Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

My Dad would have been 73 years old today. I'm not sure how old he is now, in Heaven years.
When we were kids, I know we five girls felt like we got in his way alot. As the years went by, Dad did what he could to show us he loved us.(shown here in 1955 in the upper left hand photo) But I can't say I was really close to Dad until the end of his life and the advanced lung cancer diagnosis. My sisters and I took turns going and taking care of him, although my sister Sherri took on the brunt of the responsibilities as she lived nearby.
Taking care of him meant doing things that I had never imagined doing, and I was moved so many times at his fraility. Trying to feed him was a never ending source of frustration as he now hated the taste of everything he used to love. Think how hard that must be!
I tried on numerous occasions to talk to him about where he thought he might be spending eternity, what I had learned in a sermon the previous week, or how God was moving in my life. But he never wanted to open up about what he thought, and didn't want me to pray for him out loud. (ha I did quietly:-)

All the medications, all the doctor's visits, all the decision making. Stacie came to be with me and Dad and Sherri at the very end.

I remember the last Thursday night, not sleeping. Listening as my Dad groaned loudly from his room. We took turns going in to be with him. We tried to give him pain medication, but he could no longer swallow. He desperately wanted to die at home, but we were having such trouble accomplishing that. So on Friday morning, we called hospice to come and get him. We would go with him. Dad was so unaware at that point. I read out loud from Revelations and from Romans. No response. Just groans turning into shouts of pain. After a while I called Rod and friends and asked them to pray with me for my Dad to die. He was hurting. We were hurting. Watching him suffer was unbearable to me. Please just let it end. Rod said, no, he couldn't pray for him to die, that he hadn't probably accepted the Lord. I said, you don't know what this is like.
I called my friend,Nanci. She cried with me.
The kind people from hospice came, but it was horrible when they took my Dad from his beloved home. I knew it was for the last time and I cried and cried.

I drove to the hospice facility. Stacie and I spend the night there. My friend Randy called around 5 or 5:30 and I was exhausted and could hardly understand him as I sat outside in the hospice courtyard. Then I heard Randy read from 2nd Corinthians, as though every other sound had ceased, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." It didn't fall into place immediately, but it pierced my heart for a reason. After I got off the phone with Randy, I went back in to see my Dad. Stacie had left to pick us up some dinner. I looked at my Dad laying there, being destroyed by cancer throughout his body, painful tumors actually protruding between his ribs. He was the frailest living thing I had ever seen, weaker than any newborn baby. He hadn't spoken or responded for 12 hours or more and each breath was a struggle. Every time in the past I tried to talk or read the bible to him, he rebuffed me. But with the words from 2nd Corinthians in my heart, I wondered if possibly, maybe God meant for me to try one more time.
I said, "Dad?"

He partially opened his eyes and smiled. Amazing. I asked, if he was ready to pray with me now and he nodded his head and I gripped his hand. I have no memory of the words I spoke, but the Lord knew what was in our hearts , and his grace was absolutely made perfect in our weakness that night.

My Dad waited until the last moments of life before submitting to the Lord, but I have no doubt that he did, and I have no doubt where he is spending this birthday. He is more alive at this moment than he ever was on Earth.

The Lord taught me so much through this too. I had so given up. Completely, totally 100% given up. For whatever reasons God could not, would not save this man.It was too late. And look how he suffered. I just wanted it to end. I was looking at the situation through tear stained human eyes, unable to see God's plan. But look what God did! (I just love saying that!) He snatched my Dad from the gates of hell. He loved my Dad and brought him home. He blessed the prayers of my family and extended family who prayed for him. My joy could not be greater.
Whenever I am tempted to think it is too late for God to move, that things have progressed too far for him to fix, I will remember that night, praying with my Dad.
(Above, Dad is in the back row, 3rd from left)
These documents show my Dad on his graduation day from the Air Force Fighter Pilot school, one of the proud moments of his life. I picture a new and different graduation document now dated Septemper 29,2006, the day he asked Jesus Christ to save him, and September 30,2006 the day of my Dad's death and entrance into everlasting life, the day Jesus answered that prayer. Happy Birthday Dad. I love you. I really can't wait to see you again.

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