all sides, for diffused hard hearts, for new chances and new starts, for God to work his amazing love to soften and restore these relationships, for him to call your girls back to a deeper closer relationship with him, being convinced of his never-stopping, unconditional love for them.

      Thank you for having this conversation here with me. Praying for you,

  5. Joanne R. Major on January 2, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Oh, Jennifer,–my heart grieves deeply for you feeling the loss of your precious loved-one. May the comfort of Jesus surround you and give peace to your heart

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:51 pm

      Aunt Joanne,

      Thank you. Thank you for reaching out and for your love and prayer. The heaviness of that grief has lifted more now, and I am thankful. I’m so glad that you knew my Dad too, and I look forward to all of our many reunions in heaven someday.

      Warm blessings to you,

  6. Liz Mills on January 4, 2021 at 1:53 am

    I have tears as I am reading this. Death sucks!! It’s nice to know you get to see him again, but it’s still SOO hard to live on earth without our loved ones!! The last time I saw your Dad he was healthy…It’s hard seeing that picture of him sick. Sad!!

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Liz,

      Thank you so much for reading this, for commenting, for crying with me. I’m glad you got to know my Dad too. He enjoyed your family too, I know.

      I know, it’s hard to see him (and others) in their last days, when they look so frail, so breakable. I hate that too.

      Thank you so much for crying with me,

  7. Linda Masurka on January 4, 2021 at 4:06 am

    Praying that you will feel God’s arms of comfort surround you, and that His peace and joy will invade the spaces where grief is railing. I’m so sorry for your loss. Love in Christ, Linda

    • Jennifer Dougan on January 4, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for stopping in, for walking in the mourning with me in this. Thank you for your prayer and warm love. The truth of this neat line you said resonates with me this morning: “that His peace and joy will invade the spaces where grief is railing.” Amen, yes!

      The heaviness of my grief has lifted more now and I am thankful. He is a tender God, walking with me through the heavy parts too.

      Warm greetings to you and your family, Linda. Thank you for walking with me in this. I value it.


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