Friday, September 16, 2016
Well Done Good and Faithful Servant
Last week we said goodbye to my father. Even typing the words seem a bit surreal to me. Did it really happen? Yet I know it did, for the hollow ache in my heart tells me so.
I had prayed for miracles through the years and God answered those prayers in amazing ways. My father lived to the age of 85, when by all standards he should have been gone a while ago. He beat odds. He survived quadruple bypass heart surgery, a fall down bleacher stairs at a high school stadium. He made it through several bouts of congestive heart failure, kidney issues and several hospital stays. But on Sunday, September Fourth at 1:58 p.m. that strong heart stopped beating.
I drove to Sewickley hospital that morning knowing Dad was back on the ventilator once again. He'd signed DNR before, but continued to give the "ok" when asked if he wanted to try one more time. I think he was doing it for my family. Always thinking of others, especially my mom, this man would have given his last breath for another.
I knew what my mission was that morning. I'd spent three weeks watching Dad go downhill, then upward. Making it through what seemed to be routine gallbladder surgery that you or I could easily bounce back from, Dad fought a good fight. Yet I knew he was tired, weary, worn out. I saw it in his eyes, those bright eyes so full of life were now telling me another story. "I'm ready," they seemed to say. "Let me go home."
I arrived at the hospital around 8 a.m. And I found Dad to be unresponsive, yet breathing with all the bells and whistles attached to him. Mustering my courage and faith, I began to speak softly to him. I told him it was time to go home. He'd done all he could for us. He deserved his Heavenly reward now. I mentioned to Dad that he had two other children waiting with open arms for him. That my brother and I had been blessed to know him all this time, but now the babies my mother had lost were ready to meet him; ready to love him.
I thanked him for everything he'd been to me, and all he'd taught me. I promised that Mom would be taken care of. I laid my head upon his chest as tears poured from my eyes.
Later in the day, when my mother and other family friends arrived, and it was time to make the decision to let Dad go, I could not stay in the room. I walked to the chapel in the hospital, but it was too dark in there for me. I knew outside the sun was shining brightly. How my father loved the outdoors! So I went out into the bright day, walking around the well-tended grounds of the hospital, looking at flowers, watching butterflies and birds all around me; something my father and I would have enjoyed together.
I found a wooden bench at the front of the hospital, and sat down, raising my face to the brilliant sun. Cardinals chirped cheerfully across the street, though I could not see them, but I knew the sound intimately. Moments passed, prayers continued. When inside my innermost being I heard my father's voice clearly: "The nightmare is over."
Now I must pause and explain. One of my Dad's favorite phrases had always been, "What a nightmare," as he described things that upset him, bills that arrived, hospital visits that were unplanned, and how poorly he'd been feeling lately. But he'd always said it with a sort-of giggle to his voice--a way of making light of difficult situations.
Perhaps a minute or two after I'd heard the voice, I received a text from a family friend asking me to tell her when I was back in the waiting area. I texted back: Why, is he gone?
My father had passed peacefully in that same moment I heard his voice. Always the jokester, I imagine Dad needed to tell me he was free, in that silly way, and goofy sentence he would have known I'd understand. I will never forget that moment. I will treasure God's love and light shining on me as the sun warmed me and the words from my father, now young, now free of pain and grief, tears and suffering echoed in my heart.
I know that somewhere else, my father was also hearing the words: Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.