Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Death of My Father

For some time, I had been trying to convince my Dad that moving to a smaller place would be much more advantageous and he finally agreed in early January. I had been looking for a safe and secure place and found a retirment community with duplexes that were just what they needed. Dad agreed and my brother and I decided to get it done before he changed his mind. The latter part of January we moved out of the house that they had lived in for 44 years. I have never been so sad in my entire life as we made decisions about my parents belongings that they had spent a lifetime accumulating. Much of what they had was given away or discarded. Important and sentimental things were split between us kids but it was sad to see the house slowly emptied of everything that had been accumulated over so many years.

I remember commenting to my brother Clark, that you really begin to fully understand the scripture that talks about your life being a "vapor", here today and gone tomorrow. While we were moving, my Dad was having a lot of issues and it looked like things were getting bad. My Mom and Dad spent two nights in their new place before we had to rush him to the hospital as he was getting weaker by the minute. It was a trip he would never return from.

I had allotted a week off from work in order to move them and I had to return to Houston as I was not sure when he would be getting out of ICU. I knew in my heart when i left him, it would probably be the last time I saw him alive. While I returned just before they took him off of life support, I was never able to speak to him again.

His last words to me were..."I love you son...I just wish I had told you that more often"! It is now the 21st of February and I am just now able to write about this without completely falling to pieces. The sadness and sense of loss has been almost overwhelming as it feels like I lost both my Mother and Father in a two week time frame. Dad to death and Mom to a mental state in which she hardly remembers who I am. I have asked God to teach me something through all of this and I believe He has. Here are some of the things that I have learned and hope it helps you, especially as you face similar circumstances.

1. Cherish your parents - I know we all get busy, especially as we get married and many times live far from home. I left home in 1975 and have lived way outside of california since that time. It seems like I saw my parents several times a year, but not as often as I now wish I had. In July of last year, my parents were to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. My sister wanted to get us all together in Reno, Nevada but it seemed like life was too busy and I wasn't sure if I could take the time off. Well, I worked it out to we could go and looking back, I am so grateful to God that we did. I remember the evening as we celebrated their 60 years of marriage, that all of the kids and grandkids were able to express their love and appreciate to this most worthy couple when they were alive to hear it all. At that point, I had no idea that our gathering would be the last time we would be with them on their anniversary.

2. Take time even when you think you can't - In late October, I flew to San Diego for a speaking engagement and called Mom and Dad and asked if they would come down and see me. I had a beautiful hotel suite overlooking coronado Bay with plenty of room for them to stay. The room had an enourmous bedroom and I decided to give my parents the private room and I ordered a roll-away single for me. They were like kids and enjoyed our time together as we ate breakfast each morning out by the water and had dinner late at night watching the sun set on the bay. We laughed about memories and I so enjoyed their company. They heard me speak at the conference I was attending and I felt the same pride that they had for me when I won my first speech contest on the same island in 1972.

3. Live a life of "no regrets" - While I am devasted over the loss of my Dad, I can see so clearly the hand of God directing my steps over the last year. There were so many times I felt time challenged and almost succumbed to other issues but felt that it was more important to see them, be with them and make time for them...I now know why! The emotions and sadness would have been compounded greatly if I was guilt ridden over my failures to be with them when I could. Losing my Dad was difficult enough without adding guilt and regrets to that picture.

4. Death has a way of putting things in perspective - Everything in life seems to be important. We go through life with time pressures, financial constraints and personal problems but all those things seem petty when you look in the casket and see your only father lying dead before your eyes. It is a sobering thing and it has a way of moving you to think about what is really important in life. Everything that I thought was so important seems trivial by comparison. So many people waste so many years in bitter relationships...but those all have a way of changing when a death occurs. I am sure that I will be thining differently about what is really important.

5. "Stuff" that you have will become someone else's stuff sooner than you think - My parents house was full of stuff...Heck...my house is full of stuff! The ironic part about it is that all their stuff is now someone else's stuff. Dad had spent a lifetime accumulating stuff...even money...and he could take nothing with him. The over-abundance and over-accumulation of stuff that we all have is really quite extraordinary if you think about it. We have to work to get the stuff, we then have to pay to protect the stuff, we have to take care of and fix the "stuff" and for what purpose??? So that other people can have the stuff in the end. Seems rather pathetic when you think about it like that.

Well, these are just a few of the lessons that God has shown me in 15 days from my Dad's death. I know he has more in store for me and I look forward to learning them. In the meantime, Dad knew Jesus and I am confident he is safe in His arms in a place free from pain. Knowing Dad, he's been checking out his new place and is loving every minute...that's just the kind of guy he was.

Blessings,

Steve R.

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