“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”
When I last visited my dad, his once six-foot-four frame was bent and crumbled in his bed from the effects of aging and pneumonia. Many of you prayed for Dad so I thought you would appreciate this update–the prayers of the saints do touch God’s heart!
My dad is still alive! When I had to leave him eight months ago I did not expect to see him alive again. Though very frail, he was dressed and sitting in his wheelchair watching the television when my sister-in-law and I walked into his room last week. When he saw me, Dad grabbed my hands as he looked into my face repeating softly, “You’re beautiful . . . you’re just so beautiful!” With tears in my eyes and a grateful heart all I could say was, “Oh Daddy, I love you too!” We visited until it was time for him to go to lunch, knowing that he would probably need to sleep the rest of the afternoon. When we left he gladly joined his seatmates as we promised to visit again the following day.
Later that night, my brother received a phone call informing him that Dad was being transported to the hospital emergency room. Fearing a repeat of the last time Dad was rushed to the hospital, we prayed for Dad as we wondered . . . what was going to happen this time? The emergency waiting room was overflowing when we arrived; we were told that we would have to wait to be called back to see Dad. When we were finally called back, instead of seeing him terrified and confused as he struggled to breathe, Dad’s eyes and words met us with marked irritation, “I have been here for an hour and have yet to see a doctor . . . what the heck am I doing here?!!” My brother and I resisted the temptation to laugh, both of us relieved that this definitely would not be a repeat of what happened before!
We ended up sitting all night with Dad, waiting for the results of tests that would help determine what his doctors thought was the best treatment plan for Dad. The odd thing about it was that he was more awake and talkative than I had seen him be in over a year! Several times, worried that he needed to rest, I closed my eyes with the hope that he would follow my example. When I opened my eyes to see if he was asleep, I was startled to see his eyes staring into my face! It was as if he was intent on drinking in all that he saw to be savored at some later date. In the end Dad was released to go home at about four in the morning; but because he is wheelchair bound we had to wait until eight to arrange transportation to return him to his apartment. A special bus finally arrived to return him to his apartment. As he was being raised in his wheelchair on the bus’s elevator I was gifted with this most precious sight:
My eighty-seven year old father with his arms raised in victory like Rocky!
Having endured an “all-nighter” in the confines of a local emergency room . . .
he was happily escaping to return to the place he has come to call “home”. . . .
As he continued to wave and the bus took off, I felt as if we had somehow switched places, as I remembered the day I climbed on the school bus to attend my first day of kindergarten. Back then it was me, waving happily at the start of a new adventure. I did not have a camera to take his picture, but it will remain etched in my mind so clearly that I know I will never forget Dad’s joy-filled victory.
It ended up being a wonderful week of blessing for me and my family. When I left it was a teary but joyful goodbye as I entrusted my dad and family to God’s loving care.
Thank you for your kind prayers, they mean more than you can ever know!
“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”
II Corinthians 2:14
“There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,a time to plant and a time to uproot,a time to kill and a time to heal,a time to tear down and a time to build . . . .”
As I sit in Intensive Care watching my dad breathe on his own, I am overflowing with gratitude for God’s merciful love–no more tubes! . It has been six days since he was rushed to the Emergency Room; six days since my brother and I were confronted with making a life or death choice. The options my brother and I faced were to treat the pneumonia or watch our father die within a few hours. The question we were asked was, “What is his quality of life?'” Certainly, at eighty-six Dad has slowed down considerably and on some days demonstrates signs of dementia. But just six hours before, as I left him at his assisted-living apartment, he winked at me and said, “I love you” when I knew he was feeling lousy.
It is funny how the mind works during times of crisis. As I watched Dad struggle to breathe through the night, I saw flashbacks of him in my mind–black and white photos of him marched through my mind as a much younger man playing his trumpet . . . as a machine gunner in Korea . . . and as a hard working husband and father, Losing Mom eight months ago was hard, but he had responded well to the outreach of others and seemed to be doing well until he got sick three weeks ago. He had been using a walker but became so sick and weak he had been using a wheel chair the previous week. “Quality of life?” It’s all in how you look at it.
I also thought about my friend and fellow blogger Bill, at Unshakable Hope. Bill was diagnosed with ALS sixteen years ago. Through his illness God has used Bill to love and encourage his family, friends and countless people around the world with a message that underscores God’s faithfulness. In his most recent post he wrote a wonderful tribute to his wife Mary as the greatest Christian he has ever known. “Quality of life” for Bill? I cannot presume to answer for him, but I believe it would be safe to say that Bill’s courage and determination to trust in the God he loves has made an incredible difference.
As night turned into morning, even as Dad’s numbers improved on the myriad of machines that surrounded him and he began to respond to the antibiotics–we struggled–were we doing the right thing? Prayer kept us moving forward but we worried, “What if he ends up needing oxygen for the rest of his life . . . or worse?” It was at that point when I wondered, “How did we get to the place where death has become the preferred option in the name of ‘quality of life?'”
In our cultural preference for youth and all things material, it seems we have lost sight of God’s orderly plan for the seasons of our lives. That long dark night with my dad, when I fretted about making the wrong decision, I lost sight of God’s perfect plan being worked out for our family. Even so, God continued to work despite my fears and doubts, bringing us to a deeper appreciation for His faithfulness. This morning, as I reflect on the past week I have regained that strength and confidence that rests in His Sovereign Goodness. Psalm 46 is a Psalm that ministers to those in crisis as it directs us to find rest for our souls in Him:
God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give wayand the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,though its waters roar and foamand the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God,the holy place where the Most High dwells.God is within her, she will not fall;God will help her at break of day.Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;He lifts His voice, the earth melts.The Lord Almighty is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress.Come and see what the Lord has done,the desolations He has brought on the earth.He makes wars ceaseto the ends of the earth.He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;He burns the shields with fire.He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth.”The Lord Almighty is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress.
“Quality of life?” It’s all in how you look at it!