My Dad loved dogs. So it was only fitting that a large, yellow-white dog showed up one day at the house. We called him Whitey. He roamed between the yards of Dad’s house and our neighbors. He was there as we helped Dad get into the van for a doctor’s appointment or ER visit. Upon our return, he ran to greet us. One evening carolers stood outside the patio door to sing for Dad. Here came Whitey, taking his spot beside a little girl who was usually scared of dogs but for some reason not of him. Dad quietly sang some parts to the songs under his breath. My tears flowed at the sound of his voice and the sacredness of the moment.
We finally made it to the chemo education appointment. Dad decided that he would not do the chemo and radiation. Hospice began to come to the house three times a week to drain his lung. He continued to not be able to eat. He lost more weight and weakened.
My sister, Cassie and her husband, Tyler came down from Minnesota for our last Christmas together. It would be their first time seeing him since his diagnosis. They stepped right in to care for him and for us. My sister cooked us meals, tended to Dad and even got to have her own trip to the emergency room with him. She came up with a great Christmas idea for us: we would get ornaments and pictures that represented some memories we wanted to share with him and go through them on Christmas morning.
A few days later, it was time for her to say goodbye and travel back home. I can’t imagine the sadness and pain she experienced as she said goodbye to Dad knowing she would not see him again. He stood at the glass door watching as they pulled away. How hard for him, too.
New Year’s Day arrived. Nothing to celebrate. Dad finally realized he could no longer stay in his recliner and moved to the hospital bed. Close friends came to visit. He and Mom held hands a lot. One evening he seemed almost himself, making jokes and laughing. But that quickly passed, and he began to weaken even more. On Thursday, January 3rd, the hospice nurse told us she didn’t think he would make it through the weekend. His eyesight was gone and he wasn’t able to talk. But she said he could hear and we should talk to him. I noticed Whitey was now sitting at the patio door. He had never done that before. Mom and I agreed that he probably sensed something was wrong and wanted to be there. Later in the evening, Doug and I stood at his bedside and Doug read Dad’s favorite scripture, Psalm 100, to him. He also promised him that he need not worry about Kay; he would take care of her.
Mom, Doug and I all knew he wasn’t going to make it through the night. Mom asked Doug to move our vehicles in preparation for the funeral home director to be able to get in to remove his body. Around 2:15am, we three gathered around him holding his now cold hands and weeping. We watched each rise and fall of his chest wondering if it would be the last. At 2:44am on Friday, January 4th, Dad did breathe his last and his chest rested.
Through it all, Dad was never angry or questioned God. He walked by faith, knowing that Jesus would be in his sight when He passed from death to eternal life. Whitey was never seen again. I like to think he ran beside the vehicle carrying Dad as it was leaving the driveway and he ran until he could run no more.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(English Standard Version)