I love this picture of my dad, because it so epitomizes how he lived his life, head on. He was not afraid of a good fight and fought with gusto, sometimes to his own detriment, but more often victorious. He felt his convictions deeply and wasn't shy about sharing them. My mother was the perfect helpmeet for him as she often tempered his zeal with a calm hand and a loving heart.
There was another side to my dad though, one that would still whisper sweet nothings in my mothers ear after decades of marriage and she would still blush, one that would sit and read a novel to his mother-in-law while she convalesced after a stroke, one that would go out to the streets on Sunday morning to feed the homeless. He would take along a boom box and a microphone and sing hymns. Dad loved to sing and some days you would find him and mother sitting at the piano, her plunking out a hymn and him singing along.
October 4, 2002 is a day I will not long forget. I don't want to forget. One day my boys are going to ask me about their grandpa, my dad, and I want them to know what he meant to me and how much I loved him. His strength, his gentleness, his convictions and his compassion, his love for the Lord and his love of life. This is the day he died.
He had cancer. A cancer that took five years to claim his body, one that caused him immeasurable pain, but that he never complained about, but that you could see in his face when he thought you weren't looking. So worried was he that he would become addicted to the pain meds that he rarely took them, but when they finally put him on a morphine drip at the end he was too tense from the pain to feel the release offered.
He died at home. My sister and I had the privilege of caring for him in the last years of his life and we wouldn't have had it any other way. Some might have thought it burdensome, but oh what we would have missed if we had not.
It was early morning when my sister woke me and told me it wouldn't be long now. Only a few hours left to say goodbye. I stood at his side, wanting to hold his hand but knowing that any touch caused him anguish. My brother had asked the pastor to come pray for him, with him and they had just left. Only me, my sister-in-law and Aunt remained in the room. They sat at the end of the bed thumbing through a hymnal looking for a particular song. Humming and singing when they found a familiar tune, and then they came across the hymn "I'll Fly Away", and as they started to sing Dad went home to Jesus. It was almost like he was waiting for permission to go and when he heard the words of that old hymn his spirit felt sweet release from the earthly bonds that held him. As the tears started to roll down my cheeks, I could barely speak, but managed to whisper, "He's gone", just loud enough for them to hear.
Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away.
Some say that hymn is a bit cliche and overdone, and maybe it is, but if it didn't have the power to stir ones soul we wouldn't still sing it. To be quite honest, until that day I had never really paid attention to the words, but now I will not forget them. If you have never heard it or read the lyrics, I hope that someday you will.
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
I miss both my parents so very much and it doesn't get any easier but perhaps a little bit more bearable as the years slip into decades. My heart aches for them and for my forever home and the promised someday reunion, when I get my wings and fly away.
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2.
Isn't that a lovely promise, one that makes you hold on to life, one that makes for joyful living?