My mother passed away in August 2010; she died in the middle of the night in an assisted living facility not far from our home. My father passed away 24 hours ago; he died peacefully in his own bed in this house just like he wanted to. He was two months shy of his 93rd birthday.
Care giving has been the most challenging task I have ever engaged in, physically, emotionally and spiritually, yet I emerged stronger in each of those three pillars when it was over.
I remember the first time I hiked to the summit of Mt. Wasson with my friend Bill from Colorado in 2011 or so. We talked a lot about care giving. By that time, I had already been doing it for two years, and I was uncomfortable with it. I remember Bill telling me, “Just take it easy. When this is all over, you will be glad you did it.” In my shameful weariness I responded, “No I won’t Bill ….”
That became my unfortunate mantra during the ensuing years. “No I won’t Bill …” I fell deeper into that funk as the years passed. I second-guessed every decision I made, always concerned but never convinced I was doing the right thing for my father. It was affecting my family and everyone around me. I reached the bottom when my granddaughter asked me one day not too many months ago, “Dziadek, do you ever smile?”
Mrs. tVM and I walked into his room at 4AM yesterday morning to administer his medication. I stared at his lifeless body as she put her hand to her mouth to contain the sob. I placed my hand on his forehead. He was cold. We stood by his bedside for several minutes coming to terms with the fact that his spirit had departed. Mrs. tVM had left the window open just a crack this past week for that very purpose.
My father’s biggest fear was that he would die in a hospital. The peaceful look on his face assured me that when God sent his angel to carry my father through the crack in the window, he left with a smile on his face and looked back on us with tenderness and said, “Thank you.”
Twenty-four hours later, I still remember that conversation with Bill. “You’ll be glad you did …” “No I won’t Bill …” As I recall that conversation, I realize that Bill was right and I was wrong. I sit here today at peace with myself. Bill was right. I’m glad I did what I did. No one and no thing can ever change my mind.
Care giving is not an easy thing. While it brought out the worst in me, I am certain it also brought out the best in me. I know I am stronger physically, spiritually and emotionally than I have ever been in my life. I have my father to thank for that.
When Bill responded to my email yesterday informing him that my father had passed, he sent a link to an interview with Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s masterpiece The Passion. “I’m sending you a video that might be helpful at this time,” he wrote, “I found it to be extraordinary.” Mrs. tVM and our youngest son sat quietly for 30+ minutes and watched it. Once again, Bill was right: the video was helpful and quite extraordinary.
I invite you to watch it. If you are on a time crunch, please pick up the discussion at the 37th minute and watch it until the end. Mr. Caviezel concludes with a poem by Walt Huntley, a poem that legendary Coach John Wooden quoted at his hall of fame induction. It’s called God’s Hall of Fame. I think that is where my father is right now.
God’s Hall of Fame
by Walt Huntley
Your name may not appear down here
In this world’s Hall of Fame,
In fact you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The Oscars and the praise of men
May never come your way,
But don’t forget God has rewards
That he’ll hand out someday.
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame
Is for eternity;
To have your name inscribed up there
Is greater more by far
Than all the fame and all the praise
Of ev’ry man-made star.
This crowd on earth they soon forget
When you’re not up at the top,
They’ll cheer like mad until you fall
And then their praise will stop;
Not God, He never does forget,
And in His Hall of Fame,
By just believing on His Son,
Forever – there’s your name.
I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade
My name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars
In that celestial Hall,
For all the famous names on earth,
Or glory that they share;
I’d rather be an unknown here,
And have my name up there.