My dad enjoying karaoke after Amber’s graduation from The University of Georgia
You ever had one of those conversations that you initially felt the purpose was to benefit someone else, only later you sense that perhaps God may have had a hand at orchestrating the time of that particular conversation for your benefit as well?
I believe I recently experienced that exact situation.
On Monday, December 3, 2012, my dad and I discussed how we felt God was bringing my daughter, Amber, through a season of relying totally on Him for everything that she could possibly need as she would head off to YWAM, a mission training school in Colorado Springs on January 10, 2013. My dad said that Amber was going to have to trust God and not allow circumstances cause her to doubt, which is exactly what I had just told her. We also talked about believing the whole Word of God.
I felt this was confirming what Amber and I had previously discussed.
My dad and I talked in-depth about trusting God and standing on His Word for approximately thirty minutes, until my step-mom called and our conversation was cut short. At that point in time I did not know that this would be the last extensive conversation I would enjoy with my dad.
I would be able to briefly hear his voice one last time on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, when I called him to inquire the status of a friend’s wife that had been hospitalized.
Then at 9:47 a.m. on Friday, December 7, 2012, as I was drinking a cup of coffee, my phone began to ring, showing my dad’s number. I answer it, expecting to hear my dad’s voice, only to hear my baby brother telling me that he has just found our dad, alive, but unresponsive. He had already called 911.
As I am running across the road to my dad’s house, I keep saying, “Please God, let him be ok, Please God, let him be ok.”
The first responders are already there. I try to be strong but it’s really hard to see my dad like that. I go to my brother, he puts his arm around me and we just stand there as we watch them work on our dad. As they sit him up against the bed; I go put my hand on his head and begin to pray out loud so he knows that I am there. I then move out of the way, so that the first responders can do their job.
I call my friend, Jamie, while they are working on Daddy, who prays with me over the phone. Thank you so very much, Jamie : )
All of our family meets at the hospital, not knowing exactly what has happened. After a few hours have passed and tests are run, they call all of us in the room, and tell us that Daddy had a massive bleed deep in his brain and now there is no brain activity. We are devastated! All of our family except my sister that lives in Illinois is here. She and her family are on their way.
They tell us they will move him to ICU and we will have a few days to decide what to do.
On Saturday the doctors tell us that another scan shows his brain is absorbing some of the bleeding. He is even moving around and opening his eyes. But this is only the beginning of what would be a rollercoaster ride for the next two weeks of my dad’s physical improvements and relapses.
I am a big believer in the Word of God. I believe there is power in speaking the Word. I continued to speak specific scriptures over my dad. I truly believe the reason God gave us His Word is to teach us, to prepare and equip us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Our words make a difference. We can speak positive or negative. “The tongue can bring death or life.” Proverbs 18:21
I stood firmly on God’s Word, believing for my dad’s healing, no matter what the doctors would say, and praying over him each time I was in the room. I reminded him numerous times of our last conversation about trusting God and standing on His Word. Even though he was unable to speak I felt sure that he understood what I was saying.
After some signs of improvement at first, we were hopeful. He then contracted pneumonia, which we felt was serious, but turned out not to be the fatal issue.
The doctors told us that the bleed had caused such damage, that he would probably not be able to lead a productive life, even if when taken off the ventilator, he could breathe on his own. We as a family had to make a decision of whether to keep him on the ventilator or take him off, since he could not speak for himself, and had no living will.
Then one day as I was taking my authority, as it says to do in Luke 10:19, over the thief, that I knew was trying to steal my dad’s health, and claiming the abundant life, which Jesus came for him to have; (John 10:10) my dad began to squeeze my hand extremely hard. I opened my eyes and noticed he was looking directly at me. I said “Daddy you remember what we talked about, don’t you, trusting God and standing on His Word? That’s what I’m doing for you.”
The intensity of his stare deep into my eyes, not only told me with certainty that he understood what I was saying, but perhaps he was trying to tell me something in return. What was it? As I continued my conversation with my dad, I felt I realized what he was trying to tell me. It was as though Daddy was saying, “Yes, I remember our conversation, Do you?” I felt at that point I knew that Daddy meant I had to trust God, because He knew what was best for Daddy.
Later that night, I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts went back to my conversation with my dad on December 3, 2012. During our conversation, I mentioned to my dad how God not only provides all that we need but, “If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us our heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 My dad commented, “Sometimes our heart’s desires are not what is best for us though, so God may not give them to us.”
