Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A Happy Good-bye
The one thing I don't feel is grief over my dad's passing, strangely enough. Perhaps it was because I already said good-bye to him when I saw that Alzheimer's disease had already stolen away the father I knew and loved six years ago. It was so strange to see his sparkling blue eyes, hold his gnarled hands and hear that familiar tenor voice singing old church hymns, and yet know that he was no longer able to hold a rational conversation, or even be fully aware of who I was. That was the hardest time, because I wanted him to fight back against the disease, I wanted him to acknowledge that something was wrong and to try his hardest to resist the slow degradation of his brain and eventually his entire body. But he didn't want to talk about it. These last two years he could no longer speak, though he could sing along with us strangely enough. He was confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair and would still look at me with those eyes, though they had turned a bit dull.
Knowing that a bright, intelligent, energetic, hilariously funny and dedicated man who had served God as a missionary in Korea for 35 years, and had continued serving in his church for 12 more years in retirement, had faded into a fog of illness. It was like watching someone you loved slowly sink and drown into a pit of mud.
But one day I had flown in from England and saw him alone in the hospital. The doctor said he'd only last a few days. I spoke to him about some of the deepest concerns in my heart. I asked forgiveness, I poured out my heart, and I spoke to him about God and His forgiveness. Dad couldn't speak, but his eyes filled with tears and rolled down his cheeks. He raised his hand to his head as if to ask me to pray for him. He stared intently at me and made noises, trying to speak. I prayed strong for him, and he cried. He squeezed my hand and I kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him. I felt that I was speaking directly to his soul, that the disease had been pushed to the side and his spirit knew exactly what was going on. When all was finished, his tears ended.
Something very spiritual and very deep happened that evening. Though I saw him more times before I left, enjoying our singing and visiting, I was completely at peace knowing that when God was ready to take him home, both he and I were ready. He lived for another two years, but always in discomfort, trapped in a body and mind that could no longer function. When I heard the news of his passing after the Sunday morning service, I honestly was so happy for him to be free.
Last Saturday at his memorial service, with their pastor, my brother, my brother-in-law, even myself getting up front to speak or share, it was the most uplifting and happiest funeral I had ever attended. There really was no room for tears. He's celebrating his freedom for eternity, and all I can do is smile.