A Year Without Tat – a Little Bit Grayer

We really didn’t know what we wanted to do on this first anniversary. Quite frankly, it’s not one we ever wanted to have — but here we are. As we were trying to figure out what to do, I asked Tat’s friends — friends who have been contributing to Tat’s blog — to write a few thoughts reflecting on this past year of missing Tat. This post is the collective writings of a year without Tat. We hope you enjoy it!

………………..

SCOTT

One year ago I received the phone call that I just can’t shake.

Over and over again I hear Matt’s words. Tracy and I had just finished Spanish class when a message came up on Tracy’s phone, Hi Tracy, please call Matthew. There was a major crash x-xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Instantly, Tracy knew this was bad. I called a couple of times and finally got through to Matthew’s nurse, then Matthew. He was trying so hard to explain and give me as much of the details as he knew, but he couldn’t say it. After some avoidance (and I probably raised my voice a little), I asked him where Tat was. Silence — then “she’s gone”.

Over this past year, I played these words out over and over in my head. Every day I repeat this conversation. It’s still not real, this is not the normal order of things, your soon to be son-in-law is not supposed to make this call.  Parents then children not children then parents.

When I look back at this year I realized that I have learned much about the measurement of love this past year. You really do see the depth of the love you have for someone once they leave your presence. I used to think the toughest parenting experience — while serving cross-culturally — was sending your children off to university and then seeing them once a year or so.

I remember that day with Tat when she was leaving Peru for college. Tracy, Tat, the boys and I  were at the airport in Peru hugging and crying and smiling and just experiencing family love — but really how do we measure love? From experience, I can share with you that watching your young adult daughter leave and return to Canada for a 6-7 year education, will show you a depth of love you did not realize you had before. I was really struggling that day. As she walked into security and as we waved goodbye, God gave me an eternal perspective, during my pity party, thoughts popped into my head. I figured at my age, if God gave me 25 more years and I saw Tat once a year, I’d have that many times seeing her again. But then God reminded me of eternity. (Do a YouTube search for Francis Chan’s “rope illustration”. It’s a great visual — our time here is such a small — yet significant blink — in our journey.)IMG_2010

But — there’s always a but — there is a greater human measurement of love, the love you experience when you realize that you aren’t going to get those 25 visits, and eternity is the only option you have left — but you have to wait to get there.

In my imperfect, messed up mind I thought that I would be the one, waiting with Jesus, for her to come. My normal order of things was flipped upside down and for the first time in my life, I experienced the ultimate depth of parental love. You see, you can’t measure the complete depth of your love for someone when everything is somewhat normal. There is no gauge until the gauge is created — and then it becomes your reality.

Grief is a journey of love. It has so many facets and for everyone it’s different. For me, I need to see her and hear her. I have her photos on my watch and in my car and on my phone; I made a short playlist and I hear her voice every day; I watch her live videos and I create memories everyday. This is how I cope. You can say her name to me, you can ask me about her, you can share anything with her and about her and tag me in it. Just don’t suggest it’s “time to move on” or to “get over it”. These are the lies about grief — it doesn’t get easy.

We grieve because we love — why in the world would you want to “get over” or “move on” from loving your child? Last week I was reading a post from a friend, “and for those people who say “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” I just gotta disagree… strongly. This is not a verse and Jesus never said this! He will give us way more than we can handle but He won’t give us more than He can handle. You see, He will allow things to happen. We may not like them or even agree with them, we may even get angry at Him for a period of time but they are His will and He is God. He knows we can’t handle the big things of life — and when they come we run to Him and He lovingly picks us up and knocks off some more of the bits of us that He needs us to get rid of, to shape us more into His image.

As I look back over this past year the one common theme I see is love. “Tat loved so well”. We have heard hundreds of stories of her love for others, so many we didn’t know about. She would be humbled to hear them, she would give you that quirky smile and look down, while in her head and out loud she would be praising God for what He did. She knew that it wasn’t her, it was God through her — she had this amazing way to allow God to use her, for His glory, to reach the people He brought into her circle of influence. When she was in the room everything was comfortable — it was like His spirit emanated through her and you instantly felt comfortable.

I remember her first visit back to Peru. Tracy and I were really struggling with a bunch of stuff with the home and life and we weren’t in a good place. We anticipated her visit for weeks. I tried to get everything done and working well so I could spend as much time with her as possible. When she walked through those airport doors it was like all our troubles were gone — she was here again in our presence! Have you experienced that about her? Tat’s here, we can breathe and everything will be alright.

