Edie Wadsworth was in her third year of medical school when she held her dying daddy’s hand as she watched him take his last labored breath. Two days later, she split the cost of his funeral with her sister and stood at his graveside with a gaping hole in her heart—feeling the weight of a thousand memories that would soon unravel her. All the Pretty Things is her hard-fought memoir—a story of fatherlessness, of being untethered and unspoken for. Edie takes us on a brave and vulnerable journey as she walks out of the rubble of her childhood, into the devastating choices of her adulthood, and at last into the healing and forgiveness she never dreamed possible. Her story points us to the one True Light, who has promised to get us all home safe. It’s a grace to welcome my friend, Edie, to the farm’s front porch today…
Daddy died on a Sunday night in late September, just when the heat was making its first retreat from the Tennessee hills where I grew up.
I was twenty-seven years old with two small kids, trying my best to make it through the long hours and sleepless nights of learning to become a doctor.
I drove two hours south for the chance to tell Daddy I loved him one more time. I prayed the whole way that the lung cancer wouldn’t take him before I got there.
I could hear his death-rattle breathing before I ever saw his face.
I put my cheek to his and told him how much I would miss him and how life would never be the same without him. In the stillness of my breath on his face, I felt the life leave him. I looked up to catch the last light in his eyes, but they were already closed, his head tilted over in surrender.
Twenty minutes after I walked through the door, he left us.
I fell to his chest and sobbed until somebody finally unclenched my hand from his and made me walk outside for air. Nothing would ever be the same, and I knew it. There was so much still undone between us.
I knew Daddy was finally at peace.
No more labored breathing.
No more cancer or liver failure.
No more junker cars that wouldn’t start or wayward couches to thrash around on, trying to get comfortable.
No more trying with all his might to stay sober.
No more asking for us to bring him one more quart of beer or a few dollars for gas.
No more hurt, no more loss, no more tears.
Only peace—probably for the first time in his fifty-six years.
But there would be no peace for me.
I knew there would never be anyone else quite like him. I also knew that my complicated relationship with him was far from over.
For as long as I could after Daddy’s death, I clawed at the edges of everything, trying to find a way to stay above water, but nothing seemed to be able to stop my sure and certain sinking.
After twenty-seven years of pretending to be fine, something in me broke—like a dam too cracked and fragile to fight the constant beating rains. It felt like there was nothing I could do but stand like a spectator and watch the water rise around me, as if everything that had buoyed me to the surface of things was gone, even the faith that had once seemed unshakable.
Over the next few months, my life became so unmanageable that it felt like I was trying to survive an ocean storm on a flimsy piece of driftwood.
Before too long, I found myself at the front desk of a psychiatrist’s office filling out a stack of paperwork a mile high, already red in the face from trying to answer the questions on the second page, my life literally burning down around me.
“Are you having trouble sleeping?” Yes.
“Do you feel anxious?” Yes.
“Are you engaging in foolish, risky behavior?” Yes.
“Do you feel hopeless or helpless in your current situation?” Yes.
“Do you have a poor appetite?” Yes.
“Do you feel excessive shame?” Yes.
“Have you had thoughts to hurt yourself?” Pause.
Pools of tears began spilling out of my eyes.
When I finally sat face-to-face with the doctor, he asked me what brought me to his office, and all I got out was “My daddy’s been gone . . .”
Then I cried for ten straight minutes, trying between breaths to gather myself into someone more respectable and professional and whole.
That first visit, I mostly just cried and he mostly just sat there, listening and slowly nodding his head in what felt like disbelief.
The next visit, he asked about my childhood, and it all began to unravel.
Some of the stories that came out of my mouth made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
For some reason, talking about prison visits out loud made it seem like they were probably not all that good for a child.
Then there were all the times at the trailer with Daddy mostly drunk and us mostly hungry; the violence, the loneliness of never having a stable father, the insecurities that came with always seeking love in the wrong places; and the nights at Genie’s Bar when Daddy would be too drunk to drive us home.
The memories came in overwhelming waves, drowning me in their wake.
It would be months before I could admit I was angry and years before I would learn to hold the wounds from Daddy and my compassion for him in the same heart.
The search for wholeness finally led me to the communion rail, where Christ would begin to fill me with food that never corrupts and love that never lets go or disappoints.
God would begin teaching me those years of suffering were just a gift in disguise, the thing He would use to remove the scales that had so lodged themselves in my eyes—the scales of hurt and loneliness and scarcity, which were eventually replaced by scales of lust and greed and my accumulating accomplishments.
All those had to be stripped away so that I could see the one thing I needed—Christ and Christ alone.
What I am sure of now is this—I wouldn’t trade one second of the life I was given.
Maybe your heartache has swallowed you up, and maybe nothing in your life looks like a gift either, but I’ve learned that often our eyes need adjusting and often our suffering is the tool He uses to give us new eyes.
If I look close at my story, it has all been one epic homecoming, one wondrous rescue, where the God of all grace has orchestrated every part of my story to see me remade in His image; where He never stopped chasing me and where He was at every corner putting the pieces all back together.
I pray He will do whatever it takes to keep removing our scales so that He may lead us to our deepest bravery,
our most vulnerable selves,
knowing that He who has baptized us with water and blood and fire will turn our sorrows to joy,
our suffering to gifts of grace,
our terrifying deep waters into soul-quenching cisterns that refresh us all as we walk through fire,
together toward home.
I’ll see you in the deep end.
Edie Wadsworth is a speaker, writer, and blogger who has been featured in various print and online media. After overcoming her difficult upbringing to become a successful medical doctor, Edie left her practice to raise her family and pursue her love for writing. Her passion is to love her people well and to see women embrace the full measure of their life’s passion and purpose. She has shared her story at conferences and churches around the country and is a Compassion International blogger.
All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way Home, readers will treasure this refreshing and raw redemption story, a memoir for anyone who has ever hungered for home, forgiveness, and the safe embrace of a father’s love. It’s a lingering, beautiful story of us all, really, as we fight hard to see the gifts around us when it looks like everything is falling apart.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]