I was three years old when my dad returned from Korea. I still remember him, so handsome in his Marine dress blues, picking me up in my shyness on that November afternoon in 1951. There was much that I did not understand back then, how the impact of war on Dad would haunt him for years to come. The one thing that I did know was the security of being lifted up into his strong arms, I was glad he made it home!
Now . . . a lifetime later I continue to celebrate God’s goodness for the gift of sixty-plus years with Dad, Over the weekend he seemed to lose the strength he had gained with his physical therapy the previous week. By Monday morning he was obviously weaker. To say that it was hard to say goodbye is an understatement. The truth is, I bawled like a baby and stayed with him until he fell asleep. (I could not bear the thought of him seeing me leave.) It had been a joy to visit him each day; to tell him I would return the following day. This time though, I was leaving to return to my home three thousand miles away–I could make no promises about tomorrow. It was probably one of the most emotionally charged moments I have ever experienced–my elderly father using every ounce of strength he could muster, reaching up from his bed to put his arms around me. I settled myself down next to him, sobbing at the thought of never seeing him alive again.
When I was sure he was asleep, I quickly walked down the hallway of the skilled nursing facility, With every step I took I saw the years between Dad’s hugs appear to melt away. I felt every bit as vulnerable as that shy little girl waiting on the Navy dock for her daddy, this time knowing that he could not hold my world together. I quickened my pace as I thought about how much I hate death and the pain that is part of living on this earth. It was at that point that I recognized the choice I had to make:Give myself over to despair . . . or to the Eternal Hope given us by Jesus.
It was not a difficult choice, but I started to choke up as I remembered the Hope given to all who face such moments in Revelation 21:
” . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Verses 3, 4–ESV)
It was then that the loving arms of my Heavenly Father enfolded me with Hope. I thought about the myriad of saints who have gone before us, broken by deep sadness but who found Comfort and Strength to meet each day with the miracle of His Hope. The words of a Charles Wesley hymn surged through my soul:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of His grace!
I received word a few days after returning home that Dad is being treated for pneumonia again. What the immediate future holds for him I do not know, but God has been faithful to provide care for Dad as it has been needed. I do not know if I will see my dad again in this life, but because God is faithful to keep His promises, I trust that I will enjoy Dad into eternity.
I share my story to offer you the courage and hope I almost lost sight of at the thought of losing my dad. The lesson I learned, was that when we turn to God in our pain, He provides the courage and determination we need to walk by faith. God’s Spirit and His Word reminded me of the Hope of Heaven that calls us onward and upward. Hope for tomorrow? Oh my yes!
All to His Glory!