My heart’s desire had been for my dad’s physical body to be healed and made whole so he could stay here on earth with his family, but I felt as though my dad was saying I had to trust God to know what was best for him. I know without a doubt that God can and does provide physical healing here on earth, but if my dad’s physical body were still here, he would have to deal with sickness and disease and many other things, just as we all do.
After sensing in my heart this was what my dad was saying, there was such a battle within me. Do I go to my dad and say, “It’s ok, you don’t have to fight to stay here for me, for us.” Would I be giving up? Will that make my dad feel like I am giving up on him? I was so torn.
They were already calling hospice in.
On December 20 around 10:45 a.m. they took Daddy off the ventilator. It was an especially emotional time. I wanted to be in the room, but I couldn’t watch. I buried my face in my husband’s chest. He talked to me as the nurse removed the tube, “He’s doing great. He looks good. Almost there. Ok, you can look now.” Several of us stayed back with Daddy for a while. I didn’t want to leave until I knew that he was stable. All of his vitals remained reasonably stable with medication to help him rest throughout the day, until the evening.
Sometime in the late afternoon, I remember going out in the ICU waiting room. My sister, Sharon, and Mr. Dennis, my dad’s good friend, who had been with us throughout the whole time, stayed in the room with Daddy. Then Mr. Dennis came to the door and said the nurse thought we should all come back.
The nurse told us because he was working so hard to breathe, Daddy’s heart could wear out within the hour. We went and got the grandkids from the waiting room, gathered around Daddy, loved on him, talked to him, each one of us said what we wanted to say to him. Then we began to sing Christmas Carols. Yes, we sang Christmas Carols right there in ICU room # 11.
They moved Daddy to another room on another floor, so that we could all be together as much as we wanted. More family came and joined us kids and grandkids, my step-mom and Mr. Dennis in the room. And we filled up the whole waiting room with Aunt Mary, Uncle Laverne (aka Glen), Vicki, Roger & Teresa, Steve & Belinda, Kevin & Kaye, Lee & Laney, Brother Johnny & Ms. Darlene, Tim & Courtney, (what would we have done without our precious Courtney,thank you for taking such good and loving care of Daddy).
More singing continued. We laughed. We cried. We loved on Daddy and each other. My sister, Cindy, and I shared a little couch that night. My brother-in-law, Matt, snored, which, quite honestly didn’t bother me in the least. I am used to much worse. My sister, Sharon, didn’t sleep at all. She stayed right by my dad’s side all night long. Every time I opened my eyes she was right there beside him. I don’t know for sure when my brother, Eldon left. I remember seeing my sister-in-law, Sheree, in the early morning because she brought coffee. I need my coffee. My baby brother, Eric, and my step-mom stayed there in the room with us until sometime in the early morning, I think. I don’t recall the exact time they left. My Aunt Mary and her two daughters, Belinda and Teresa stayed well into the early morning too I believe. I’m not sure when Mr. Dennis left. Seemed like he was always there. He’s just become part of the family.
Hospice had scheduled a bed to be delivered to my dad’s house the next morning around 9:30. They were to transport my dad home around 12 or 12:30. We were informed that the bed did not come with sheets, so I made a Wal-Mart stop and picked up sheets, some new pillows, a new cotton blanket, and a few other things that Courtney had told me that we would need.
I went to my dad’s house and me and my brother, Eldon, got the bed ready. It wasn’t long and Daddy was home and settled in. Next thing you know, everyone was there. One Hospice nurse told us, if you are a loud family, then be loud, if you are a loving family, love on him. Well; we are loud and we are loving; so that’s what we did.
Once again, we laughed, we cried. My brother, Eldon, brought out the photo albums. Lot of laughing going on there. Then, the singing began again. My brother-in-law, Matt, sings so beautifully. I love to hear him sing. Anything. And he did, and we all sang together. But one of the most treasured moments for me was when I was standing beside my dad holding his hand, and my sisters, Sharon and Cindy, were standing directly across gazing so lovingly at Daddy, and we were singing, don’t recall the song, I looked up at Matt, wondering if he wanted to come and join us, and he just nodded toward Cindy as if to say, “She’s got this.” I looked at both of my sisters with such joy and pride in my heart while they so elegantly sang to our dad, as he was getting ready to go and meet our Lord and Savior.
One thing the Hospice nurse told me that has stuck with me. If you are with your loved one when they take their final breath, I can’t think of a better place to be. It’s like being in the presence of the Lord. How awesome is that?
As hard as it was to watch my dad struggling to breathe; I couldn’t leave. We were all gathered around him, in his favorite spot at home when he took his last breath.
We buried my dad on Christmas Eve morning. I felt sure that there would not be many people able to attend the service because of the holidays and the suddenness of the situation. The funeral home attendant instructed us to sit as closely as possible as he was leading us out into the sanctuary because “it was standing room only” he said.
The service was beautiful, with my niece, Bethany, playing the piano, my daughter Amber, and niece, Shelby, reading a very touching “Grandfather” poem, my cousin, Courtney, reading a rather inspirational poem, and my brother-in-law, Matt, on whom we can always rely to touch our hearts with his glorious voice, sang two beautiful songs. Two of my dad’s long-time friends, who are pastors, conducted the service, one of which read an amazing poem that my sister-in-law, Sheree, wrote herself. There were tears, but there was also laughter throughout the church. Yes, laughter. One of the pastors that has known my dad since I was young, told some funny stories and made us laugh. More than once.
How can we laugh? We know where my dad is. Do I miss him? Absolutely! You better believe it. Every day. It hurts like crazy! And there is nothing anyone can say or do to make it go away either.
About a week after the funeral I began to have time to just think about things. Down time, you know. Christmas was over. No more going back and forth to the hospital. No more having to run around and do stuff. We had our first family dinner without my dad. That was extremely hard for me.
Then I started thinking, what I was I doing that morning, the morning it happened? How long had Daddy been lying there and I was just across the road. My brother had described how he found my dad; and I will never forget how he looked when I got there. The thought of my dad lying there fighting for his life, and me directly across the road. I felt so guilty. I felt like I had let him down. Those images would not go away. I couldn’t get rid of this guilt.
I keep a journal. On this same morning I noticed that God had laid someone on my heart to send a scripture to just one hour before this happened. How can I trust myself to hear God’s voice if I can be casually drinking a cup of coffee while my dad is lying across the road literally fighting for his life?
Here I was again, not doubting God, but doubting my ability to hear God’s voice especially where the people closest to me are concerned, and this time my dad’s life was literally at risk because of it. I failed him when he needed me most.
Why did God not lay my dad on my heart? I do not blame God. No. I just felt so guilty. I have continued to wrestle with this over and over for the last three last weeks.
Then once again, my dad’s look from that day in the hospital room, came back to me, as if to say, “Do you remember our conversation? You have to trust God completely, that He knows what is best.”
I also know that this feeling of guilt is not of God, and Daddy would not want me to carry it around either. It doesn’t help me or anyone else. Romans 8:1 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Knowing that my dad had an intimate relationship with Jesus, that he has been given the ultimate healing, has eternal life, and that I will be with him again, does give me peace. As I said, I miss like crazy, but I think on one of the things that I heard my dad refer to so many times.
A long time ago my dad used to drink and smoke, but he quit, and he would say, “Me and the Lord quit drinking, and me and the Lord quit smoking.” That was his way of referencing Philippians 4:13 to his life “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” He knew that in his own strength he could not overcome these things, just as I cannot overcome the deep sadness, the void, and the guilt that I feel, in my own strength.
I continue to remember my conversation on December 3, 2012 with Daddy about standing on the Word of God, Hebrews 13:5 tells me that “God will never leave me or forsake me.”
John 14:27 tells me that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
And I love this, because I know that Daddy has a mansion that he is enjoying right now. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
And 2 Corinthians 5:7-9 says “For we live by believing and not by seeing.Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.”
I know that my dad is home with our Lord, and they would both want me to continue to share with others of God’s love and grace, and that the only way to eternal life is through Jesus Christ.
Yes, Daddy Continues to Speak Volumes Without Saying a Word.
May you all be extremely blessed,
Sheri Haskins : )
My daughter, Amber’s, graduation from The University of Georgia May 2012.
Family photo after karaoke fun at Shokitini’s
Christmas 2011, our last Christmas with Daddy.
My daughter, Kara’s 15th birthday, May 2012.
Me and my dad on New Year’s Day 2012 after watching football.
Father’s Day 2012