It's been a difficult few years since my mom passed away. To be honest, it wasn't just my mom's death from which my dad never recovered, it was a whole onslaught of things that had happened before they had even moved from Connecticut to Williamsburg, but that's a story for another time (actually, my wife thinks that I might write a book on the last few years of my life).
I have had the flexibility to be able to travel back and forth to Williamsburg to be with my dad. We enjoyed lunches together at his favorite place, Ruby Tuesday. Once in a while, we would live on the edge and go to Panera Bread. My dad always had a sweet tooth and would eye the pastries at Panera with a craving look. Of course, I knew that he wasn't feeling great when he didn't even consider them anymore.
Once in a while, I would bring him by the cemetery to visit my mom's grave. I'm not sure if I did it for both of us, I'd like to think that I did. We had some very difficult moments there as he would sit on his Roll-Aider and I would stand or kneel with him. There were moments that seemed unbearable, probably for both of us, as we stood or sat there contemplating all that life had handed us.
What I saw in those moments was a tired warrior who had been beaten down by the storms of life. My dad seemed a shell of who he had once been and he needed me to be his advocate. That prompting changed my approach towards him for the remainder of his days. I did my best to avoid a selfish approach towards our times together. I savored the moments that I had and tried not to push too hard.
Somewhere along the way, I imagine that it was my wife, the counselor, who gave me the litmus test for making decisions when it came to Dad. Every time that I had an opportunity or felt a prompting to go and be with him or see him, I would ask myself, "If I don't go and something happens, how would I feel about it?" I did not want to live with regret, at least regret that could have been eliminated had I followed my gut instincts.
Up until Dad's final breath, that's exactly what I did, I seized the moments that I was capable of seizing. My emotional and physical energy bank has been running on empty for some time with all that I have endured, so I knew that I still needed to maintain my own physical and emotional health in the midst of it all. There were times when I had to say 'no' because I knew that it would push me over the edge, one way or another. There were times when I had to say 'yes' even though I knew it would push me over the edge.
Even the night before Dad died, my wife and I had been anticipating (maybe it was just me who was anticipating) a Bob Dylan concert that we had planned months in advance. I had resigned myself to the fact that, if Dad died, I would be okay with that. Thankfully, he lasted through the night and I was able to spend the entire day with him prior to his homegoing.
One of the "grace" moments that I realized in the midst of this all was that I had been with both of my parents as they breathed their final breaths. On the way home from Williamsburg the night Dad died, I asked my wife if I had over-romanticized their deaths. I am an arranger by nature and I wondered if I had tried too hard to arrange the perfect situation. At the same time, I am confident that God's grace extends to us and He knows what we need. I felt like He gave me exactly what I needed with both of my parents.
I was blessed to be with Dad when he passed and I was singing "Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling" when he breathed his last breath. Honestly, I could not have asked for much more other than having had my brother with me. Dad is no longer in pain. He is at peace. His temporary sufferings are just a flicker compared to the glory that he is experiencing in Jesus Christ.
My heart will continue to feel broken and incomplete and I will continue to mourn, but I have no regrets. Sure, I wish Dad and I could have talked more and I could have heard more stories, but there will be a day when stories can be shared. In the meantime, I put my hope and trust in God alone. I grieve not as ones who have no hope, but as one who trusts in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What a glorious day that will be when we are reunited. I love you Dad. Tell Mom I said hello and I will see you guys sometime in the blink of an eye.