Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

It's a beautiful day here in Galveston where my DH and I are enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation as we celebrate our upcoming 25th anniversary. As I have spent time by the pool, walked along the beach, and gone through the rest of this day, I've had a niggling in the back of my mind that just won't go away. Today is my dad's birthday. Is it still his birthday when he's no longer here or should it be "was" his birthday?

My dad celebrated his 78th birthday three years ago today, having been diagnosed with lung cancer a mere five weeks earlier. When you take into account that we knew he was dying, it was a bittersweet day. We had decided a week or so earlier that we'd give him acts of service for his gifts that year. Spending money on gifts he'd never enjoy didn't seem to make sense, and acts of service would live on to bless my mom even after my dad was gone. David, Sarah, and I got to work, mowing, trimming bushes, and cleaning siding. Seth had left the day before on a mission trip with our church youth group and wasn't due home for another week.

In the early afternoon, a group of people who my dad had taken with him on mission trips to Mexico came to spend some time with him. We all crowded into the family room, my dad the center of attention in his recliner. He was forty pounds lighter, on oxygen, and rather frail, but he was still a man of strong faith and joy. After all the greetings, Jesse pulled out his guitar and began to play one of the familiar songs of our faith. We all joined in, singing our praise to the Lord, loving on my dad, and finding strength in the moment. My dad sang, raising his right hand in praise to the one who would soon call him home. Tears streamed down most cheeks as we knew without speaking the words that this would be Dad's last birthday here on earth. As I looked around the room at this gathering of faces, I knew that they represented a small fraction of the people my dad had impacted as he walked his faith through this life. He was a good man and loved the Lord with a passion. We closed this precious time together with prayer and tight yet tender hugs.We had no way of knowing that within a few short hours my dad would be gone. The next day was the first day my dad had not had the strength to feed himself. My mom fed him, and in the midst of this shift in life, my dad's sense of humor was intact. He teased her about how quickly she shoveled the food in, moving her mouth like many of us do as we feed a baby, seeming to be taking bites ourselves. Dad hadn't shaved in a few days and was having trouble with his electric razor. We had bought him a new one, and in the early evening, Dad sat in his recliner while Dave gently and lovingly shaved his wrinkled face. Such a tender, loving gesture from my sweet husband for my precious Dad.

Later, after we'd returned home, Mom called, concern evident in her voice. Something was wrong, and she needed us. Within minutes, Dave and I entered their bedroom, finding Mom standing by Dad's side of the bed. He was gone, having crossed from the world of the living to the world of the everlasting.

Even today, I can hardly grasp that my Dad is gone. I miss him more than words can express, and the tears stream down my face, much as they did three years ago today as we gathered in his family room, singing praises to the Lord. Such a void, yet such hope in knowing that I'll see him again. He's with my other Dad - my Heavenly Father - and through my own faith in the life, death, and resurrection of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, my sins have been forgiven, and I'll be with them both one day.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad! You were the best, and I was blessed! I love you!

Paula's Heart

Sharing life on the road less traveled