I can only imagine what this day in my future will look like. I’ll live out my remaining years, loving through all the memories and these trigger days, then one day I’ll leave my earthly tent and open my eyes and see the Glory of Heaven and run into her arms again and everything in my world will be well again! Tat’s here, I can breathe again. The guilt will be gone, the pieces of the puzzle complete and new memories will begin as we worship our Lord together with hands raised high!

“and if not He is still good” – tat

Love you baby girl thank you for teaching me so much about love….

Dad

………………..

BETH

I’ve always kept a journal since I was a kid. It’s a learning experience when I go back and flip through the pages–seeing the joy, heartache, questions, laughing at myself and my silly ways, and the moments where I thought I had an understanding of the future and what my life would be. Some places are filled with pictures, doodles, notes, stickers, and in other places there are gaps–like when I was first planning my wedding, moving to Waterloo, or going to Bible college for my first year. There’s another gap in my journal that starts after August 17th, and if I’m honest I’m still not sure how to fill it. 

When I first got the news about Tat’s passing, I was writing in my journal by the lake in Muskoka. What’s crazy about the timing of writing this is that I’m in that exact spot now–writing in my journal, in Muskoka, looking out at the same lake and some of the same faces. It’s surreal how one moment that seems so familiar, normal, dependable — can also be tied to something so ugly like death and loss and grieving. 

What I wrote in my journal that evening on August 17th seems ironic at best. I wrote about faith. I wrote about miracles. I wrote about asking God to give you faith even when you’re afraid and don’t know what the future holds. When you’ve just gotten a call that your best friend is dead and there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it; reading back now, it feels like a joke.Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 14.36.58

“The unknown can be scary, but Jesus calls us to something greater than our fear. He calls us to faith. He calls us to do the next good thing.” 

I had no idea these would be the last words I wrote in that book when I got the call. I had no idea how I’d have to reread them and think of them in the context of my own grief. I had no idea that people that I knew and friends that I loved would have their lives turned upside down. I didn’t know that there was going to be a dress without a wedding. I didn’t know that I was going to say goodbye to someone who had become such a large part of my life. 

Grief is a lonely thing. A faithless thing, at times. An empty thing.

Life without Tat is scary. I can’t deny that every time my husband gets into a car, or when I say goodbye to my family–I wonder if it’s going to be the last time that I see them. It’s taught me that no person or thing should be taken for granted. That the small petty moments are not worth putting energy into. That life is not always about what’s next, or what’s bigger or better–it’s about the faces in front of me. It’s about right now. 

This is something that Tat did so well. When she spoke to you, she wanted to know you. She was always looking for what was real and true and right. I’ve never met someone who loved Jesus more genuinely. It’s easy to remember the best moments of someone who has died, but what I remember the most about Tat are the “come to Jesus moments”–the tearful nights, the conversations that maybe didn’t have a resolution. The questions that she had that were difficult and raw. How she responded when she was hurt. How she wanted to reflect Jesus even when it didn’t make sense or wasn’t easy. How much she bled for the least of these and the ones left behind.

When Tat died I felt like we all deserved a miracle. That this was a dream. That we were going to wake up and she was going to be here in the house on Toll Gate painting the walls with me. That’s when I realized that faith doesn’t always end with the rainbow or the seas parting or bread falling from the sky. If it did then it wouldn’t be so hard. It wouldn’t be feeling the fear of something and then having to do it anyway. It wouldn’t be something that stretches and teaches and molds and points us towards something bigger than we are. And yet, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the gaps that Tat has left behind. Every month, every holiday, every birthday or special day that passes without her in it is bittersweet. Grief doesn’t stop or end over time, it just changes and morphs as you learn how to accommodate it. I’m not thankful for Tat’s death, but I am thankful for her legacy and the moments I spent with her. I’m thankful for what grief has taught me. To be a little softer, more vulnerable, and to hold my people closer. 

Tat, I will celebrate your homecoming with lot’s of Taylor Swift, sunflowers, Tetley green tea and all the aloe plants I can get my hands on. I’m still trying to see the world with the same sense of adventure that you did. I was the crazy-wild friend, but you were the braver friend. And I miss you. I wish you were here to navigate our first years as wives together. I wish we got to graduate together like we’d planned. I wish I could call you like I used to and laugh and cry and feel heard in the same way. Tat, I think of you every day–and I’ll continue to hold onto the pieces of you that I still have. I love you. See you soon.

