For our family, Monday is more than just Memorial Day. It marks the one year anniversary of my father passing away. Even though he was so sick for several years up until that point, nothing quite prepared us for that moment of losing someone we love.
We were able to visit with my sweet father just hours before he passed away. And even though nobody thought he could hear our words, I know he did.
Years ago, our pastor used to tell me that the last “sense” to leave the body is that of hearing. He said that is why you should always talk to people as if they can hear what you are saying, even if they appear to be asleep or even in a coma. I never forgot his words. Once, many years ago when my dad was in a medically induced coma following triple bypass surgery, I sat by his bed, held his hand, and talked to him about all sorts of things.
Days later, when he was awake and recovering, he told me he did hear my voice and he could feel me holding his hand.
Last May, the hospice nurses told us dad’s time to go was near. Again, I wanted my dad to hear my voice. I held his hand and told him I loved him.
I asked if he remembered when I was only 5 years old and drew a picture of him. I remember sitting at his feet as he “modeled” for me. For the finishing touch on the portrait, I drew three squiggly lines on his forehead. I beamed as my dad admired the drawing. Then he asked, “But what are these lines on my forehead?”
As I told him this story, I gently traced those three lines still so prominent on his forehead. When I finished, he squeezed my hand and tried to smile, or perhaps say something. He definitely heard me. I could not say goodbye, but I told him we were all fine and would take care of mom.
My father was a funny man, and his humor is legendary in our family. Throughout this past year, we have quoted many a “Bill-ism,” and we laughed at the numerous funny memories he gave us.
Dad loved being a father to my three brothers and me, but he especially enjoyed being a grandfather to his 11 adoring grandchildren. I feel truly blessed that he was not ill when they were younger and that every one of them have special memories of their times with Papa and Nana.
The first few weeks after he died are still sort of a blur. Planning his service, notifying family members ... and then one of the worst things, writing his obituary, all seemed surreal to me.
To add to the stress, during that week our daughter graduated from high school and celebrated her 18th birthday.
When it was all over, I kept thinking I wanted to call my parents. Then I remembered there was now only my mom.
It is such a strange feeling to think you will never see a loved one again, never hear them laugh or tell a story. To never be able to hug them.
I saw a little boy interviewed not too long ago. When he was only 3 1/2 years old, little Colton Burpo had to have emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. During the surgery, Colton said he saw his body being operated on, and he went to heaven. Colton’s parents, Todd and Lynn Vincent, wrote a book chronicling Colton’s journey, "Heaven is for Real.”
I bought the book and read it just last week. The story is riveting, especially if you have loved ones who have passed away and you wonder what heaven is like. Among the many amazing things he said about heaven, he told about how there weren’t any old people and nobody was sick.
I knew there would be nobody sick in heaven -- that is one comforting thing to all of us who have had loved ones suffer and then pass. But I didn’t think about the age of everybody. In case you wondered, Colton also said Jesus was really nice and had amazing eyes.
I have many pictures of my dad: from his baby portraits, to those when he was a young man, middle aged and elderly.
Somehow I think I know how he will look when I see him again. I think he will be the age he was when I was that 5 year old little girl, sitting at his feet drawing his portrait.
Dad will be smiling and laughing as he hugs me, and those three lines will still be prominent on his forehead.