Dad won’t be celebrating his birthday with us this year — GOD had different plans for that day and is having it fully catered in Paradise. He stepped into eternity at the start of last month; so it looks like we’ll be celebrating this one in his absence. Today would have been his 92nd birthday.
I’m still a bit numb, as I haven’t had much time to clear away the cobwebs of these recent weeks. Caring for mother simultaneously made for some ‘busy’ days — I guess you could say I’m still in fast forward mode. That could be a good thing if you want to avoid all the emotions that are backing up. Or that could result in a dam breaking when I finally exhale.
As I sorted through a few personal belongings, memories began to flood my mind and I found myself quietly chuckling as those past moments seemed to vividly play out before me. The photographs from years gone by, some black and white, some with a few words to notate an event or date, some tattered through the survival of making their way thousands of miles from their place of origin.
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 AMP
This is the hope that we cling to as we silently watch our loved ones slip into eternity. Through the pain we feel and the tears that we shed, we are confident that those who have believed in the Lord as Savior shall be reunited with us once again. It is not easy to swallow — I know this firsthand from other family members that have gone ahead of me. As I see them joining together now, I realize how imminent the time seems and how important it is to convey this message of salvation and hope to those who have yet to accept and receive.
I thought I was going to lose my mind when I received the phone call from the hospital that dad’s condition was not improving — and not expected to either. Some words became a blur and then I heard the word, ‘hospice’ in the conversation … and it suddenly hit me that GOD was changing my plans and He was calling dad home.
It comforts me to know that I did the best that I could offer him right up until his last meal. My dad comes from a genetic line of healthy appetites — my family enjoys a good meal with family. The men in our family can really cook well — he gave me a few recipes that I managed to keep close and in my mental files (who needs written recipes when you’ve got tastebuds). Just hours before he was taken to the hospital for what we thought would be to get a prescription, I cooked up a breakfast for him that he enjoyed to the very last bite. The only difference in this meal was that I had to feed it to him. All other meals he had the pleasure of feeding himself. I innately knew there was something off when I realized he needed my help.
When the nurse called me to say that his time was ‘nearing,’ I went into a mini denial moment. ‘Dad, but you’re the strong and determined one … you did all the right things … please not now … please not yet …” But GOD had ordered dad’s steps to walk in His Direction.
As I chatted with the hospital chaplain, I found myself starting to preach — sharing the hope of my faith. As the gentle man on the other end of the conversation continued to ‘comfort and console’ me, I found myself speaking words of Scripture to him:
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 AMP
In his well-meaning soft spoken voice, this chaplain began to affirm the Scripture verses — I even detected a few ‘amens’ amidst the chatter. As I expressed my deeply rooted faith in these and other verses, I could detect the chaplain relaxing — this was a different kind of conversation, I’m sure, not the typical one that he is accustomed to when comforting family members of those not to be discharged from the hospital. But if my faith were to rise up at any time, this was that pivotal moment. This was GOD’s moment to be seen and heard in me. And I was going to step aside and let Him take front and center.
Making the choice to honor my Heavenly Father by honoring my earthly father was a conscious decision — and part of that decision was to let him go ahead of me into eternity with me waving goodbye to him from my iPhone through a hospital tablet in his room. Reassuring dad that we will only be apart for a short time; but that we will all be together again when it’s all said and done. Dad knew his Savior and was confident in Him. And with that I vaulted the memory of his face into my heart — until I can exchange it for the healthy and whole one that I will see again in Paradise.
holding out and offering to everyone the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to rejoice greatly because I did not run [my race] in vain nor labor without result. Philippians 2:16 AMP
Sharing this hope is what our Journey is meant for — so that those who wander don’t have to and can have peace. To embrace life the way it was intended for us while we work things out and labor towards the mark of our high calling according to GOD’s Plan for each one of us — that’s what we rejoice in. Because we are yet in our imperfect condition, this Journey called life is not experienced without pain and sorrow. Yet we who are in Christ don’t linger and remain in that place of hurt since we know this is not our home.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21 ESV
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2 ESV
I will say that this past month has been the hardest thing for me to endure — but it has also caused me to grow in so many, many ways. As if I could almost hear both my dad and my Heavenly Father leading me from where I sit to fulfill one of the greatest challenges that I’ve had to face. To let go of the earthly and to hold fast onto the heavenly.
May my life be one like my dad’s, as he lived life to the fullest — he loved well his children and grandchildren and great-grandchild. He applauded the accomplishments of others and championed the young ones to do their utmost best. He was generous with his possessions and with his time — he loved to spend both on those he loved. His humor and laughter will be forever remembered — that familial practical joker in him made him one with his bloodline. He was a man of ‘can do’ and ‘I’ll find a way’ for the sake of pouring out comfort onto the pathways of those needing assistance.
I can say with confidence that Dad’s last few steps showed the way for those coming up behind him.
There was no doubting that he trusted GOD as his Saviour. Time and again he would remind his grandchildren to take heed and be secured in the Protection of the Lord. Whenever he could, he would say, “Believe me when I say this … ” And they do.
I love you to Heaven and Back, Dad ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary