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sunshine_through_cloudsI thought I would use the title of my blog to do a little preaching at myself. Though I must admit that wallowing in sorrow at times is much easier. 

I do not need to reiterate how difficult the past three months have been for me. At times it has felt like I was at the bottom of a very deep, dry well; and the only help I got was someone threw me a shovel. That sounds rather dramatic, but there it is. 

As I am writing this, I am in my bedroom with the door closed and the lights off. That in and of itself is nothing rare. But what is rare is that in the living room of our home I am hearing gales of laughter and giggles from a bridal shower. One of my nieces is getting married next week and my daughter, as her maid of honor, is throwing her a shower.  

Laughter, fun, refreshments, hugs, gifts, etc. Everything that stand in stark contrast to how I have felt all summer is just a few yards away from me. Is that wrong? Of course not. Is it wrong that I just now answered a call from a good friend with news that he is getting married? Of course not! I am very happy for all of them.  

Yes life has sorrow and tears, but life also has so much love and happiness. Always look for the silver lining in whatever storm you may find yourself in. So taking another dose of my own medicine….life does go on.  

James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

So the trials of life will seem very burdensome at times and attempt to squelch our joy. But through it all, we can take comfort that the ultimate joy of Jesus Christ in our lives will produce an unshakeable faith. 

Something that my parents would have, and did tell me over the years. I must always continue to remember and live out the biblical truths that have been passed down to me.

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IMG_1064At 12:57 AM, Friday, October 9, 2015, my dad passed into glory. Three months and two days after mom. Dad’s health was on a steady decline after mom passed away. The hospital labeled it as “Failure to Thrive”. I labeled it as a broken heart.

Over the past three months I had the joy of spending many hours with him. Albeit many of those hours were at the Emergency Room or by his bed in a hospital. Since the technological wonders of this generation do not work in hospitals (maybe for a good reason?) we got to sit and talk. Much of the talk consisted of dad grumbling that he was ready to go home. That was always a good indication that he was feeling better. So we would talk about things important to him, and the topic always centered on his eagerness for the rapture to occur so that he could once again be with mom.

He could not speak of mom without tearing up and telling everyone with a willing ear, what a wonderful woman she was. He showed everyone in the Scan0018hospital, and later at Gosnell, a small black and white photo that he had of mom. It was her graduation picture with a faded inscription on the back speaking of future plans and how much she loved him. He was so proud of mom, the love of his life, and that picture never left his wallet.12079439_498722676962734_22662963006478559_n

As the days wore on, I could hear increasing sadness in his voice, see the loneliness in his eyes, his walk turning to a shuffle and his overall decrease in health. He had been admitted in the hospital several times for pneumonia and falling. Even though we were making sure that he would eat, he was rapidly losing weight. I hired a Health Care Agency to start assisting him at home. All of us were taking turns doing his medications, housework and errands. Yet in spite of all we could do, we all knew we were losing him. One day my brother and his wife showed up at his house and found him lying on his kitchen floor. Living alone was no longer an option for him.

My wife and I found a wonderful assisted living home for him just a few miles from his own home. I talked with him about the necessity of the move. He just simply agreed and went along with everything we suggested. Once living in his new “home” he seemed content but he often told me that it was not his home. That he was tired, missed mom, and was ready to go to his final home.

IMG_1046He lived at the assisted living home for one month, and every day his health and strength continued to decline. On September 27th, Wendy and I brought him to church with us and out to eat lunch. He was very weak and slow but always happy to be with family. The next day, he went into the Emergency Room for what I thought was another case of pneumonia. Every test (and there were many) that they performed indicated nothing physically wrong with him. Though he had no strength and could no longer walk. They admitted him for the night for observation. The next day I went to the hospital and had a meeting with the social worker. She had been following his case since mom’s death, and she told me that the decline in dad’s health was severe and rapid. Failure to Thrive was the diagnosis and she told me he now was at the point of needing Hospice.

Difficult words for all of us to hear, but we all knew she was right. The only difference is that we said he was dying from a broken heart.

Gosnell Hospice Home in Scarborough was mentioned and chosen. The next day we met him by ambulance as they checked him into his private room. I cannot begin to say enough good about Gosnell Home or the loving staff. Everyone we spoke with always had the time to listen and acted like dad was their only patient.

His room was usually flooded with so many faithful family and friends. All very special moments with laughter and tears that I will forever hold very dear to my heartV9595EDE7IMG_1065

From October 2nd to his death on October 9th was without doubt the hardest week of my life. Mom’s death happened so fast that none of us hardly had time to think before it happened. This last week that I spent with dad has bitter sweet memories for me that I will carry to my own grave.

