(I wrote this over several days following my dad’s passing, the wake, and the funeral. Like “Part 1”, this was what I was feeling at the time so I didn’t really edit what was written over the past couple of weeks. I don’t know….just didn’t seem right to change anything.)
(The casket was made out of Missouri Pine and built by an Amish community. It was described as warm, subtle, calming, etc., just like Dad.)
I watched him take his last breath.
For those of you who have experienced that moment, you’re just not sure how to react. I can only share my experience…..I was shocked, scared, relieved, and desperate all in the same moment.
The temporal reaction to an eternal event.
Let’s back up….
Hospice had said a week or so before his passing that we were looking at 6 months or less. Then a few days later it was changed to 3 months or less. A couple days after that it was 3-7 days. Then on the day before his passing, a Wednesday, we were told he may not make it to Saturday.
For whatever reason, I think of the famous I Love Lucy episode where Lucy is working in a candy factory, I think, with a conveyor belt moving by as she is supposed to box up the individual candies as they pass by. She gets behind, she can’t box ’em fast enough, and hilarity ensues.
That’s what it felt like as the prediction of how long he would be with us kept decreasing. It was like the conveyor belt of his life kept going faster and faster, rushing toward his departure. Every time I heard a new prediction I kept thinking, “What’s going on?! Slow down! Wait!”
But then I would hear him cough again. I would hear his lungs rattle with fluid. I’d try to have another conversation with him and he just wouldn’t be able to get the words out and he’d get frustrated time and again, and I could just sense he… was…. sick of it. This was no way to live. This wasn’t living.
Temporally, I was praying for a miracle, I was praying he wouldn’t leave us. Eternally, I was praying he would.
Without going into details the Lord moved my gut to spend the night with my parents on that particular Wednesday, the day before his passing. Several people came by the house that day as we finally found a window of time where Mom, myself, and my brother Travis could leave for a spell and take care of some funeral arrangements.
Even after the rough report from the nurse we were sure he was going to be around a bit longer, even if it was just a few days…it was 12 hours.
It all started to change, a reality that made me go numb really started to set in when we returned from the funeral home and one of Dad’s friends was talking with him about Heaven, about going Home. A lifelong family friend, who also is in the medical field (and a complete angel to our family during the last 24 hours), was also in the room. I knew she was in there but we hadn’t made eye contact. When she walked out of the room and her eyes were watery… I sorta knew…..
That night Mom and I made a deal… she would stay in his room until 4 a.m. while I slept in the spare bedroom to try to get some rest, then at 4 a.m. we would switch. A bit after 4:30 a.m. she came in the room and asked if I would go with her and check something out. I figured it was simply time to switch and she needed help moving him in the bed, or helping her with his medicine or something, but as I walked in I realized Dad was taking his final breath.
I was shocked, scared, relieved, and desperate all in the same moment.
I don’t know how to put into words what it felt like, as mom was outside the room calling the nurse, the feeling of grabbing Dad’s shoulder, shaking it gently and listening to myself say, plead, beg, “Dad….hey Dad…c’mon…Dad…” I don’t know how to put that into words. So I won’t.
I think back to being a little boy and dad walking down the hall to wake us up to go to school. Sometimes he would wake us by singing in the hallway. As a kid I’m sure I was so annoyed when he would do it. But what a fantastic thing to wonder what song he heard when he truly opened his eyes for the first time?
So it’s been two days since the funeral. I don’t know how to describe it. Like many of you who have gone through the death of a loved one, the whole process (their passing, the wake, the funeral service, the cemetery, etc.) seems like a dream. Like you’re having an out of body experience watching the whole thing but not really comprehending what is going on.
Leave it to dad to have a funeral that turns into a worship service full of singing, applause, some laughter, smiles, and as strange as it sounds….a real sense of Hope. Sure, many tears were shed, tears of sadness, thoughts of not having him around anymore, but many of those tears were also tears of worship..at the beauty of such a beautiful God…of such a beautiful sense of Hope, a beautiful acknowledgement of what our Lord did in and through the life of one of His own.
So now I proceed to deal with not having a dad around to talk with, bounce ideas off of, laugh with, or just to simply be in the same room.
Nikki and I had been through some life altering stuff just days before he passed and Dad is the one I would have called to have another one of our many conversations we’ve had over the years. He would comfort me with his soothing voice, and wisdom was his specialty. What I wouldn’t give to share some belly bombers from White Castle with him, and as they do their worst to our insides and we laugh at why we did this to ourselves yet again, and simply talk about life.
If some were to say it sounds like I leaned on him a bit too much, so be it, but I would only counter with… it was the Spirit that lived and breathed and moved so freely inside of him that I leaned on a bit too much. So be it.
It’s been a couple of weeks since he passed away. Honestly, because of the goodness of God, the further out I get from that moment of watching him breathe his last I try to concentrate on what happened next in that moment…for him…and what I was able to experience as our last act on this earth as father and son… and how it connected with our first.
During my birth, the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. Apparently I was stubborn enough to survive and yes, ha-ha, I’ve been stubborn ever since. Dad told me the story many times about how he never listened for a heartbeat so close, the rhythm, as he did with mine during those few scary moments. I can’t help but think back to that story…how he was there for my first breath…and I for his last.
But then eternally… as I was watching him breathe his last it occurred to me, I was also watching him breath his First.
I miss him. Always will until I see him again.
And I was shocked, scared, relieved, and desperate all in the same moment.
But now…I’m just relieved. For him.
Praise to our Lord who is our Precious Hope. Who doesn’t simply give purpose….He is Purpose. The Hope that was in the heart of my dad is the Hope that is given to all who believe. He is the great Peace Giver. To Him be all Glory, Honor, and Praise.
“…then His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies…”