On this day, I remember.
I remember for the sake of my mother.
I remember for the sake of my children.
I remember for my own heart.
On this day. Three years ago.
Following a phone call from my brother, and a 5 hour drive from Riverside to Merced, Kris and I had arrived at the hospital the day before. We were greeted with mixed tears and smiles. Gladness for our arrival. Complete sorrow for my father’s condition.
He had a stroke.
Doctor’s did not have positive feedback, but we held onto hope.
Late into the evening we stayed by his side, taking turns to hold his hand and talk to him, while others napped in the waiting room.
Sara and Matt arrived from Texas. Daniel arrived from North Carolina.
Motel reservations were made across the street and many of us decided it was best to get a few hours of rest.
Daniel and Kris would stay with Dad through the night. Keeping him company. Each wanting a little bit more time by his side.
I would later learn that Kris read to him through the night from the book of Joshua–my Dad’s favorite. Be strong and courageous were repeated time and again.
His condition deteriorated with the passing hours. The monitors reported the worst.
Daniel called us early in the morning and said we needed to come back.
Teeth brushed. Bras back on.
I knocked on Andrew and Susie’s door.
Mom and I drove back to the hospital in the dark of the morning and parked in the wrong spot. We had to walk to a different door because it was late in the night, and security was only present at a front entrance.
We stood by his side and waited.
Michael arrived. Dad’s first Bible and photos in hand. We would take this time to remember.
We knew it was time to say goodbye.
I began to lead in song. Kris says I led worship, in a joyous sense. Like our own version of a New Orleans jazz band playing “Oh When the Saints” as we marched through the grave yard.
We all pulled out our tablets and Bibles, sharing scriptures, songs, and stories.
We each took turns leading a song or sharing our heart.
Mac and Bre and Sonna stayed with us the entire time. They shared their own stories too. Sonna recalled her own mothers passing and Dad’s presence there during her own difficult time.
The nurses came with difficult decisions to make. We agreed to preserve his body, donating nothing to science. We didn’t want them to take his body away, but instead wanted to stay with him until the last goodbye.
I reminded my mother that our little Dani Blue Eyes had Grandpa’s eyes and he would never be forgotten.
His heart rate started to drop around 9:00 am and then spiked quickly. I shouted, “He just saw Jesus.”
We tried to laugh.
Then up and down and up and down his heart went. A longing to continue down the streets of gold and yet keeping one foot in the world with his grieving family. Like the Carman song he loved so much.
“Lord, if my loved ones only knew
The limitless wonders of Heaven
If they could steal but one brief glimpse of glory
I know what they would do”
“Because they loved me, they’d never ask
That I return to the confines of my human body
Lord, I can’t go back, please let me stay with You”
We cheered him on to the finish line. He had fought the good fight, like the boxers he admired so much. The final bell had rung and Dad had thrown his final punch.
And then like a good Baptist, he died at 10:30, letting go, just in time for service—the most glorious service of all in the presence of an amazing God.
And I sang,
“Going up to the spirit in the sky. That’s where I’m gonna go when I die. When I die and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.”
He was gone from us. His spirit gone and quickly he became cold here in our presence. I turned to Kris and proclaimed quietly, “Let’s get out of here. He is gone. That’s not my Dad anymore. He is gone.”
Gone in this life. Fully alive in Christ.
“Master, only You make all things new
For You alone are Lord and God, Saviour and King
And forever and ever, throughout all eternity
I’ll join the hosts of heaven
As they praise You day, after day, after day.”
We said goodbye.
And after finalizing a few hospital details, we all went to eat hot dogs and root beer at Sonics.
Dad would have liked that.