“As I sat by his bedside, he slept. Between the cancer spread all throughout his body and the many medications, he slept more often than not. He seemed to wake every four hours or so, usually in need of more meds. It was during these short times that we were able to communicate. He had been disoriented and hazy all week and his speech was failing. We weren’t sure he even recognized us most of the time and he didn’t often reply, but we were taking every opportunity we could to speak to him. And today, whenever he awoke, his eyes were wide open and he put a lot of effort into his words. As if he knew that this was his last day.
He opened his eyes and saw me, sitting by his bed with my red and puffy eyes and he gave me that father look. That look so full of quiet emotion that I can only imagine he gave me the very first time he held me on the day I was born…”
It’s hard to believe it was March when I began writing these words. Harder still to believe that so much time has already passed since that painful February day when my father passed away. I’ve written about the happy. The sweet moments, the engagement, the wedding. But today it’s time to write about one of the most heartbreaking days of my life; and that’s an easy thing to put off. In fact, by now you may have forgotten there was even going to be a 5th part to this series.
We had talked my times before his death about the importance of hope. The importance of knowing that because of the faithful love of Christ, no matter how painful the grief became we did not grieve without hope. And through this shared knowledge, we were each able to see God’s hand so evidently in dad’s last days.
He was surrounded by prayer and love, being read to from God’s Word each day. And to be present in his hospital room was to know just the kind of man that God had brought him to be. A man who pointed others toward the truth so passionately and faithfully, whose careful study of the Word changed so many lives for the better, and whose love for Christ did not waiver to the very end.
On the day of his passing, he was visited by many. But by late afternoon I sat beside his bed alone and watched as he slept peacefully. I held his hand in mine and willed back the tears, but they would not be controlled. I had always loved his hands. They were big and strong, calloused from years of hard work. And though cancer had changed so much of his appearance, his hands were still very much as they always had been. A little softer, a little weaker, but still the hands that I had been holding since birth. And I knew this was one of the last times I would be able to do so.
When he opened his eyes, I smiled through my tears. He grasped my hand and watched the tears sliding down my cheeks. I read him a note sent that morning by his best friend and he nodded with emotion. I told him that his mom was on her way and that she loved him.
Still choking back tears, I squeezed his hand gently and said, “I love you.” Though speech was difficult, he responded, “I love you, too.” And that was the last thing my father said to me.
That night, around 10pm, his breathing began to slow down and I ran to get the nurse. I held his hand as she listened intently for his fading heartbeat. The room was silent. And then she confirmed that he had passed.
The next days were a whirlwind of viewing, funeral, burial. As beautiful as a funeral could be, to be honest. Utterly and completely saturated with the Gospel, just as he had wanted.
It’s been six months now. I miss him incredibly much. The grief still takes me off guard at times and our family is still adjusting. Earlier this month I stood in the aisle of the grocery store, staring intently at the shelves of back to school supplies in an attempt to will back the tears that seemingly came out of nowhere.
But the beauty is that we aren’t grieving without hope. We are not enduring this as if it were a senseless act. Instead we are able to see the amazing work that God did through the life and death of my father. We are able to praise God, even as we ache, for His sovereignty and faithfulness. Because we know that we are not promised health and happiness in this world, but that when we are His He will always redeem our tears and work good from our pain. And that because of Christ’s offered salvation, death is simply the doorway that takes us into the presence of our Savior.
This is the legacy of hope that my father has left behind. This is his epitaph. That God demonstrated his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:8-10).
To listen to sermons preached by my father, click here.