Life can be so odd sometimes. You just never know what is going to happen. As I am writing this, I am trying to process the fact that my father passed away this morning. When my sister called me, I knew as soon as I saw the caller ID that it was bad news. My dad has been battling so much, for so long, and he fought to the very end. But, in the end, our earthly bodies can only sustain so much.
After I spoke to my sister, I went back to my room and sat on the edge of the bed and my mind was immediately flooded with images of the past. This photo, one only a couple that I have from my childhood, with my father, is by far my favorite. It's my dad, my brother Mike, and me. It was taken when I was about 2 1/2 years old...my dad had just returned from Vietnam.
For those who are asking themselves why I'm sitting here writing this on the morning my father passed away, I offer this answer. Everyone processes grief in different ways. It helps me to express my feelings this way. It may seem wrong or inappropriate to do something so public at a time like this, but for me, it's how I can process what I'm feeling. Speaking words right now is almost impossible. However, being able to put these thoughts down, in whatever form, is important to me. It's important to me to be able to express my feelings about this man I called dad...So, I write.
I wasn't always close to my father. In fact, there were years of separation and strain in our relationship. After I got married and became a father myself, we grew closer, as he desired a relationship with his grandchildren. I welcomed this because they needed their grandparents in their lives. As we all grew older, and life brought new challenges and change, our relationship changed. It wasn't always easy, and it certainly wasn't what you could describe as a traditional father and son relationship. I'm not saying this to be harsh or critical. It's just a fact of life. We never had a "traditional" relationship...I'm not sure if I would have understood that anyway.
During the last few years, his health went into decline. Multiple battles with cancer cost him the ability to breath and ultimately, proved to be the catalyst of his passing. His last bout of radiation therapy had caused some severe side effects, and when he developed pneumonia, his body no longer possessed the ability to maintain him. He was, without a doubt, an incredibly strong man. He fought and survived for much longer than even his doctors were willing to concede. In the end, he left us on his own terms...fighting to the very end.
I am greatly comforted by several thoughts right now. First and foremost, and probably very selfish in nature...I did get to speak to him one last time before he passed. After spending a week in ICU, the decision was made to let him go home, as there really was nothing else medically that could be done. Much to my surprise, he called me. Our conversation was short, but I will keep it in my heart forever. I got one last opportunity to tell him I loved him and that we were all praying for him. He wanted to make sure that my children and my wife knew how much he loved them. As much as it hurts to say this, I could tell in his voice that he knew his time was drawing near.
My other comfort was this...My father did not want to die alone, and he didn't. He was very emotional about this. With the current state of the world, and with his multiple health issues, he had already been "quarantined" for several months. When he went to the ICU a couple of weeks ago, it was very upsetting because my step mother and sister weren't allowed inside. He was greatly relieved when he got to come home...no doubt this was God's plan. His stay at home was short lived, but he was with my step mother when the end came, and I am so thankful for both of them that there was not separation at the end.
I will probably reflect more on this later on, but I want to express my love and appreciation to my sister Melissa, who has stood guardian during this extremely tough time...to my step mother Sandy, who has ALWAYS treated me like one of her own children...to my wife and children, who have worried so much about me and how I am doing...to my "family" and friends from Northwood Church for the outpouring of support and love the last few weeks...and most importantly...to Father God for giving me the insight and understanding of life and death, and how this is all part of his plan. We are only here a short time...we don't belong to each other, we are His children...we simply share our lives together, and I pray that when I leave this earthly body, I will see my father in Heaven when I go to see our Heavenly Father.
PEACE & LOVE
Husband, father, sinner saved by the Grace of God, old teacher, wood-worker, bad golfer, USM Golden Eagle (forever) and MSU Bulldog lover (It's a daughter thing)