I was there every day before sunrise and left late in the evenings. Outside of stealing a catnap in my van a couple of days, I sat by his bed holding his hand. No longer able to swallow, he ceased eating and drinking and we did all we could do to keep him comfortable. He slept most of the time, but would wake to our touch, offering a small smile and a raspy hi. He told me numerous times how tired he was and that he was ready to go home.

Unable to open his once brilliant blue eyes, speak or move for the past two days, I would take a pillow, lay it on the bed by his head and I would just sit in my wheelchair, resting beside of him while holding his hand and often softly humming to him. Somewhere in his mind I hope he knew how much I loved him and was there for him.

He slipped away in the middle of the night peacefully drawing and exhaling his last breath. A man of great faith that was finally at home with his Savior and reunited with his wife. No longer with a broken heart, but singing praises to his God and King for all eternity.

Both of my parents now deceased, in earthly terms, leaves me an orphan. Yet both of my parents made sure that I would never be an orphan. They left me with the knowledge of my heavenly Father leaving me not an orphan, but a child of a King. That is the legacy that my brothers and I were left. That is the legacy that as parents, I pray that I can pass on to my children.

John 18 says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him”

I am not an orphan. What I am is a son that was blessed with a wonderful earthly father that taught me about my heavenly father. Someday soon, I will see my parents again and be part of God’s family where we will never be separated again.

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I’m sitting here in dad’s room alone with him, and the time is precious and needed. I have sung a few hymns to him, held his hand, prayed with him and even played some fake piano to him on my iPad.

A mix of the present and the past. He is lying peacefully in bed, breathing slowly and never moves. How much longer will this be? Only God knows. This makes day four that he has had no liquids or nourishment because he can no longer swallow.

I don’t have a lot to say here at the moment, but I did want to share an old family picture that has been taken out of hiding after many years.

IMG_1063The person on the far left is my Uncle Les, now deceased. My dad is the dashingly handsome man (my words) behind him. Next is the youngest of the four brothers, my Uncle Fred. The man with the pipe is my Uncle Walt, now deceased. The young lady in front is my Aunt Ruth, then my Grandmother, Carlotta, and my Grandfather, Carl, both deceased.

Looking at this picture now, about 60 years after it was taken, my dad looks so much like his father that it is uncanny.

From that small group came 20 grandchildren, great grand children and more than I can remember or count or future generations.

Time marches on.

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Today is Tuesday, October 6, 2015. Saturday was the last day that dad took in any liquid or nourishment. The rule of thumb is typically three days without fluid. He did not have a good night last night and is breathing very raspy and shallow today. The nurses here have upped his morphine for pain and have given him a medication that will help dry up some of the fluid in his lungs.

Books and Hollywood tend to romanticize death. Spending the last few moments with someone, tender looks, tender words, that final touch of farewell before sliding peacefully off to a better place. I beg to differ.

I had an hour alone this morning with dad in his room. during that time I just sat there and sang quietly to him. I remember what peace that gave to me when Wendy did that for me so many years ago after my injury. Whenever I came to some level of consciousness, I would hear her voice and it calmed me. I hope I was able to do that for dad.

The Bible calls death the enemy. 1 Corinthians 15

21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The beautiful promise from God is that the enemy, death, will ultimately be destroyed. Dad right now is facing that enemy. The comfort for all believers is that the final enemy will be defeated.

The defeat of death will mark the new beginning for dad. I know this. I believe this. Yet facing any enemy is never easy and will leave me with scars.

Just as Christ was scarred for me.

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The past three days have been very difficult ones. We are now on day four of dad being in a Hospice home. We all know the end is very near, so we look for the small bright moments.

One of those moments happened yesterday. There were twelve people in dad’s room and we were talking and reminiscing like all families do. During this time, dad was laying in his bed, not moving, eyes closed, and in a deep sleep. My cousin Wendy had to leave and we were all saying our goodbyes as the group began to break up. Wendy went over to dad’s bedside to say goodbye. She knelt by his bed, took his hand and bowed her head to say a prayer. The rest of us stood by watching. While she was praying, dad’s eyes opened and he slowly moved his hand to put it over hers. Wendy opened her eyes to find dad looking at her with a smile on his face that we had not seen in days. He just stared into her eyes and continued to smile. What he was thinking none of us know. But one thing we do know, is that for that brief moment, he and his niece shared a moment that none of us present will ever forget. Tears flowed from everyone as Wendy just stared into his smiling face and shared a look of love.

