Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things my dad has taught me

I am sitting at the foot of my dad's bed in the Hospice Unit at Baptist Hospital in Columbia, SC.  He is nearing the end of his life.  I know he is comfortable and ready to go because he has told  me so.  Watching him slip away is both excruciatingly painful and beautiful.  He has talked of beautiful trees, a moat surrounding the most beautiful place he has ever seen and a large table with many chairs.  We are at peace.  The sound of the humidified oxygen reminds me of the sound of  a babbling brook.  The football game is on the TV and we try to distract ourselves from the sound of his breathing.  I have time to be still and remember.

Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the things my dad has taught me:

If you want to catch fish, you have to use worms and you have to bait your own hook.

When cooking, always clean up as you go.

When playing Boggle, making up words is allowed as long as you snicker while you write them down.  If you are lucky one of them will be a real word.

It is OK to eat your Nana's cream puffs for breakfast.

Patience is a virtue especially when teaching teenagers to drive or when taking  them to pick out a Christmas tree.

God is good all the time.

Say you're sorry and mean it.

Let go of wrongs.

Forgive and forget. (Yes I know those were similar but they were worth repeating)

Love unconditionally.

God always answers prayers but not always the way we expect.

Always do your best.

Never put off saying I love you.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated, especially when it is difficult.

Even grown men like to play with tractors.

When faced with a broken bike, it is a good idea to take it to a bike shop for repairs.

Pay attention to the details.

Dog names are reusable.

If you can't say something nice, be quiet.

Good people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.

Doing the right thing may not be easy, and no one may notice, but do it anyway.

And finally the one that seems most appropriate on a day like today:

At the end of even the worst day there is always something to be grateful for.

Thank you God for this gracious and loving man you chose to be my father.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God's grace continues

My family has continued to be wrapped in the love and prayers of our family and friends as my dad continues to linger.  God's grace continues to be evident on a daily basisOn Monday, September 20th, We were blessed with a visit from an angel that could be seen in his window.  He has talked of beautiful trees and a large table with many chairs and even beautiful balls on the ceiling.  He rests peacfully and pain free and we wait.  

Tuesday, September 21st, Jay and I visited Dad bringing along a CD of Hymns sung by Andy Griffith, a CD he requested.  The CD was called "Bound for the Promised Land" and as it played classic old hymns including "Church in the Wildwood", and "Shall we Gather at the River", he would smile and occasionally sing along. As we got ready to leave he asked for one more song.  The CD played "Beautiful Savior" and "Fairest Lord Jesus" and he sang every word.  Jay and I left blessed by Dad's gift and more evidence of God's never ending grace.

On Saturday, September 25th he was able to sit in a chair at his bedside and meet and hold his first great grandchild, Jenna.  He quickly renamed her "Jenna James."  She cooed and smiled as he sang her Three Blind Mice and played with her toes.  God's grace.   

This week has been a challenge as we can see him slipping away, but the gifts continue.  Wednesday and today he has had a harpist play hymns in his room and Mom says he will occasionally sing a word or two.  (The harpist is a volunteer on the Hospice Unit at Baptist Hospital.)  He remains comfortable and pain free but his appetite is gone.  Several times yesterday he would stare at the corner of his room and say, "I asked you to leave" followed a short time later by "one more day."   Last night as I got ready to leave the hospital I asked Dad if he would be here in the morning and he said, "yes" but when I asked him if he would still be here when I got to the hospital this afternoon he said, "we'll see."

Today is that "one more day."  We have told him it is OK to go.  In a few minutes I will be on my way to the hospital where we will tell him it is time to go.

Thank you God for the grace and love you have shown my family.  May we continue to practice all that your faithful servant, my father, has taught us both as he lived and as he dies.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

God's grace or miracle?

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

My dad, a retired Presbyterian minister, is 80 years old.  Tonight he rests at Baptist Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina where the doctors have told us they are out of tricks.  Weeks ago he and my Mom finalized funeral arrangements for both of them.  My Dad has the hymns written down that he wants sung, has talked about a special trumpeter he hopes will be available to play at his service and keeps asking me if I have my speech ready to which I continue to respond, "I am not making a speech."  He is certainly nearing the end of his life.  Will this be his life ending trip?  Tonight he told me, "no, not this time."  But the fact remains he doesn't have much more time.

