This week I am reliving those last few days before my Dad passed away one year ago.
Last October 20th found my dad in the hospital. He was pretty much bedridden and unable to stand unless assisted by 2 people. His lungs were slowly filling with fluid as his heart toiled to keep beating with the help of a newly inserted pacemaker. He had a cough accompanied by severe pain from a cracked rib as a result of having received CPR a week previous. At times Dad was delusional, at other times clear minded.
During one of his lucid times, after an evening visit accompanied by my mom and my sister, I lingered behind by his bedside after they had left the room. I drew near and looking my dad in the eyes I asked him if he trusted Jesus. “Yes”, he replied. I was able then to assure him that Jesus was with him to help him and look after him. I reminded him that he could talk to Jesus and that he didn’t need to worry about the future.
“I love you”, I told him. (We didn’t say that a lot in our family growing up.)
Dad gazed back at me, his eyes milky from poor eyesight, but seeing me just the same.
“You’re a good girl. I love you too”, he replied.
Those eight little words so touched my heart! They were my dad’s last and most precious gift to me.
I hope I blessed Dad in those few moments we shared alone — I know he blessed me beyond measure and for the rest of my life.
Dad struggled for the next five days. Family members were in frequently to sit by his side.
The night before he died, Peter and I took my mom to the hospital to visit. She tenderly held the hand of her husband of 68 years. We put lip balm on his dry lips and gave him a sip of water. We combed his hair and tried to make him as comfortable as we could. It was a moving and intimate time we shared.
The next afternoon my dad passed away. I’m thankful it was quick and he didn’t suffer. His heart just gave out as he sat on the edge of his hospital bed. The nurse laid him down, and he was gone.
Thus began a year of mourning and remembering. As each milestone approached, it was observed and then left behind as time marched on. An indelible mark was stamped on my mind and heart as I came to terms with the reality that I would not pass this way again with my dad in our midst. As a family we gave thanks for Dad on his birthday (he would have been 95), Christmas, Father’s Day, summer days when he would have been outside working on some project, mom and dad’s anniversary, Thanksgiving, other days when we thought of him “just because” … and now this time when we relive those last few days with us here in this life.
It’s been a long year for me: a year filled with tears of sorrow alongside the laughter of remembering my dad in better days. I am thankful for the man Dad was. He was a man of integrity who worked hard at everything he did. He was a man with faults and foibles like anyone else, but he was a dad who loved his family fiercely and left us with a rich heritage.
Oh yes, we had our differences to be sure. My dad was a perfectionist, and he had definite ideas on how everything should be done. We butted heads about certain decisions, had some arguments, and exchanged words on a few occasions that I’d rather forget. But as I process my memories of Dad, and as this first year without him comes to an end, there is inexpressible comfort in being able to pour it all out, chaff and grain together. As one author so eloquently wrote, “sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
It’s what I’d like others to do for me when I’m gone. It’s what I now choose to do for my dad.
I love you, Dad. And I miss you. I think I always will.