My father and I in 1993 (I was nineteen – what a baby!)
Several years ago, I started writing out my story and because it’s rather complicated and one post wouldn’t cover it all, I decided to publish it in parts. (You can click here if you’re interested in starting at the beginning.)
I stopped at Part Eight and didn’t touch it for a while because I thought “I need to stop writing about what was and focus on what is and what’s to come.” There comes a time when it’s time to shift the focus and accept there are just some things you’ll never figure-out.
It’s really about where He’s delivered me TO rather than what He’s delivered me FROM.
But then several of you wanted to know, “Well, what happened next?”
Silly me – the best part of my story had not been shared. For crying out loud. That’s the whole point of sharing your story.
So we’ll continue this series until it’s finished and then we’ll move-on.
When we left-off, I had shared the heartbreak I experienced when my first marriage dissolved and how, like Forrest Gump, I just started running.
From much, so I thought. Yet I found myself actually running to.
I continued to explore this whole Jesus guy and continued to meet with my friend from Priority Associates.
But come spring, my father’s health began to decline. (You can read more about him here.)
I was teaching, still broken-hearted, and my goal was to just make it through the day.
I also met a new group of friends in my running group. We hit the bars often and I got confused for a while and thought I was back in college.
In a nutshell, I was in survival mode and devastated most of the time.
One afternoon in March, my principal entered my classroom and pulled me aside. “You need to go to the hospital. Your father has collapsed and isn’t doing well.”
When I arrived at the hospital, I found this to be true. He was being kept alive by the air pumped from a balloon-like devise by the respiratory therapist (I have no idea what it’s called).
He had severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD.
Soon after, he was transferred to a hospital in a larger city so he could receive the proper care.
Miraculously, he recovered. He was placed on oxygen, which he hated, but he went home a week later.
All was well. Until the end of May.
Again, my principal walked into my classroom.
I didn’t even need her to tell me why she was there because I knew.
“Where is he?” I asked. I fled to the hospital.
This time, it didn’t look as optimistic.
While I wasn’t mature enough in my faith to see God’s hands through this entire process, in retrospect, He’s written all over it.
Like in the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be notified he was in the hospital but was.
My uncle had been visiting my father (his brother) and he asked that I not be notified until the end of the school day.
Yet it was a small town and someone on staff at the hospital knew someone who knew where I taught in Indianapolis. I know. Odd. (Ha!)
Somehow, they found me and called the school where I was teaching. The nurses told the principal they thought I needed to know because there was a chance he wouldn’t live until the end of the school day.
This, of course, was twelve years ago. Pre-HIPPA years. No one lost their jobs.
The following five days were the hardest and sweetest of my life.
Reconciling with a father who had popped-in and out of my life because of his alcoholism. Coming to peace in my heart knowing that he didn’t want it that way either but addiction . . . it’s strong. Realizing those years when he was homeless and living on the streets, he had just lost hope and when we lose hope, we lose interest.
The way he looked at me with those afflicted eyes is how I imagine God looks at us.
Of course He does. He’s our father. And this was my earthly father.
The days and nights bled together and morphine was ordered whenever we thought he needed it. That’s what they do with patients who have a matter of days. Hours. Minutes.
Sometimes, he would wake up and smile a faintly or wink. Now and and then, I would see a single tear spill from the edge of his eye.
One afternoon, I remembered that someone had just given me The Prayer of Jabez, a popular book at the time by Bruce Wilkinson, and it was in my purse.
I started to read it to my father but I knew the words were just as much for me.
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one.” And God granted his request. – 1 Chronicles 4:9-10
In a few years, God would enlarge my territory.
But He enlarged my father’s territory just days later because on a beautiful Friday afternoon in early June, I held his hand as he took his last breath.
He entered the large territory of heaven because he believed in Jesus.
Just as in birth, death is a very intimate moment. We immediately establish a bond with someone who walks us through the birthing process and we never forget the moment that baby is placed on our chest.
The same is true of death. It was between my father and I. So much was left at the altar that beautiful summer day.
So I picked myself up, said a final good-bye, and walked out of his room both shell-shocked and at peace . . .
I’ll write Part Ten next week – we’re almost done . . .
Peace is a beautiful thing…
First, you’re beautiful. At age 19, you remind me of my daughter that age and her blond friend. Very pretty.
As always, beautiful words that seem to effortlessly spill from your pen. I believe it’s a gift to be able to write well, to be able to graciously express what is in your heart. To be able to do that helps in the healing process. I’m sure writing about your experiences helped you heal and continues to do so. Thank you for sharing part of your life with us. It helps us too because we can relate to what you write in our own way. For some who can’t seem to find the words, they can read yours and nod and say, “yes!”
I wish I journaled more, but I’m starting a creative project that will help me get to where I need to be, and it involves starting a dream journal. It’s going to be 12 months in the making if I stick to my commitment. Lord knows I can get sidetracked, but I have a good feeling about this.
Natalie, it was probably a Laerdal ambu-bag, which is used on a temporary basis to keep the lungs inflated. Can be scary to see.
You have such a gift with words, Natalie. Thank you for sharing this.