My apologies for such a long time since my last post. Shortly after I wrote The Long Goodbye, I said the final goodbye to my dad. He took his last breath on earth and his first breath in heaven on Wednesday night, April 22.
In a way, death is like birth. You know it’s coming, you just don’t know when. You talk to others who have experienced it, read all the current literature, and get expert advice to make sure you’re prepared. Yet even with all of the planning, nothing really prepares you for the actual experience.
Well, I knew this day was coming, had even prayed for it to come. So I thought I was more prepared for his death. But I wasn’t.
I thought I had more time with him. But I didn’t.
I thought things would go smoothly from start to finish. But they didn’t.
I thought I would be able to bounce back quickly. But I couldn’t.
I had all these expectations because I have a loving, intimate relationship with Jesus . . . because I have a strong faith . . . because I prayed for months just for this day . . . because I had many believers praying for me . . . because Jesus was interceding for me at the right hand of the Father . . . because Holy Spirit was praying for me when I didn’t know how to pray . . . because . . . because . . . because.
However, I was on a highway I had never travelled without a road map. In the last few days before Dad’s death, my emotions careened out of control. On one side, I sang hymns and childhood songs with my mom and one of my sisters. When my parents’ pastor came and prayed with the family, I led a prayer as well. I laughed with family members as we shared different stories about Dad.
On the other side, I was upset that he wouldn’t wake up one more time. I was ticked off with the caregivers for not listening to me. I had ugly words with family members. I sobbed and sobbed at times almost uncontrollably.
And in spite of the twists and turns of this unknown highway, I knew Dad wasn’t going to wake up. Every labored breath drew him closer to eternity. As the family gathered in his room, multiple goodbyes were said. Tears were shed. Prayers were lifted up to heaven. Hours came and went. We were all exhausted, emotionally, physically, spiritually. And still Dad breathed. I knew his spirit was ready for heaven, yet his physical body wasn’t able to make the transition.
By now I had been with Dad well past twenty-four hours, and I honestly didn’t know what to do any more. After too many emotional scenes, I was ready to go home. But God and my sister had different plans. She grabbed me by the shoulders and in no uncertain terms said, “You have got to get in there and get him to the other side!”
I protested. Weeping, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and eventually she marched me into Dad’s room, assuring me over and over that I could do this – that I was the only one who could do this.
Once I was alone with Dad, I prayed again, asking God for a miracle. A little later one of the caregivers slipped into Dad’s room. She held his hand and prayed while I began talking to Dad about heaven. What wasn’t there – anger, bitterness, resentment; what was there – absolute perfect love, perfect joy, perfect peace.
Suddenly, I had my miracle. Dad opened his eyes and looked up at me. Smiling through my tears, I kissed his forehead and let him know I loved him. I told him that heaven was waiting, and he would hear God say to him, “You are my beloved son, welcome home!” Dad’s eyes never left me.
I said my last goodbye, and after three short breaths, Dad said his first hello. In heaven.
Thank you for letting me share this painful yet beautiful story about my Dad’s journey to heaven. Feel free to share any of your thoughts below.