Posted tagged ‘last words’

Well, Hi Son!

February 14, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          February 14, 2019

                                            

One year ago I hopped on a  few planes heading from Denver to Houston to Charlotte to Charleston, West Virginia. It was Valentine’s Day, but bittersweet in many ways. I had talked to my sister on Monday night, February 12, and she told me that Dad was probably in his final hours. I went online and bought a plane ticket that left very early on the 14th.

About five o’clock in the afternoon I entered his hospital room and stood by his bed. My sister said, “Dad, there’s someone special here to see you!”, and he opened his eyes and looked at me.

The words came out as a whisper, and yet they were the words he would always say to me when I would call him on Sunday evenings.

“Well, hi son!”

“Hi, Pops!”

Nothing else was said. His dinner tray was in front of him, but he had no appetite. My sister coaxed him into eating some of the butterscotch pudding and maybe a couple of bites of mashed potatoes, but he was in his final hours of a long steady life. He held my hand in those moments when my sister, Rena, slowly urged each spoonful into his mouth. 

My dad was 89, four months short of hitting the 9-0 mark! I was thankful that I had a few hours with him before he crossed over. Rena and I sat there and talked about this, that, and the other as he drifted in and out. 

St. Mary’s Hospital had become like a second home for him, kind of like a time share! His heart episodes and cancer treatments- mostly for skin cancers- had made him a “frequent flyer” of St. Mary’s. His grandson was now the supervisor of the floor Dad was a patient on. Dad knew doctors, nurses and radiation technicians and assistants. There was a sense of loss filtering through the hospital as word spread that he was close to passing on.

When you sit by your dad’s bed and realize his time is short a flood of thoughts and memories race through your mind. There’s the thoughts of when the funeral gathering will be…even though he hasn’t passed yet. There’s the “listing” in your  mind of who needs to be informed about it.

But then there’s the memories and pictures. For some reason the picture of Dad having his hand on the back of my bicycle as I learned how to ride it came to the front of my mind. I was the baby of the three kids. He already had taught two others to ride bikes…and they had survived the experience. I was in good hands, or would I say, my bike was held upright by a good hand!

Then there’s the memory of Dad teaching me how to drive our 1966 Chrysler Newport in the back parking lot of Ironton Junior High School. He was standing outside the car giving me directions. 

“Turn! Turn!”

And I did! I turned the steering wheel with such power and effort that the power steering fluid burst! I can still see his expression of frustration. He didn’t voice any expletives, but I’m sure he thought of a few!

And in the last year of his life while I was back visiting I had driven him to the eye specialist, and while we were there Rena called me to tell me that Dad was suppose to have gone to the Emergency Room the day before but he hadn’t told anyone. He had just celebrated his 89th birthday and didn’t want to spoil the festivities for the others…not, mind you, for himself! He knew a cake was coming to Wyngate, his senior adult apartment complex, and wanted it to happen for the residents.

As I’m driving him to St. Mary’s he says to me, “Bill, let’s stop at Wendy’s and get something to eat!” And so we pull into the Wendy’s about a mile from St. Mary’s and have a cheeseburger and fries before I deliver him to the ER. The next day he had surgery!

A year ago, as I held his hand, I realized that the strong hand on the back of bicycle was now too weak to hold a spoon and the man who modeled what being a father means was drawing near to his heavenly Father.

I think back to those few closing hours of his life and know that I have been very, very blessed!

The Hand Grasp of My Father

February 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                February 16, 2018

                             

“Dad, look who’s here to see you!”

I entered his hospital room and caught sight of the elderly man, withered and worn out. His dinner tray, that he hadn’t the least bit interest in, was in front go him. Perhaps a six year old should be made to eat his peas and carrots but not an 89 year old man in his last hours.

He mumbled a few words when he caught sight of me. I think he said, “Well, hi, son!”

And he grasped my hand with firmness and purpose.

That hand had grasped me a number of times over the course of my life. Sometimes it conveyed discipline and disappointment, and at other times it told me of a father’s pride in his son’s accomplishments and decisions.

I remember that hand on the back of the bicycle I was learning to ride. I’d be wobbling like a Saturday night drunk riding it down the sidewalk. Dad would be jogging along behind me keeping me propped up, firmly grasping the back of the seat. From the front it must have looked like a car in serious need of the wheels being aligned, but from the back it was a view of the youngest child taking another step in the long ride of growing up.

“Dad, I can’t get the lawnmower started.”

Dad came out to the garage where I was struggling with the machine. His hand firmly grasped the handle on the end of the pull cord and he pulled. On the second pull the motor took off and he looked at me with a slight smile that non-verbally communicated “You’ve got to put a little muscle behind it.”

“Thanks!” I sheepishly replied.

I remember the grasp of the hand at the end of my ordination service on June 24, 1979. I had just been given the charge to ministry, been prayed over, and congratulated…and then there was Dad’s hand grasp telling me how proud he was of me, but also the importance of the calling.

Last summer we stood in a side classroom of Beulah Baptist Church. The worship service had ended a few minutes before that and there was a woman who had requested that the deacons pray for her. A serious medical condition had been discovered. They invited me to join them in the prayer circle around the lady. I stood next to my father, Deacon Emeritus of the church, grasped his hand, and then listened to him and others pray for the woman. His hand hold was firm, just as his faith in the power of prayer was strong.

Within an hour we held each other’s hands around the dinner table as he prayed for the blessings of God upon our meal and family.

When I would come from Colorado to visit him in the past few years he would reach his hand towards me at meal time, grasp it with care, and pray the dinner grace.