Your other brutally soft woman,

Beth

………………..

ABBIE

I struggled for a long time to write something that both adequately describes how I feel leading up to this day and honors Tat. Nothing felt or sounded right, and I couldn’t let myself think too hard about why I was writing this otherwise I would just cry and cry. If I’m being honest, there is no combination of words I could string together that would ever sound “right” because these circumstances are so, so wrong. But here we are, so I will do my best.

My dearest Tatiana,

It’s been one year since the accident. One year since you left. One year without you. The memory of this day still hurts just as much as it did one year ago, that terrible day.

Your absence is devastating. Not an hour goes by where I don’t think of you. Not a day goes by where I don’t cry for you. I didn’t think it was possible, but my heart breaks every day, all over again. I miss you so much it hurts. Sometimes the sadness is so suffocating, I can hardly breathe.

My dear sister, during the short life you lived here on this earth you reflected Jesus so well to me. Everything you did was for His glory and pointed others back to Him. You showed me love, acceptance, support, and hope like I’ve never experienced from another human being. Thank you for teaching me to live life to the fullest. Thank you for leading with a Christ-like example. Thank you for always reminding me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Thank you for being a constant source of love, joy and light in my life.

Your love for Jesus was unmistakable, and I know without a doubt in my heart that you have had the happiest, most peaceful year dancing in His presence. This year has been so hard without you, but I hold onto the hope I have in Christ which we share that I will see you again. I can’t wait to join you one day; it can’t come soon enough.67877756_1370364659778391_7166239047470284800_n

A piece of my heart is in heaven. I miss you so, my dear sister.

All my love, until we meet again… 

Abbie

………………..

MOUNTAINSIDE CHURCH INTERNS

Some small thoughts from the Mountainside Church Interns of 2017, on who Tat is, and what this last year has held.

CHRIS

Tat showed a powerful presence of God wherever she was, whether it was at work, school or a simple blog post of her sharing who she is and what she is dealing with. 

AARON

I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that this was a mistake. It doesn’t feel right, and in fact, it isn’t right – death isn’t from God.

BEN

Sometimes it still doesn’t seem real, but then a random event makes you remember and you spend the entire day thinking about her.

JORGE

She always managed to find a way to breathe new life into the reality we knew, every moment, every second she made memorable. I can’t help but constantly feel a sense that there’s a place missing in reality that was designated to Tat, a way of loving, a way of joy and a way of friendship that only she could give back and I’ve missed being caught up in the beauty of it all. 

JULIA

To us, Tat was and is: a Best Bud, a safe girlfriend to confide in, a God and people-loving person, and a soul that radiated so much sunshine it was otherworldly. There is a hole so big in our lives that she left, and I know she’d want us to fill it with as much Jesus as possible. 67566486_371423207106573_4529414047266766848_n

………………..

ALIZA

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
C.S. Lewis

Yesterday, we could say Tat was alive one year ago. Today, we can’t say that. I can hear our hearts breaking all over again.

Somehow it has been one whole year since she was last breathing in this world. The earth has orbited once again around the sun — and she was not here for any of it. Her wedding. Her birthday. Any ordinary Tuesday in between. 

Beautiful, bright-eyed, vibrant Tat — I miss her more than words can say. She always told me I was a writer, and yet there are not enough words in any language to explain the impact her absence keeps having. 

I still can’t believe she is gone. It feels as though I’m waiting for her to come home from a long trip, like those years ago when I waited for her to come back to Canada from Peru. I had a countdown on my phone — and it feels sort of like that, except there’s no date I can hold onto. I try to trick myself into believing that soon she will return, and we will laugh, and this whole cruel year will be over. It’s as if my mind isn’t quite convinced she’s truly gone. But then something happens and it hits me afresh. 

It might be a blog post she wrote, or her photo in my car, or a nightmare where I wake up crying. I read it or see it or have it, and then her death happens again.

She dies all over again, every single day. Every single time I remember. 

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago in Prince Edward County and the actress on Gossip Girl who plays Vanessa was there. The actress said hi to me in the bathroom. Immediately, I went to text Tat. I couldn’t wait to tell her — she was going to freak out! I could picture the emojis she would send me, texting in ALL CAPS to ensure I understood her excitement. 

But before I pulled my phone from my bag, I remembered. I couldn’t text Tat about seeing Vanessa from Gossip Girl in a restaurant bathroom. I couldn’t text Tat again. 

