Dad left us Friday about 8:25 am.
The end started for me when the phone rang about 9:15 pm on Tuesday. It had started snowing and it remained yet to be seen in my eyes as to how bad the snow storm would be. But the hospice worker on the other end of the phone let me know there was some serious things that had changed about my father's condition. But he assured me that I did not need to come to the nursing home right then. But I was concerned and on Wednesday even thought the snow and ice was crippling all of Metro Atlanta I knew I needed to go to see him.
We found dad in bed and awake. He smiled when he saw me. He tried to speak but no words came. I talked to him about how he felt? He shook his head and pointed to his chest. He coughed some, but I could tell he was very weak. He was very, very, warm. I spoke more and the only response I got was when I said, "I love you!" He mouthed the words and they were barely audible as he said, "I love you too."
Then the devastating news from the nurse. He has pneumonia and some internal bleeding. It did not look good. Decisions had been long ago been made that at dad's age and because of his dementia to not purse testing or hospital care. The reality of those decision was questioned in my mind, but this was daddy's decision.
Leaving the Nursing home I had to make the trip to see mom. She had the right to know now that things looked dismal. She cried. The pain for her was robbing her of hope she carried for so long. Her hope was that daddy would get better. Now her son is telling her that her wonderful husband of 66 years is likely not going to make more than a day or so. And to top it off he is also telling her she cannot go to see right him now due to the severity of the snow storm. That was one of thousands of difficult moments in this long ordeal.
Leaving mom Kathy and I went home. Several phone calls to Ross Memorial, and once again the Hospice workers confirmed his decline. I ask the Nursing Home for a private room and they were more than helpful. I went to bed knowing I would go to his side when I awoke. It was midnight when I did. Kathy being the blessing she is was right at my side as we went into find my father in the obvious fight for his life.
The next 32 hours I stayed almost constantly at daddy's bedside watching, listening to his labored breathing, praying for him, singing to him, reading to him. Many times these words came out of my mouth, "It is ok daddy. We will take care of mom. You can go to be with Jesus. You do not have to fight." I said these words knowing his impending death was coming and that this was the best thing for him.
Faith is tested in moments like these. Faith is strained and pulled. Faith is hammered in the hot flames of the emotional struggle to tell the man you admire and love so much that It is OK for him to die. And on Friday morning at 8:35 with my wife and daughter, I held his hand as he took his last breath and slid into eternity.
Tomorrow we will celebrate his life with a service. I have preached hundreds of funeral and memorial services. Crafting words of comfort with the truth of Scriptures is something God has enabled me to do effectively in the past for many people. This time it is for my mother, my brother and me. Our family is loving and caring and full of faith. We will be strong, but there is a real loss for us all.
I have preached services for aunts, uncles, grandparents, and dear friends. But never for my daddy. I will only do this once and I pray The Lord gives me a few words to express the best about the wonderful man that the Lord gave me as my father in this world.
The service is tomorrow at 2:00 pm at Bernhardt Funeral Home in Ellijay. Dad will have military honors. His six grandsons will carry him to his grave. Much will be shared about this man.
As I have written this I have cried some. I have laughed some. I have thought and prayed a lot. But as I finish writing about my dad for the moment I am smiling. Why because of what I know. Yes I know the Truth. And the Truth will set you free. Thank you Jesus for the peace that has come to me.