My Dad's life has been a series of miracles and God's grace.  At the age of 47 he had a heart attack that the doctors say should have killed him but apparently sometime before this heart attack he had a "silent heart attack".  Silent because he had no symptoms.  This silent heart attack set up enough collateral circulation that when the blockage caused the heart attack he did feel, the blood was able to reroute itself.   He spent a little more than a week in the hospital and came home.  We rejoiced.  God's grace or miracle?

Years went by with annual trips to the cardiologist and all was well until one day he needed triple bypass.  He came through surgery well but he had a quadruple bypass instead of the triple they had anticipated.  My parents celebrated their 45th anniversary on his first post op day.  The next day he was back in ICU with multiple pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs).  He spent a few days in ICU and then came home.  God's grace or a miracle.

Several years went by and he needed to have a pacemaker implanted.  He felt better and life went on.  Mom and Dad went on a cruise up the Panama Canal and Dad was having some irregular heart beats.  When they saw the cardiologist after getting home the pacemaker became a defibrillator as well and would be ready to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm if it detected a rhythm that would not support life.  Shortly before Thanksgiving of that year the defibrillator did its job and he got shocked.  Not once, not twice but three times!  Without the defibrillator he most likely would have died.  Some would say, "great job electrical and biomedical engineers!"  I ask, God's grace or miracle?

I have lost count but I believe that same defibrillator has shocked his heart back into a normal rhythm seven times.  The last time he was shocked Dad said, "I wonder how many more times God will reject me before he allows me to come home?"   God isn't done with you yet Dad.  Grace!

My dad was able to preform the wedding ceremony for my daughter Megan as she married her high school sweetheart, Judson.  We all cried.  Grace!

Last September while in Atlanta, GA babysitting for one of my brothers, Dad became gravely ill with what turned out to be an untreated strep infection that traveled to his already weakened heart.  He suffered kidney failure which added forty pounds of extra fluid to his body and blew him up like a balloon.  The "veg", as they call it, grew on one of his heart valves and took almost 2 months of IV antibiotics to get rid of it.  This condition is fatal to more than 60% of the people who are affected.  My Dad survived.  God's grace or miracle?

He rests at Baptist Hospital fighting an unknown demon with a heart that is weaker than it was less than 2 weeks ago when he was also in the hospital.  The doctors are out of tricks but they press on.  Dad wants to be here but is ready to go.  He will be cremated and his ashes sprinkled in a garden at a nearby church.  He says his funeral should be on a Saturday so it won't inconvenience everyone but he also says NOT this Saturday.  His heart is finally wearing out, technology can do no more.  He is in God's hands now.  I know we are out of miracles so tonight my prayer is for grace.

Well done, good and faithful servant!  Sleep well.  I love you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


prayer of dedication

dear god,
you pray.

dear god,
we offer you these gifts

of our thighs
and offerings…

our thighs
and offerings.

our thighs
and offerings.

you are so young
and today express so little care

but some day you will learn
that that day, you misspoke.

i want you to know that
you didn’t.

you are a prophet
with a gift

and that which you
presented me today

was more than a giggle
at your expense.

dear god,
you pray.

and you help me
to pray too.

children’s sabbath
november 11, 2007
central presbyterian church
atlanta, ga

I found this prayer through a link on another friends blog.  The blogger who posted this prayer is a minister named Kate and her blog is entitled, "Thighs and Offerings."   

"We offer these gifts of our thighs and offerings"

I am struck by how powerful I find these words..So powerful I read them and then had to read them again.  I certainly would like to offer my thighs to God.  They carry baggy remnants of the 200 pounds of extra weight I carried around.  Perhaps if I offered them to Him he could reshape them and smooth them into thighs I would find more attractive, that others would find more attractive.  But then I read the words again and this time saw them differently.  

"We offer these gifts of our thighs and offerings"

Perhaps my thighs are the gifts just as they are.  I am a child of God created in His image.  I have flaws and bumps and wrinkles and I have saggy, baggy thighs.   But those thighs I would love to offer to God hoping he could somehow transform them as he did when he changed the water into wine are wonderful gifts.  You see, they help me stand  upright, they carry me where I need to go, I can run, jump, dance, swim, kick and on and on.  My thighs and legs can carry me away from danger and walk me towards challenges and opportunities so my thighs will be my gift today, just as they are.  Thank you God for the gift of my thighs and I offer them to you knowing they come attached to me.  

"We offer these gifts of our thighs and offerings"