My phone was on silent when he was rushed to the hospital. We were hundreds of miles away at the True Woman conference in Fort Worth when the nurse left her urgent message on my voice mail. She couldn’t reach me because my husband and I were on the platform praying over the group of women who responded to our marriage video. I didn’t have a clue that my father was struggling for his life at that very hour.
Prayers and tears filled the long trip home, miles passing too slowly. I ached thinking of him lying there, confused and fearful. He battled lymphoma for ten years and when it finally took over his brain, it left him with limited cognitive abilities and in an almost childlike condition. Helping to care for him consumed much of the previous 4 years.
When we finally walked into his room in the ICU, I knew his sojourn here was almost over.
Long ago memories flooded my mind for the next three weeks. A continual reel-to-reel seemed to be running, like the home movies Daddy used to play every holiday.
In my earliest memory, I’m sitting on his broad shoulders and we’re hunting Easter eggs. The green hill we climbed, the sunshine, the laughter, the enjoyment of that day is forever fixed in my heart. Throughout my life I continued to ride on those shoulders in a sense.
He motivated and inspired me—always gently pushing me onward.
He birthed my love for the outdoors, travel, and adventure. He taught me to meet challenges head on, and gave me the willingness to try new things and persevere through adversity. He passed on to me his conscientious work ethic and respect for authority.
He was a true encourager—so sincerely honest that when he gave praise you knew he meant it. He believed I could accomplish anything I put my mind to, and his confidence pushed me through many a difficult task.
In the final days of his life, the staff let me choose his room on the hospice floor. I picked one with a recliner where I could sleep beside him. The illuminated cross above the hospital flooded light through our window.
Being bathed in that light was a nightly reminder that I was under the cross, held by an unseen grace, preparing for an eternity purchased by blood spilt there.
I asked the Lord to let me be with Daddy when he stepped through the doorway to the eternal. I promised him he wouldn’t be alone, that I’d stay with him through to the end. I told him that often in the final days.
This would be my final gift to my father.
My father was with me at every major event of my life and I wanted to be with him when his battle here was finished. I didn’t want to miss accompanying him to his most important appointment. He knew where he was going. From the time he gave his life to Christ as a teen, his faith never wavered. But as cancer ate away his mind, he became more a child than a man and he grew fearful of being alone.
A vibrant young man, full of hopes and dreams, held me during my first wriggling and squalling moments. A much older daughter than the one he welcomed to the world, held him as he departed.
It’s been almost four years since he stepped through that doorway, and not one day has passed without an awareness of his impact on my life. I’m keenly mindful that it won’t be long and I’ll be taking my own final journey, crossing over that threshold to the eternal, the true reality, the unending life, the “Great Story.”
I’m looking forward to that day . . .
The final scene in The Great Battle by C. S. Lewis always stirs me with fresh anticipation for that crossing. Ancient Narnia is passing away and all who’ve served Aslan will begin their new lives in his country.
“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
I am looking forward to that beginning; to entering His eternal country where “every chapter is better than the one before.” He’s given us a glimpse of that day:
[box]And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)[/box]
Each passing day draws us closer to that eternal country; to His open arms and our new beginnings.
Do you long for that?
Are you preparing for that day?
Will I see you there?