Published June 2, 2009

Shelia Shares....
"...and Heaven's Gain"

So many thoughts are rambling in my mind. The past week has been a very difficult one.

On April 6, 2009, Mom went to be with Jesus. On May 27, Dad joined her. It seems fitting that they only spent seven weeks apart and now they have forever together.

I remember one special time for me. It was the day of Mom's visitation in April. We kids had been together in Dad's room at the nursing home. Then my siblings scattered to attend to various things. I told Dad I would sit with him until it was time for his lunch. I sat quietly and held his hand. He talked about Mom. He told stories of the past. We cried and laughed. Sometimes, we were silent. I hadn't been there when Mom died, but I kept vigil with my dad that morning as we grieved together just by being together. I cherish the fact that God gave me that couple of hours with Daddy, since I wasn't there to keep vigil as he passed away.

At my dad's funeral home visitation, one of my high school friends said, "That's something you don't hear very often." When I looked at him with a puzzled expression, he said, "You referred to your father several times as ‘Daddy.'" As later I listened to my brothers and sisters, we interchangeably use Dad and Daddy as we speak of our father. The relationship is a close one.

My dad had his first heart attack back in 1975. The doctors did heart bypass surgery that year and told him it was unsuccessful. They gave him five years to live. He outlived that five years by 29 extra years. He fought through heart attacks and strokes. He deserves his rest and it came peacefully on May 27.

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, my brother and sister-in-law asked Dad if he wanted to go for a ride. He grabbed his walker and was ready to go. They stopped by the cemetery so Dad could see where Mom was buried. They sat in the car there about twenty minutes while Dad reminisced. Then they drove down Kettle Road where my dad had attended school and also lived with his parents. After that, Dad wanted to stop by the cemetery once again. It was his final earthly goodbye to my mom.

I talked to Dad that evening by phone. Our conversation was brief since I knew he was very tired – so tired he could hardly talk. I told him we would be coming to see him and to have tickets for us to have lunch with him at the nursing home on Friday and Saturday. (This trip, the exact days we traveled for the funeral, was actually scheduled three months ago before my mom even got sick.) I told him I would pray that he would have a good rest and then I said, "Daddy, I love you," and he said, "Shelia, I love you." I didn't realize it would be our final conversation, but I'm glad for that wonderful memory. He did get the good rest I requested.

This past Monday (May 25th), Dad seemed fine. Towards evening, he took a turn for the worse, when his sugar spiked at over 500 and he developed a urinary track infection. His mind was clear and he refused any medication. Hospice was called in.

Wednesday during the day, my brother told me Dad was still holding his own. It was towards evening that everything changed. The rest of the family gathered, knowing the end was near. It was 11:50 p.m. when I got the call that Dad had slipped away. Through the shock, I asked if it was peaceful. It was. I told my brother we would see the family on Thursday. I hung up the phone knowing Paul had heard what was being said. I never said a word to him. He took hold of my hand. I lay there wide awake for a couple of hours. Finally, I slept and woke at 5:55 a.m. The first words I spoke after saying "goodbye" to my brother were "It's almost 6. I need to get up."

It was a shock to hear that my dad had died. Over the past 30 years, there were many times when Dad was near death's door and turned around and walked away. He had promised Mom he would be with her through her life if there was any way possible. He fulfilled that promise and didn't fight death any more. Although I knew Dad had died, I could not comprehend that he was dead. I didn't cry. I just functioned slowly. My first good cry came when I saw Dad at the visitation on Friday evening. By Saturday morning, the day of the funeral, I couldn't even read my e-mails because I couldn't stop the tears.

Some of you will understand when I say this was more difficult than when Mom died. I might be in my fifties, but I was suddenly an orphan. Who would I call to let them know we got home safely? Was there a reason to turn on my cell phone on Saturday if I could no longer call Dad? And, would I ever return to the Mio / Fairview area, where I had spent my first 22 years and returned several times each year after that? Suddenly, I was the "older generation." It is amazing the thoughts and feelings that are almost impossible to verbalize while dealing with grief and loss.

I have realized the greatest gift a parent can give their child is to die peacefully so there is absolutely no doubt that everyone knows where they have gone. Within the past two months, my parents gave me that gift.

The funeral service was as Dad wanted. He wanted congregational songs. We had four, including "Lord, I Am Fondly Earnestly Longing" and "Lift Your Glad Voices." Both local ministers were gone, so we asked William Miller to officiate. He is Dad's cousin and had visited Fairview and Dad on Sunday of that same week. Dad had two requests for the sermon. The first was that it be a message of salvation, and William presented that message so clearly and so simply. The second request of my dad was that it be short. (Showing his sense of humor even when facing death, my dad had stated that if it went over half an hour, he was going to sit up in the casket!) One of his favorite songs was "Payday Someday" by the Hayes Family. We had the recording of that played because of Dad's concern for the souls of family and friends.

Although the committal service was held at the church (because of the health of some people), we invited anyone to go to the cemetery for the burial. Again, we five children and spouses were able to carry Dad's casket from the hearse to where he would be buried. We watched the casket lowered and the vault sealed. Anyone attending was allowed to fill shovels and place the dirt in the grave. I don't know what anyone else was feeling, but as I placed my two shovels of dirt in the grave, I was telling my dad a final "goodbye" here and telling him how much I loved him. Wouldn't it be neat to know what he and Mom were thinking as they watched from heaven? Maybe someday I'll ask them.

And now begins the task of living, a little sadder and a little richer for knowing two Godly parents are with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

- Shelia

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