Updated: Jul 28, 2022
I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away. When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.
Beloved brothers and sisters, you have journeyed with me for a few years as my parents aged and grew more precious with each passing year. Thank you! Now Daddy has passed on, and I’d like to share a few things I’m grateful for.
I am grateful for the many hours I spent with Daddy during the final weeks. It was so hard for him to breathe or to talk, but he still smiled, murmured yes or no, gave out a few words. He squeezed my hand, he smiled and said, “I love you too” when I told him I loved him (about a million times).
Even in incapacity, Daddy was still walking in the good works God was delighted to prepare for him to the last. He was a model of sweet character and endurance. He was working so hard to breathe, but he was patient with his roommates, kind to staff, warm with love towards friends and family. His endurance called me to endure too. Daddy was my leader and teacher to the end.
Throughout his life, Daddy had a passion for loving people and taking care—care of family, friends and co-workers, care of strangers through mission giving, care of our amazing earth through environmental and conservation giving. Not a few of the nurses told me that it can be important to release people from the responsibility to care that they may feel as death nears. How does one do that? Rather than just blurt out, “We’re going to be ok when you die, Dad,” God gave me some inspiration both in prayer and in speaking on Daddy’s last day.
It was early afternoon. I knelt by the bed, holding Dad’s hand, and prayed a prayer of gratitude to God. I thanked God that children and grandchildren were all established and had “turned out well”. With a start, I noticed I was praying thanks for “my” daughters, “my” grandchildren (Huh?! That’s weird!) as if it really was him praying. I leaned into the pronoun and thanked God for the years of my career; the blessing of friends; the many people I mentored; the years of hiking and making friends with trees, flowers, and mountains; and seventy years of marriage with my beloved wife. At the Amen, he nodded and squeezed my hand.
A little later, I spoke about financial things, and how mom was well-taken care of, how he had put everything in place so that after his passing, she would have everything she needed. He had launched his daughters and they were there looking after mom, too. Nothing to worry about.
After the late afternoon dose of meds, I prepared to take a break and go home for dinner. I walked to the bedside to say, “goodbye for now.” It seemed hard to leave. Dad’s eyes were closed as they had been for most of the day. Jesus’ words on the cross, “Into your hands, I commit my spirit,” came into my mind (Luke 23:46, Psalm 31:5). I told him I would be gone for just a little bit and then said, “I commit you and your life into the hands of Jesus.”
I turned to the door and began pulling off the yellow gown. I looked back and saw Dad’s blue eyes were wide open and fixed on the window. I ran back. He was breathing, it seemed, but only his jaw was moving. In another minute or so, all was still. I ran for the nurse. She listened carefully to his chest. “There’s no heartbeat.” It was 6:05pm.
The words, “It is finished” came into my mind. Jesus did all this too, this dying. My Daddy was following a known way. He, too, had a leader and teacher to the end. And the suffering was truly finished.
It took a couple hours for the funeral home to come for his body. It was very peaceful in the profound silence with the oxygen concentrator turned off, just sitting, looking on his face, trying to grasp that he was no longer with me. My sister called and asked, “Are you alone?”
“Yes, but I don’t feel alone. You’ve been here with me, the whole time, on the phone, with texts. We’ve done this together. I’m surrounded by the loving staff. And I’ve had so much communication with family and my Bible study. I don’t feel alone.”
They took Daddy away around 9:00pm. These lines from, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” flashed into my mind: “Lord, I told the undertaker. Undertaker, please drive slow. For this body you are hauling, Lord, I hate to see her go.”
Yes, I hated to see him go. But how grateful I am that his death is a flight to heaven and that the circle of love will one day be unbroken.