The first time I met Tat, I knew there was something special about her. I’m not romanticizing her — I truly mean it. I’ve told her this before and I’ve told many others. I saw her, and something inside of me perked up. It was the Holy Spirit — kindly, gently, nudging me toward this kind 17-year-old girl. We were at camp. The first thing I noticed about her was how much I loved her name: Tat. It was simple and unique. One syllable, containing so much meaning. Names are important to me — but especially then, because I was in the middle of writing a novel. I remember thinking her name was perfect for a book. 

One night, I felt God prodding me to pour into Tat. That was the phrase I kept hearing: pour into her. A bit Christianese, but I took it seriously. I told God if He wanted me to truly love Tat — to encourage her, to pour into her, to pray for her, to check in on her, to care about her dreams and her family and her academics and her love life — then I would. But I asked God to give me a sign — if Tat asked me to pray for her that evening, then I would encourage her relentlessly. 

That night, Tat came up to me at campfire and said, “I feel like God wants you to pray for me.” 

Tears sprang into my eyes. I prayed for her — and I kept praying for years after that. 

I believed in Tat with a ferocity unlike one I’ve experienced before. I kindly forced her to send me her writing — she was such a good writer, and I always felt like someday I would hold her book in my hands. I am devastated to never read that book. 

I knew in the core of my being that she was going to do great things — and she did. Somehow, she still is. Her words, her spirit, and her love for people and for Jesus have undone me. She has carved a legacy without even realizing it. If only we could each have a fraction of her spirit. 

I am so grateful to God for the years He gifted me a friendship with Tat. A few nights ago, as I was crying thinking of her, I realized again the honour it was to love and be loved by her. 

I will always remember you, Tat. Your plaid shirt, your brown leather jacket, your long wild hair, your short bob when you chopped it off, your laugh, your voice when you sang Blank Space, your aloe vera plant, your black sandals, your nude heels you wore to church clacking down the hallway, your duct-taped car sitting in my parents driveway, your love of yellow heart emojis, and the way you always, always pointed me right back to Jesus. 

I miss you in a way I can’t comprehend and I wish I never had to write this. I love you, Tat. 

Love Aliza

………………..

CELESTE

I’ve spent a lot of time with Tat’s words this year. Her words bring comfort, wisdom, reminders, and tears.

I have a page in my journal where I’ve written down some of my favourite words of hers. This is one I go back to often:

Friend, you’re significant not because of what you’ve done or said or what you will do or say in the future. You’re significant simply because of who you are.

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 14.38.31

This is my reminder from Tat when I read it. It puts me in check of who I am when I’m feeling low. And I believe Tat would want to remind you all that you matter. So, to anyone needing a reminder of who you are…

You are a son or a daughter of the King most high. God created you for a purpose. Even in the thickest of mud, He has a purpose for your life. He knows the plan and has it set in place. (Jeremiah 29:11) Do not give up on Him in the hard moments, in fact, do the opposite and lean further into Him. Lift Him up in praise and worship during the storms. You may not ever know the ‘what-if’s’ and ‘how’s’ and fear tends to attack the unseen and unknown, but focus in on the one who transcends ALL understanding and let Him fill you. (Philippians 4:7)

Tat, I hope you know the significance and purpose your life had and still carries to this day. My sweet girl, I miss you. I miss you so much. 

Celeste

………………..

ELIZABETH

Dearest Tat, It’s been a year without you now. 365 days. I cannot believe it. 2019 is a year that you’ve never known on this earth. I left the province for an internship a couple of weeks after you entered our eternal Home and that was so hard for me to do. What kept me sane during that transition was how excited you’d been for me in my new opportunity, seeing as you’d always had a strong passion for missions and reaching others. I’m thankful for that.

I’m not someone who’s always good at putting my own feelings and emotions into words. What I can say is that my heart feels both full and empty at the same time when I think about you. Full because I know where you are and that I’ll see you again and at that time, I’ll never have to say goodbye. And empty because the world seems dull and bland and a little less sunshiny without you in it.

My friendship with you was shorter than I’d have liked. I was friends with Matt first, and then began to get to know you through him, shortly before you’d started dating. I’ll always remember a time when I was hanging out with Matt between your friendship beginning and when you two began dating; I spent about half an hour just listening to him talk about how hard he’d fallen for you and how much he admired everything about you. How grateful I am to be friends with people who were closer friends with you than I — it feels as though part of my friendship with you lives on through my friendships with them.