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Dad, Mom and meToday finds me sitting in a room at a Hospice home. July, barely three months ago, I was dealing with hospice questions for mom. Now I am doing the same thing for my dad.

Perhaps you have been in a Hospice Center before. The room is spacious, has nice windows to look out at the well-kept grounds, a small kitchenette area, low lighting and warm colors on the walls. Everything designed to make a person “comfortable”, though that is the last thing I feel.

January of 2015, dad was living in his own home and taking care of mom as her sole care giver. The doctors do not really have a name or diagnosis for where dad is today with his health. They are calling it “Failure to Thrive”. We are calling it a broken heart.

Due to his rapid decline of his health, I had a health care agency coming to his home four hours a day, seven days a week. We were also going in every day to visit, prepare his medications for the day and monitor his life. One afternoon my brother and his wife arrived at his home and found him lying on the kitchen floor. Staying alone at home was no longer a safe option.

I then found a great assisted living home for him with a caring staff and only five other residents. It seemed like a wonderful solution, but dad’s overall health continued in a rapid downward spiral.

In just one month he had contracted pneumonia twice, fallen once, and had been in the ER six different occasions. The last time in the ER resulted in him being admitted as an in-patient and from there, to a Hospice home.

It is now difficult to wake him up, he no longer wants to eat or drink on his own, he has lost 15 pounds in three months, his overall body pain has worsened, and when he is awake, much of the time he is staring off into space. Two days ago at the hospital, he asked to be shaven clean because he was going to go meet Joan now. (Mom)

The nurses in the hospital were busy with other patients so I got some shaving supplies and went to work. I was very meticulous with the job, out of fear of cutting him, but in the end he looked clean shaven and it made him feel better. He had been sporting a small mustache since mom passed away, but he said that he wanted it shaven off to meet mom because she would not like it. So off it came.

Steve spent last night with him and I got here early this morning. I’m typing this at a table near his bed as I watch him sleep. He is resting peacefully and is in no pain or distress. He just tells all of us that he is tired and ready to go.

When he said his wedding vows 55 years ago, he firmly meant “till death do us part”. Mom was his love and his life while here on earth. Without her, his will to go on alone is completely gone.

How long we will sit vigil by his bedside, I am not in charge of that. God is in control of his life and the lessons for me as I sit here. God has not promised his people a life without sorrow. But he has promised to comfort us in our sorrow and to never leave us to face sorrow alone.

Matthew 5:4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Isaiah 43:2  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Psalm 46:1-2  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Psalm 119:50  My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Romans 8:18  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Psalm 18:2  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 23:4  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 34:18  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Matthew 11:28  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

John 14:1-4  Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

The Bible clearly tells us that God is our comfort when troubles come our way. Dad knows this truth and has taught me this same truth, so that as I sit here and watch him slowly breath, his Savior, and his beloved wife, are waiting with loving arms to wipe away all earthly tears.

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inn-sign-640x319My daughter just returned from an amazing three days at Word of Life retreat on Schroon Lake in New York. https://camps.wol.org/ She has now been there several times with our church as one of the youth leaders, and comes back with some amazing stories and incredible blessings.

This latest trip was an exceptional blessing, because one of the guest speakers was Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni has a special meaning for our family because we can relate so well with her life. I remember reading the story of Joni before I was injured and was so impressed with her strength. Then after my own injury, I realized that Joni’s strength was not in herself, but rather in her saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Any strength I thought I had was obliterated the day of my injury. I know from Joni’s story that she often felt like I did. Discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, pain and rollercoaster emotions lurked as an undertow that would pull me under. Yet through it all I smiled. Often not because I wanted to, but because that is what strong people do…right? Wrong.

My smile on the outside is only possible because of my savior on the inside. Even now, 18 years later, I have to rely daily on the strength of Christ. Philippians 4:13 is such a simple Bible verse that children learn, but we as adults should never forget. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Ariel not only heard firsthand Joni’s personal testimony in word and song, but also had the privilege of having her picture taken with Joni and her husband Ken. I think the smile on Ariel’s face pretty much says it all.

Joni has a God honoring ministry of serving people around the world with disabilities. Her ministry, Joni and Friends http://www.joniandfriends.org/, has reached millions of people around the world with help, encouragement and the Good News of Jesus Christ. She has been in her wheelchair for 48 years! I have only been in mine for 18. I pray that I can continue to have a smile on my face that reflects Christ just as hers does.

1Jcgz7dbWhile there, