The call came on the day we were leaving Wisconsin. I had a wonderful trip with my daughter to visit her best friend who had just moved. It was an unexpected blessing to leave the heat of Florida for the fall-like weather of Wisconsin. The salty ocean was replaced with the cold waters of Lake Michigan and nights were spent sleeping with the windows open.
We had a late flight that day but the call came early that morning. Dad had fallen and was being taken to the hospital. He had spent a day and a half at home alone before calling 911.
The second call came shortly after the first. Dad had fractured his neck and had a small internal injury that was expected to heal. The doctors thought he would spend a few days in the hospital and go to rehabilitation before returning home. My thoughts turned towards dad going home alone. Mom had died just a year before so he spent his days alone at home.
And this is where home took on a completely new meaning.
After a week in the hospital and a few small complications I left Florida to go home. My sister needed a break. My brother had to return to Ohio.
Week two proved to be much more challenging. Dad began to get weaker and his breathing worsened. My sister and I spent days going back and forth to Duke visiting with dad. On Saturday I decided to spend the day alone with dad to give my sister a break. He got out of bed that day and sat in the recliner. He fell into a deep sleep and I sat editing (I am a photographer) and watching him sleep.
A dear friend came to sit with me and we left dad to go grab lunch in the cafeteria.
Upon returning the entire team of doctors was waiting for me. They could not wake my father. He was rushed for tests and when he returned they had placed a mask on him to help his breathing.
As the mask and machine worked to pull carbon dioxide out of his body he began to wake. The neck brace and the mask seemed to be fighting for space and dad had a hard time tolerating both. I made several requests for assistance with the mask. It wasn’t until evening that someone came.
My sweet friend left and I was alone with dad. Alone with dad and a hidden book I had sent him over a year ago for his 80th birthday. At that time mom had been alive and had hidden the book, awaiting his birthday. She was in the hospital as we celebrated dad’s 80th birthday.
We had searched the entire house for the book, many times, without ever finding it. I bought another book. Mom went to be with Jesus and I hoped dad would find comfort through that new book when mom was gone.
Losing mom was so difficult. It has been a very hard year.
Since my dad had been home alone for so long before calling for help we had to move his bed and a few other things in his room. And under the bed my brother-in-law found a package addressed to dad and laid it on the chest in his room. This is where my sister found it. The book we had searched over a year for had been found. But it didn’t feel good. That book is powerful. God had left it hidden for a reason. With Dad in the hospital and that book showing up, I had a sense of foreboding.
I carried it with me each day to the hospital. I never opened it. It never felt like the right time. But that Saturday after my sweet friend left I began reading aloud to my father. I read to him from the entry on June20th and then from the entry on January 27th, the day Mom died.
I cried and my dad cried. Tears ran from underneath the mask on his face. I began picking random dates and reading to him. I told him that I knew he was tired. He had said as much and I knew what that meant. But I couldn’t be okay unless I knew that I knew where he would spend eternity. I told him if he wanted to be in Heaven he had to ask Jesus to come and change his heart and his life. As he cried and spoke through that mask to me he said, “I want to do that.” And he did.
Dad asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior that night, in part from a powerful devotional called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, a book that I had sent to him a year earlier. I read him his year-old birthday card that was inside the book and I showed him its original wrapping. I reminded him how we had searched for that book for a year without finding it. He nodded and cried. I wept as he was born again right before my eyes.
And that day, more than a year ago, came rushing back. In the middle of Publix on a normal day: “Buy this for your dad.” I walked past the bookstand and the voice came again. Still a whisper, but louder.
In my walk with the Lord I have learned that when He wants my attention he gets it.
All for my father’s salvation.
For HIS glory.
A gift for my dad and a gift for me. Intended for two. Destined for Eternity.
That evening in the hospital as the pulmonologist tried to replace dad’s mask, my dad shouted “NO!” I looked at the doctor and told him my dad did not want the mask anymore. I knew what that meant and so did Dad.
Everyone said goodbye to Dad and he told everyone he loved them and goodbye. But he told my brother one thing more – that he was going to Heaven and that Jesus was his Savior. That was the only person he told. How special that his public profession of faith was to his only son.
My sister and her family arrived. And then they all left except for my sister. We sat with Dad until 2am. He took his last breath at 11:22 that same morning.
On Father’s Day, June 21, 2015, my Dad met his Father.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” -John 11:25-26
I will see you soon, Daddy. Hug mom and praise Jesus! I miss you.
I wanted to add this from the funeral service program:
Memories of our dad:
From the rides on the back of our riding lawn mower, Will’s first dirt bike, jumping in giant piles of leaves he somehow got the neighborhood kids to rake, and holding our horses at horse shows, our father loved us deeply. We loved our Saturday morning trips to work with him and our super-special overnight business trips with Dad.
As we grew into adulthood, Dad showed his love through the tears that filled his eyes as we left the house or the hugs he gave after a family dinner with him and Mom, letting us know how much love was in his heart.
He enjoyed his tiny little office where he spent much of the last years of his life. He painted. He did crossword puzzles and read and read and read.
Just over a year ago, after 55 years of marriage, our mom died and he began to make biweekly trips to the gym, determined to lose weight and feel better. On his 81st birthday, just 6 months ago, he did 81 crunches on his favorite machine!
Just a few days ago, tears flowed from our father’s eyes as he called out to Jesus, anticipating an eternity in which we will all be reunited again. He knew Jesus was waiting for him.
Until we are together again Daddy, hug Mom and know we will be there.
Julie, Will and Lyn