I knew the day would come when I would write about this day, and since this month marks the 4 year anniversary of a very memorable day, it seems like the right time to do so.
On May 8, 2015, my Dad took his final journey beyond his temporary, earthly home and spent his first morning in heaven.
As with most families, there is an unspoken history which in these final moments of his life, became irrelevant. At least for that day, and that time, all that was in the past could be hushed into silence.
I will forever be thankful that I was able to spend those final moments with my Dad, though I had never witnessed the passing away of anyone before. If you have read my previous story about The Day I Said Goodbye To My Sister , you know that my heart has always felt regret about not being present with my sister and the rest of my family at the time of her death.
But on this day, when the Lord called my Dad to come home, I was there, along with two of my sisters.
My days at that time were full of the responsibilities of children, babysitting grandchildren and most of my calendar days were marked with activity, as was this singular Friday morning. So I truly believe that God worked on my behalf and cleared my schedule. When my sister phoned early that morning to say that the nursing facility had called to inform us that he was going, I was able to say “I’m on my way”.
When I arrived at my Dad’s room, Gwen was already there by his side as he lay in the bed. My sister Debbie arrived shortly thereafter.
As I think of that day, I’ve realized that by the time we arrived, his spirit had already begun the process of leaving this world. I believe his vision was already opened to the heavenly realm and he was preparing to meet his Savior, the One he preached about for many, many years. The words of that precious song which he sang over and over again throughout his ministry, “I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy”, were soon to be lived out by this man who had stated many times in his life that if he couldn’t be used by God, then he was ready to go heaven.
He mumbled his words and though severely weakened, he was adamant that he wanted to sit in his wheelchair. So with the nurse’s help, we got him into his chair. My sisters sat on each side of him and I stood behind him with my arms around his neck to support him, and he immediately relaxed and began his journey home.
I cannot fathom how a time such as this can be both heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. All I can say is that I know without a doubt that had I been able to see what my Dad’s eyes were fixed upon, I would have understood why he was so excited to get there. You see, I have a theory about why he wanted so badly to sit up in his chair. I believe he just wanted to get up and stroll right through to the other side and sitting up just put him a little bit closer. I believe he wanted to rise up to meet his Jesus!
Both of my sisters have remarked about how peaceful it was. He knew we were there and we knew he loved us, but no longer could the affections or concerns of this life be enough to hold him here, because Jesus was saying, “Come on home, my son, your work is done”. We told him how much we loved him, the sisters holding his hands, as I ever so softly hummed that beautiful song into his ear, until quietly and blissfully, our Dad left this world and met his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It was a profound day for me. A difficult yet precious experience which I will cherish within my heart always.
Being the youngest of eight siblings, by the time I was born, my Dad had already chosen to leave my family. Though hundreds and hundreds of miles separated us and he was not a constant presence in my life, there were a few occasions throughout my childhood when I was able to see him, and I grew to love him very much. Much later in his life, he made a bold move and relocated to be near his children.
I will always be grateful that I had the last twenty-some years of my Dad’s life in which to build lasting memories, to sing together, and that my children were able to know their Grandpa Bill.
After sharing this experience of my Dad’s passing, my sister said a couple of things that has stayed with me.
First, that though Dad wasn’t with me on the day that I entered this world, I was there for him when he left it.
The second thing she said is what means the most to me and I will always hold it in my heart. She said, “Teresa (my oldest sibling) was the first one of us to put her arms around our Dad, and I was the last“.
(“I Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy” written by Nettie Dudley Washington, music written by E.M. Dudley Cantwell)