After several minutes in the hospital room he finally releases his grip and allows my sister to feed him the chocolate pudding from his tray. Unlike the peas and carrots he eats all of the pudding. It’s the last food he will partake of, a taste of sweetness that describes the effect of his life on so many others.

Less than a day later he passes on…and it’s okay! Like his hand grasp, he is a man who had a firm grasp on what is important in life.

That last grasp of the hand. I’m extremely thankful that God allowed me to have it. In my memories of Pops i’ll hold on to that moment for a long, long time.

Family Farewells

October 28, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    October 28, 2013

 

                                          

     Today is a good day… with a taste of sorrow.

I’ve been back in southern Ohio for the past week, spending time with my dad and sister. It has been just shy of two months since I was here last for my mom’s funeral, and gatherings associated with it. Two weeks ago my dad, escorted by my sister and brother-in-law, came out to Colorado for our daughter’s wedding. This week, however, has been focused on spending time together with no agenda or meetings. Sitting in the family room watching the World Series and Ohio State football, eating my sister’s exceptional cooking, reading the Ironton Tribune, which takes less time than it does to drive down to the store to get a copy of it. This week has been about a lack of urgency, something that seems a little foreign to my usual schedule.

Today is the day of departure. We will say our final words, realizing that it could very well be our final words in each other’s company. There’s a specialness to those closing moments, even as our souls ache in the midst of the pain such separation causes us.

It used to be that my brother, sister, and I would worry about losing Dad first. Mom’s health had been declining for years, but my dad has had cardiac problems for years. If the Lord called him home first Mom would need to go to a full-care facility. Although it taxed his strength, Dad wanted Mom to be cared for at their home for as long as possible. It meant hiring a home health care person to come in for at least four hours a day, and sometimes up to eight hours a day. Dad’s schedule revolved around Mom’s needs. After she passed I asked him what he was going to do in the coming week after we had left. He looked at me and, with a hint of despondent confusion, replied, “Well, Bill, I have no idea!”

The remark wasn’t about being freed up to do what he wanted, but rather about unwanted freedom.

As I drive to Charleston, West Virginia with him and my brother-in-law, Mike, we’ll do some story-telling, have some quiet moments, and tell one another how much we love each other. Dad will give me a farewell hug, and I will feel the sadness within him.

Farewells are painful and piercing. They stay with us as we walk to our next point. We wish it were not so, and yet we are thankful for it being that way.

Speaking to Mom

September 7, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                               September 7, 2013

 

 

Most who are reading this know that my mom passed away on September 3. Her funeral was yesterday. After the service at Hall’s Funeral Home in Proctorville, Ohio, the family traveled about an hour and a half to Highland Memorial Gardens outside of Staffordsville, Kentucky for her graveside. I was asked to conduct the graveside service. Now, understand that I’ve conducted a lot of graveside services over the years, but this was different. This was for Mom, the one who changed my diapers and kept me in line. One doesn’t just read a scripture, recite a poem, and close in prayer at his mother’s cemetery plot. The following are my last words to Mom before her casket was lowered into the ground just to the foot of her parents’ graves, and also in the company of her sister Irene, and husband Milliard Vance, her brother Dewey Junior Helton (who I always thought  was actually named Junior…Uncle Junior!), and his wife Grethel, and Mom’s brother-in-law, Bernie Whitt. Her sister, Cynthia Whitt, age 91, is the last of the six children still living.

“Family plot” is an appropriate term for that section of the cemetery! And those of us who are still walking upright were gathered there with them.

Dear Mom,

    I know that you are in heaven now. As I thought about who you are- your personality, likes and dislikes- and who you have been, and I thought about where you are now, I started pondering what it is about heaven that impresses you…not that there is anything in heaven that is unimpressive!

     I know that you will be taken back by how immaculate everything is in Glory. Everything is perfectly placed. There is no hint of chaos. There isn’t a place in the whole expanse that “looks like a tornado hit it” (Your term used often to describe my bedroom!). 

      Everything is clean! Cleanliness is next to godliness…and now you know that it also describes the area next to God! The order of heaven has brought a smile to your face. If heaven has magazines they are neatly arranged. Good Housekeeping would figure prominently in the tidy mix.

      I know you will also be thrilled to discover that there is no death, mourning, crying, or pain there. The last few years have had their share of those things…from the passing of siblings and friends…to the pain of your illnesses. Dad and Rena often found that there was nothing they could do to comfort you, to make things so you would not hurt. They did not want you to be in pain, but there was a pained helplessness within them as they waited by your bedside. Heaven, as you have discovered, does not have a hospital ward…or doctor’s waiting rooms…or pills to take and health insurance forms to submit.

      In heaven I’m sure you are rejoicing with those who have gone before you. I know you’re experiencing a reunion of the saints. There’s been a separation that has now come back together. 

      Can you hear Aunt Rene’s laughter? 

      Do people still have Kentucky accents there, which, I know, Kentuckians have thought are pretty heavenly on this earth? 

       Is the aforementioned Uncle Junior still allowed to pinch the legs of unsuspecting little boys…like he would do to me while sitting in the swing together at Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s house? 

       Have you seen Papaw yet, and does he drink buttermilk in heaven? I always thought that buttermilk was disgusting, so I’m assuming he is having to go “buttermilk cold turkey” for the rest of eternity.

      And, Mom, you’re seeing the Lamb of God, Jesus, with the multitudes encircling him in praise and adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Since I know you were always impressed with Easter Choir Cantatas, you must be standing there with your mouth wide open in awe of what you are now hearing and seeing. 

      We grieve your death, but we rejoice in your life, and now…new life. As the scripture says “…we live by faith, not by sight.”

      Because of our shared faith we know that someday we will be reunited with you, and for that we are thankful!