Actually that was his name, but I called him “Daddy”.
He was a sweet and kind man who studied the scriptures to show himself approved. Evidently, in his youth, he was quite an ornery mess. I didn’t know him then, but I see him in his grandson, my son, and I can imagine. Oh I can imagine.
Sensitivity was always a strength of his. He and my mom spent their lives helping and loving others (especially children). He was a bleeding heart, and he taught me the importance of being aware and empathic, in action, to the human condition.
My greatest respect for him came later in his life when the Holy Spirit spoke to him and he responded with great faith. He had attended church for years, studied his bible and did good deeds. However his church wasn’t one that preached about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with any present tense in mind, and my dad grew weary of attending as the Spirit nudged him outside of his comfort zone. In daddy’s 70’s, the Lord’s sanctification process was still working within him with a vengeance. “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
I’ll never forget his phone call to me to tell me, as he put it, “I have a little bit of the cancer.” He was calm, almost jovial, and I knew that was strictly for my benefit. You see, despite my daddy’s great love for the Lord, he battled a spirit of fear for most of his life. If one of us were sick, he would labor over our illness, granting every wish of relief he could find. When our mom had her hysterectomy, I was sure she was on death’s door because he offered no reassurance otherwise and repeatedly told us how serious it was. His illnesses were paramount. Everyone in the house knew his distress and my mom remained “the rock” when he was convinced of his demise.
Still, he lived life with a passion. He could power through almost any illness to attend a ballgame or a school board meeting. He was enthusiastic about politics, religion, and the rights of children and the downtrodden. I’ve witnessed him face red and blood pressure high advocating for the rights of others. I’ve felt pride that exists only in those who see someone they love doing what is absolutely right. I held onto his words about rights, freedom, Jesus’ love, and the importance of giving. I watched he and my mom show mercy and forgiveness to those who I thought (at the time) did not deserve it – including myself.
They say that when a patient hears the word “cancer” they hear nothing else after it. Cancer changes things. Like the cells themselves, life goes from normal to abnormal and cancer invades every aspect of your being and your family. Prognosis prepared, prayers said, books read, internet researched, questions asked, ATTACK planned. I thought I had prepared myself for my dad having been diagnosed with cancer. I had not prepared myself for the turnabout in roles we were about to face.
My sister and sister-in-law were the most active in his treatment and taking him to doctor appointments and chemotherapy. Living several hours away, I came home for the “big stuff” like hospitalizations and removing him from hospitalizations. My sister calls me the “mean one”. So anytime someone had to be firm – that someone was me. I’d like to think I am outspoken and a little stubborn, like my daddy, and not necessarily mean, but at the end of the day, someone’s gotta wear the hat.
Mom said daddy would walk around the house saying, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. I couldn’t have agreed more. During a hospitalization about six months after his diagnosis, we felt sure we would lose him. He was distraught, vomiting, and in tremendous pain. We were able to work out plans to have him moved to another hospital where my niece worked. It was just him and me waiting on the transfer. He was so pitiful all curled up in a fetal position. I realized then the meaning of the phrase “shell of a man”. This was my daddy – weak and without much fight. Tears in his eyes, he begged me for more pain meds (they had just given him some). I desperately wanted to help, yet I was helpless. Please God don’t let it end this way. It didn’t.
Daddy rebounded and the cancer was undetected. For one year we enjoyed a respite from the cancer sentence. And then, we were back. My sister once again faced the task of sitting through the treatment options. Daddy was determined to do as the doctor recommended. I hoped to change his mind.
It was him and me again in a hospital room, but this time he was sitting up and talking. I told him all that I had researched and explained everything that we would do to keep him with us. He looked up at me from his seated position on the bed and said, “I believe everything you tell me”. Nothing could have prepared me for those six words. I excused myself and walked out of the room barely making it to the corridor before the tears fell. “No – daddy – no! I believe everything you tell me. This is not the way it should be. I don’t know what I”m doing here. I’m not strong enough to do this. Lord help me!”
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 My “go to” guy was putting me in the driver’s seat, and I didn’t want to be there. The Lord was with us and held us as my research and good intentions would not keep my sweet daddy here on earth.
A couple of days before his 80th birthday, daddy suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. His birthday came and we celebrated his life hoping that he could hear the songs we played him, the prayers we said for him, and the words of love we spoke to him. Four days later he was gone.
In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The death of a loved one is an amputation.” I have to agree. I can still feel him. I just can’t touch him. This guy – he was special, and I was privileged to call him daddy, and he taught me about life, and letting go of pride, and being vulnerable, and then, he trusted me to pass on the lesson.