The wind howled, whipping through the trees, an angry beast demanding the boughs groan and bend under its fury. Inside, the monster known as cancer was claiming yet another precious life. Mother and daughter watched over him, calming him to the best of their ability. Pain meds took fifteen minutes to administer, and what a fight it had been, resigning to blowing in his face to force a swallow—much like one did for an infant. Speech no longer intelligible, making communication that of reading body language. Though control over his body was no longer his either.
His wife of forty-eight years was exhausted. This turn of events taking everyone by surprise. Only two short weeks earlier he wanted to fight this giant. Sure, the doctors had told him he only had four to six months left, but that wasn’t stopping any of us. Only two months had passed since the diagnosis, and while traditional medicine couldn’t help, we were all willing to try alternative. But all of that changed about week after I arrived with my children in tow. All we could do was love on him as this brave warrior laid down his sword and let God take him home.
The night he passed away vividly dances in my mind. Still so much to process after nearly a month has gone by. We buried him the day before Thanksgiving. Being a Christian family with strong faith doesn’t ease the pain and heartbreak, but it does bring you to humble awareness of just how fragile life truly is and how we really aren’t masters of our lives. Nor does it erase how one person touches so many. The reminder lovingly demonstrated before our eyes.
All day family and friends had filtered in to say goodbye. Hymns were sung, even a choir came by. Phone calls came in from those who couldn’t get there in time. Prayers said, hugs and tears, even laughter. His sense of humor was incredible and all of us benefited from that gift.
The wind had sent something into the window, sounding a lot like gravel pinging the glass, waking me from a moment of rest. By two in the morning, one of my cousins sent a text telling him how much he meant to her. Dad’s moaning was loud and I knelt beside him, held his hand and read the message from niece to beloved uncle. Mom woke to my voice, tears mixed with a smile. For the next four hours, we did all we knew to do to love on him, talk to him, pray over him. Every now and then, a heavily slurred “help me” was audible from him. It took us a while to realize he wasn’t talking to us, he was praying one of the most powerful prayers. One by one we were watching each organ, each system shut down. He grew more and more agitated. His lungs filling with fluid was loud and unmistakable that the end was near. We put on a CD of his favorite Gospel songs and after a couple of minutes of extreme flailing he settled. A peace came over him and that pitiful wet balloon sound silenced. He was still breathing, so we stepped no more than two feet from him to talk.
After several minutes, Mom glanced over at him and screamed. The sight was too disturbing for her. Grabbing some sponges and paper towels to clean up the dark liquid leaking from my dad’s mouth, I did my best to give her those last few moments. His breathing had stopped, his eyes glassy, but as I was given the honor of taking care of this last thing for my dad, I saw the final beats of his heart.
Daddy went to be with Jesus that morning. No more pain. No more suffering. My heart may be forever broken, but It is only goodbye for now.