Lisa vividly remembers the day she and her dad took her almost one-year-old daughter, Lucy, to the Iowa State Fair. Lisa’s dad was driving and she was feeding Lucy in the backseat of the car. She was talking to her dad about her job. She worked in city management and loved her position. However, more than she cared to admit, she was struggling to balance her job and being a mom and wife.
“As I was talking, my dad turned to me and I’ll never forget how he looked at me when he asked, ‘Are you happy?’ I recall being a little irritated ... like, of course I'm happy. I have an awesome job, I'm climbing the ladder, the future is so bright, my bank account has never been fat like this before, why wouldn't I be happy?! ... type of feelings.”
A month after that discussion, Lisa got off work early and picked up Lucy from daycare. It was a beautiful fall day and she wanted to enjoy some time outside together. Lucy had begun to walk and Lisa delighted in watching her explore the backyard. All of a sudden, Lisa experienced a sensation like she had never encountered before. It felt like time stood still and she found herself staring off into space. She was stirred back to realty when she saw Lucy.
“I noticed Lucy had started to walk towards the deck. She had her arms outstretched like she was greeting someone. I could see her smiling and giggling. I thought my husband, Joel, had come home from work. However, when I looked towards the deck, nobody was there,” said Lisa. About an hour later, Lisa got a call from her cousin saying her dad had been in a serious accident and she needed to get to the hospital right away.
“We had just sat down to eat our dinner. When I got the phone call, we dropped everything and jumped in the car and started our hour-long drive to the hospital,” said Lisa.
During the car ride, Lisa had a sense that her dad had passed away. She felt called to pray the Rosary. The last line of the Rosary, “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” really struck her.
“I felt like my prayers were helping to usher Dad into Heaven.”
When Lisa and Joel were almost to the hospital, she received another call from her sister saying that her dad had died. While she was filled with deep sorrow, the news didn’t surprise her. In her heart, she had already known.
Lisa learned that her dad was taking advantage of the weather and was outside working in the yard. A tree fell unexpectedly and struck her dad. From the coroner’s report, she discovered that his accident occurred at about the same time when she and Lucy were in their backyard and Lucy saw something.
“That child-like faith is so powerful,” said Lisa. “She saw something that I couldn’t.”
That moment in time in the backyard was captured by a good friend of Lisa’s. She painted a piece of artwork of Lucy’s outstretched arms and it hangs in a prominent place in Lisa’s living room along with other photographs and artwork that uniquely tell their family’s story. “That moment with Lucy is a part of our history. It reminds me of my dad and provides peace and comfort,” said Lisa.
The death of Lisa’s dad brought about a deeper conversion in her as she drew closer in her relationship with Christ.
In the weeks and months after the death of Lisa’s dad, she continued to ponder and pray about her dad’s question about her happiness. It was one of their last discussions and his question persisted within her. When Lisa honestly asked herself, she knew she wasn’t happy. Balancing work and home life was a real struggle and she was exhausted. She found that trying to keep up her demanding work schedule left little time and energy to be with her family.
“I started thinking about how Dad’s death was so sudden. If that happened to me, what would I regret?”
She knew she’d feel regret missing out on precious time with her daughter. She had suffered two miscarriages and experienced fertility issues before they were blessed with Lucy. She knew Lucy could possibly be their only child. She felt she was denying herself her vocation as a mom and wife.
“I felt this was Jesus’ call for me during this time in my life, and I was eventually able to resign from my position.”
It wasn’t easy to resign from a job she loved but once Lisa had perspective and felt God’s guidance, she knew it was where God was leading her.
“In the midst of the darkness and sorrow I felt when my dad died, I felt the Lord’s hand. I think the song, I Can Only Imagine, really magnifies how I feel about Heaven. When I get a chance to meet Dad again, I look forward to wrapping my arms around him and telling him everything. I hold onto that hope. It’s that hope of eternal life that has given me strength and trust in God.”
Lisa and her husband, Deacon Joel, are blessed with four children. She is the founder of The Well, a vibrant women's ministry in Des Moines.