The last Father's Day I was able to spend with my daddy was at a time when he was at his weakest. We had gone to church as usual, only Daddy wasn't there with us, but so weak that he could not get out of the bed on his own. When it came to the time of service we have each year in honor of father's that have gone on, the pictures flashed up on the screen. Somehow I knew this time next year I would be seeing my own father's picture up there. That evening we were all up at the house visiting daddy and we begged him to go sit in the swing under the shade tree (thinking that getting outside in the fresh air would make him feel a little better). I had an extra wheelchair and with the help of my mama & siblings, we got him outside which lasted about 10 minutes. You could tell by the look on his face he was doing this just for us, and not because he felt like sitting out there. It wasn't long before we got him back inside. A couple weeks later as friends and family started making their way in to see him possibly for their last time, he commented to someone, "I wish I could feel good just one more time. I'd love to be able to go outside".
He got his wish on Friday, June 29th when during the noon hour all of us kids were up at the house and they put him in a wheelchair and took him out onto the front porch. He had a different look in his eyes as he looked out over his garden that was now just about overtaken with weeds. He started this garden early in the spring when he still had a little energy and strength left in him. Working in the garden was always therapeutic to him. By May when the vegetables started appearing on his vines, he started getting weaker and my siblings took turns watering, hoeing, and picking the vegetables as they started coming in. He would look from the front porch and want so bad to tell them "how to do it right". Daddy for years had been the gardener, we just enjoyed the fruits of his labor...and labor it was. I guess we sort of took it for granted all those years, but he loved to be able to grow it and give a lot of it away to his children, grandchildren, and friends....and he loved to eat it too!
He was now taking what I guess he figured to be his last glance at the home place he had lived for 68 years of his 73 years of life. He didn't have much to say and within a few minutes, he was ready to go back inside. Within just a matter of hours, most all of the family (children & grandchildren) had all gathered around his bedside to spend whatever hours or days we had left with him. Other than both sets of my grandparents, we had never lost an immediate family member to death. As we sat around his bed, Daddy looked at us and with barely a whisper said, "Let's talk about heaven". So for the next few hours we talked, laughed, and cried around his bedside. He assured us he was "doubly at peace" and looking around at all of the grandchildren said, "I want to see everyone of you in heaven, you know what it takes to get there".
We had been praying for several years now for God to heal him of this cancer, but so far He hadn't. However, there were other prayers being answered that were just as important. For someone to have a major organ consumed with tumors and not be in any pain without the aid of medication was a miracle in itself.
We kissed him goodnight and us 5 children slept there at the house that night. Me in my bedroom, Pam and Anneil in one room, Ginger slept in the the family room, and Wes slept in the living room...with the aid of 2 loud box fans blowing "wide open". He told someone years ago his house was so loud at night, it sounded like airplanes coming down the hallway. Saturday was about the same as far as the family gathering back around in his room, only he slept a little more, and when he wasn't asleep, he talked a lot less. By nightfall, his words were few and far between, but he kept his sense of humor when after several hours of silence on his part, he opened his eyes and said, "I hope you're all enjoying staring at me". We kissed him goodnight again, and everyone went to bed with the aid of the 2 box fans.
Daddy made it through another night and by sunrise Sunday morning, things started to change even more. When we went in to see him, he had a far away glassy-look in his eyes. He had stopped talking and was now in a comatose-like state. By that evening and still in NO pain, one by one each family member got to go in privately and tell him whatever we wanted to say to him. He couldn't speak, but we were told he more-than-likely could hear us. I rubbed his frail arm and told him how much I loved him, and that he had been the best daddy I could have ever asked for. A few more hours passed and it was now bedtime. We kissed him goodnight, and everyone stayed and went to their beds once again. Before we shut the last light out, Mama turned on the box fans.
Over the past 4 - 5 years, I had seen my father go from a man with an abundance of energy and speech, to a thin extremely weak man with no words coming from his mouth...a difficult thing to watch. His breathing movements were the only movements being made now.
A little after midnight on Monday morning, Daddy had become a little more restless, but Mama had insisted on laying there beside him...she was fulfilling her marriage vows, "In sickness and in health, till death do us part". Around 2:00 some unexplainable things started taking place...according to what my sister Anneil said. She jumped up out of the bed and my sister Pam got up right behind her. Quickly they ran to my parents room to find them both asleep. When they got back to their room and into bed, Pam asked her why she had jumped up as she did and Anneil said, "Someone came to the side of my bed and said, 'Get up!' And I did. I kept hearing these "swishing" air-noises like, "shewww" and didn't know what to make of it". (All I had heard the last few nights were the box fans as I slept with my door shut.) Pam was taking all of this in when she gave out a sigh like, "Shewww" and Anneil said, "That's it! That's what it sounds like!" Pam began wondering, "Do you reckon there could be angels in the room?" Laugh if you will, but the bible speaks of angels as being ministers of God, and also known to escort a righteous person (one who had received salvation) to heaven to be with Him. Luke 16:22 says, Later Lazarus died and the angels carried him to the arms of Abraham. The rich man died too, and was buried. (Quite a distinction) Could this be what they were hearing, the sound of angels? No sooner had they contemplated this thought when the swishing sound startled them both, and Pam heard it herself this time. They lay there frozen not knowing what to think, and within a few minutes they drifted off to sleep. I really don't know myself, but I don't doubt one bit what they were hearing because what happened in the next few minutes gave me no doubt something was taking place.
At around 2:40 or so, the whole entire house awoke to the loudest "whoop!" of a yell that came from my Daddy, and I must say, with ALL that was within him. I get tears in my eyes right now as I think about it. He could barely talk above a whisper that last week or so, but this shout would have scared the dead. My brother Wes came running down the hall, and I jumped up in my bed and started trying to get myself in my chair in a half-asleep stupor, and crying, because I knew this must be it... I knew my Daddy must be dying and I wanted so bad to be in there with him. Mama also had jumped up from the bed crying, while Anneil ran in to console her. As Anneil walked over to Daddy's side of the bed to turn on his bedside lamp, the once weakened body that for the past 24 hours had been in a comatose-like state suddenly sat straight up in the bed on his own and with his eyed wide open as though staring at something, he raised both hands heavenward and gave one last loud "whoop!", then quietly laid back on his pillow. The hands that held us all as babies, that picked us up when we fell or hurt ourselves, that worked and toiled to care for his family, that rolled me many a time in my wheelchair, and that laid his hands on me in prayer, were now still. Daddy crossed the finish line in this race of life and joined the thousands of others that are cheering us on in our race. I can imagine them all saying. "Don't give up and stop running. Don't break the rules and become disqualified. The prize is well worth it".
But as it is written in the scriptures: No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him". I Corinthians 2:9