I had only been back home from New Mexico for a few weeks after my mother-in-law passed away, when my sister called saying that my dad’s health had gotten even worse.
I had to go back.
I had to talk to my dad before he passed away.
I had something I needed to talk to him about, or I would never have peace in my heart.
I got on the train again and went back, and I’ve been staying with my parents for the last two and a half weeks to help care for him.
When we brought Dad home from the hospital in January (at the same time my mother in law was in hospice in the same hospital), the decision was made that he would never go back to the hospital again. He hated being there, and his health was so poor that there was nothing they could really do to help him anyway.
He knew he was leaving so he could die where he wanted to be – at home with my mom.
I’m not going to lie – These weeks have been some of the most exhausting of my life. It was like the first weeks after giving birth, when you are up half the night, and you catnap every chance you get.
Dad had become very confused, and constantly wanted to get up and go somewhere. He had never been one to be fussed over, and in his confusion we couldn’t make him understand that he needed our help, so he wasn’t too happy that we kept jumping up to stop him every time he tried to crawl around the side of the hospital bed’s rails- usually in the middle of the night.
My mom, sister and I watched over him around the clock, and my nephew and nieces took turns staying with us during the night, so we could get some sleep between his restless times.
It was a time to pull together as a family, and make him as comfortable as possible, and help him enjoy any small pleasure he could in his final days.
It wasn’t easy.
Some days we were deliriously tired and laughed until we wet our pants.
Other days we screamed at each other and said things we didn’t mean.
We cried a lot.
I can’t tell you how times we were convinced he wouldn’t last another day, but he kept surprising us, and rallying through another day.
We were given the time to tell him we loved him.
We were given the time to tell him memories that were special to us.
We were given the time to tell him how much God loved him.
We were given the time to share a the Gospel with him one more time.
My mom, sister and I all sat down by him one evening, and we had the boldest conversation with the man we’d spent our lives with, but who was never open to “heart to heart” talks with us.
I asked him if he understood that he was standing at the doorstep of eternity, and would soon cross over that step.
He said he understood that.
I asked him if he was ready to stand before God.
He fidgeted and didn’t answer.
I asked him if he remembered the story of Jesus dying on the cross, and he said he did.
I proceeded to talk about the two criminals who hung next to Jesus on their own crosses.
I explained to my dad that one of those criminals taunted Jesus, and said if he really was the Son of God, why didn’t he get himself off that cross, and save them too?
Then I told him about the other criminal, who admitted that he deserved the punishment he was getting, but that Jesus had done nothing to deserve to hang on that cross.
That thief was in the final moments of his life, but he said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And Jesus answered him,“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
And then I explain that every single one of us are like those two thieves, and we all deserve to be punished.
But, we all have two choices, and only two. There is no middle ground.
We can be like the first criminal and shun the God who made and loves us.
Or we can be like the second criminal, and admit we deserve death and punishment, and humble ourselves and ask the Lord to forgive us.
I asked him which criminal he would be.
He didn’t answer.
My sister proceeded to share the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and how she’d lived a bad life, but Jesus forgave her.
He still didn’t answer.
Then my mom took his hand, and told him she wanted to be with him in heaven, and wanted him to be there waiting for her when she arrived.
She asked him if he wanted to go to heaven.
He said, yes.
She asked him if he could tell God he was sorry for his sins, and ask him to forgive him.
And he did.
He said the words we’d been waiting years and year to hear.
We pray the words were sincere, and that he wasn’t just trying to make my mom happy.
In this life, we’ll never know. We can only hope he meant it, and like that like the thief on the cross, was forgiven in the eleventh hour of his life, and we’ll see him again someday.
So, yesterday was my Father’s Day…he passed away in his home, with his wife by his side, knowing we all loved him.
I love you.