When I was growing up my dad would tell us stories about when he was a little boy. Most of them were things like walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways…you know what I mean. But as I got older, he began telling us real things about his childhood. I think he realized that life is fleeting and he wanted to share with us his lifetime while he still could.
My daddy was a good, quiet man. Shy. Painfully shy. Growing up, I just thought he didn’t have much to say. My husband, Chris, use to say that it was because he never had a chance to talk with 5 girls in the house. I remember warning Chris before he met my Daddy for the first time that he probably wouldn’t say anything to him and not to be offended. That day I walked in the door, greeted Daddy in the living room and left him and Chris alone while I went to the back of the house to see my Mama and sisters. Chris told me after we left that Daddy never stopped talking the entire time I was out of the room. Maybe he was right. He usually is.
At Daddy’s funeral, we remembered that quiet man who was afraid of heights, yet joined the Air Force when he was fresh out of high school. Remember I said he was painfully shy? Well, his enlistment in the Air Force was an accident really. He had some friends that traveled the hour and a half to the state capital to take the test to enlist. Daddy just rode with them as a way to pass away the day. When he got there the recruiter encouraged him to take the test with his buddies but told him he wouldn’t have to join up if he didn’t want to. Turns out that my Daddy was the only one that passed the written test that day. Yep, my Daddy was a smart man as well. So, even though he was too skinny to pass the physical, he enlisted in the Air Force.
He was stationed for a while in Germany. I remember as a child looking at pictures of him with snow above the rooftops wishing I could see snow like that. I never have. When Chris, the children, and I moved to Tennessee my Daddy thought I would get to see a lot of snow. It never failed that he would watch the weather and if it looked like I might have gotten snow he would call me. “Penny, how much snow did you get?” More times than not my answer was “None Daddy”. Then he would always say something about how he remembered getting a lot of snow when he was little even there in Mississippi, but it just doesn’t snow like that anymore. The day before I traveled home following his funeral it was suppose to snow at my house. I knew he would have called me (I would have already been home had I not stayed with my Mama a few extra days). And you guessed it. My answered would have been “None Daddy.”
My Daddy had been diagnosed with COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis 4 years ago. The doctors said that life expectancy was 3 years, max. Guess my Daddy showed them what a gift of grace from our LORD could do to their so-called wisdom. I always knew that one of my trips back home would be my last one with him. And this time it was.
My sweet children and husband rushed to get me out of Tennessee and to Mississippi as fast as we could on Saturday, December 21. By the time we made it to Pearl my Mama had already settled in the hospital room for the night and told me to just come the next morning. The ER doctor had told Daddy he had the flu and suspected my Mama had it as well. The next morning Mama actually left the hospital and let me stay the day and night with my Daddy. That was unheard of. Mama and Daddy had never let any of us do that before, but she was so sick. It was one of the last gifts my Daddy gave me.
On Monday morning my Daddy told me he was having trouble getting enough oxygen, even though he was on the nose oxygen tube. Around 11:30 AM he had his first “episode” as I called it. I was by myself with him. I knew I would be. The LORD had prepared my spirit the night before as I lay sleepless from around 2:30 to 4:30 AM. Daddy was restless too. I had prayed during those few hours that if I was alone with him when something happened that I would be able to be strong and not cry.
Daddy’s oxygen levels dropped to 64 in just a matter of minutes. There was a controlled rush and panic in the room as the nurse and respiratory therapist struggled to get him breathing correctly again. At one point I was standing at the foot of his bed, rubbing his feet because that’s all I could do. Daddy looked at me and nodded. I nodded back. I knew in that moment that he knew he was dying and he would be going Home but not home. In the chaos I called 2 of my sisters and told one to go get my Mama. As the nurse left the room and I was alone again with Daddy, who now had a nose and mouth mask with a humidifying bag attached, I began to cry. Daddy looked at me and told me not to cry that he was going to be ok. That was the last gift my Daddy gave me.
On Tuesday, Christmas Eve afternoon, at 2:46 PM my Daddy went Home. He was there and then he wasn’t. Life is truly so fleeting and his absence from the body made him present with the LORD. My Daddy spent Christmas Day with his Savior. And I believe he is enjoying snow or squirrel hunting or fishing on the real Sea of Galilee as his faith is now sight and he worships the LORD as I can only try to do here on earth. I watched him live out some scripture on Tuesday during his last hours. I’m sharing them below. Please remember my Mama as she goes on without her husband of 50 years. Daddy’s last words were of concern for her. Told you he was a good man.
Thank you Daddy for my Christmas gifts. I’ll see you again soon.
So we are always confident — we know that so long as we are at home in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord; for we live by trust, not by what we see. We are confident, then, and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and come to our home with the Lord.
So it is with the fear of the Lord before us that we try to persuade people. Moreover, God knows us as we really are; and I hope that in your consciences you too know us as we really are. We are not recommending ourselves to you again but giving you a reason to be proud of us, so that you will be able to answer those who boast about a person’s appearance rather than his inner qualities. If we are insane, it is for God’s sake; and if we are sane, it is for your sake. For the Messiah’s love has hold of us, because we are convinced that one man died on behalf of all mankind (which implies that all mankind was already dead), and that he died on behalf of all in order that those who live should not live any longer for themselves but for the one who on their behalf died and was raised.
So from now on, we do not look at anyone from a worldly viewpoint. Even if we once regarded the Messiah from a worldly viewpoint, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation — the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new! And it is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, “Be reconciled to God! God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 5 (CJB)