When Billy Graham died in February of last year there was a quote that went viral: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now.” That makes me think of you. You’re more alive now than you ever were here — more alive than any of us are who’ve been left behind.67765631_1543989085738127_6931296592553050112_n

Your joy-filled spirit towards life and your unwavering love for Jesus and others have constantly inspired me — in your presence and in your absence. I aspire to live as fully, lovingly, and joyfully as you did. Meeting Jesus and being reunited with you will be such a great joy.

When looking for that Billy Graham quote in order to share it here, I found out that it’s actually a D. L. Moody quote, and it’s longer than was quoted as Billy Graham’s:

“Someday you will read in the papers, ‘D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.’ Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal — a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”

Until we meet again forever Tatiana… I’ll think of you and write about you often.

Elizabeth

………………..

DANIELLE

Dear Tat,

A year ago today you breathed your last earthly breath – and then your first heavenly breath. How a year has gone by is absolutely unfathomable. I remember August 17th, 2018 like it was just yesterday. Actually, it still feels so fresh that I would believe it happened only today. Sometimes when I’m standing in the place where I heard the news, I find myself breathing deeper. I replay the scene over and over again – being pulled from my job at camp, seeing Brianna’s tears and feeling like I couldn’t breathe, her parents telling me to sit down. And then, your very best friend – your strong, incredible best friend – uttered the words “there was a car accident, and Tat was killed”. She went on to say “I’m so sorry” to me, even though her own life had flipped upside down and half of her was missing. You picked a good BFF, Tat.

Over this past year, I haven’t been able to keep quiet about your story. It occupies so much space in my heart that it practically bleeds out of me. I want the world to know about you, Tatiana Blackburn. Not just about your passing, but about your passion. Not just about your death but your beautiful life. Your personality. Your soul. You are one of a kind. Talking about you is so hard, Tat – but so worth it. I once shared your story with a friend I had just met. I played her the song you and your fiancé Matt recorded – we cried together and she told me you must have been so special. I wish she could know the half of it.67709148_1370506736433224_8250983353616957440_n

A few weeks ago I was visiting camp where we’ve spent several summers together. One of the staff shouted across the parking lot “Is that Danielle?!” excitedly and started walking towards me. I couldn’t tell who it was from far away. She walked like you, Tat – and even though I knew it wasn’t you, it took my breath away. In that moment I came to realize that if it had been exactly a year ago from that day in July, it could have been you. You were alive on this earth on August 16th – and everything changed one short day later. This blows my mind.

When I think about the time we shared together I am overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s plan. Our time at camp, our time in Peru, our friendship – are some of my absolute favourite things in my life so far. Though I wish we had more time, I cannot deny God’s goodness when I think of the moments He handcrafted for us to share. Your friendship was such a gift, and I will cherish it my whole life.

When I found out about your accident, I felt terrified – not only because you were so dear to me, but I hated the idea of a world without Tat Blackburn. A girl with so much passion and zeal for life – so much love in her heart and so much joy in her soul. A girl who’s mission in life was to share the love of Christ in whatever way He called her. I kept thinking “how is the world going to continue on without her?”. I wanted to hide from the world that grew a little dimmer as you left it. Well, Tat – the world did continue on despite my begging it to pause for just a little while. It’s been a hard 365 days – and yet some of those days were full of goodness and richness. Grief and joy co-exist, and it’s beautiful and tragic. I see reminders of you everywhere – a new Taylor Swift song, a curly-haired woman, Sunday nights with the Mexican migrant workers, a toddler who shares your name, countless photos on the internet – everywhere. My heart breaks and rejoices simultaneously at each one. Life is so complex.

It’s hard to fathom that while we’re mourning the one year anniversary of your passing, you’re celebrating your one year anniversary with the lover of your soul, the maker of the universe. The place you’ve been longing for ever since you met Jesus. The place you knew was your true home. I miss you every day. I’ll be missing you until the day I arrive at home too.  I love you, dear friend.

Danielle

………………..

Why God,
Do people have to die?

A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God,
Do people fall apart?
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand,
But I understand…

Why God,
I need You
It’s, why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s, why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find,
You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope?

I don’t understand,
But I understand…

Why God,
I need You
It’s, why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life

And I find,
You are right by my side,
Give me a faith stronger than I have

I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks

And I’m not alone in this place
That’s why God, I need You

Why God,
I run to Your arms
Over and over again

It’s, why God,
I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find,
You are right by my side

Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God

Austin French, Why God?
Listen Here

 

IMG_2024

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s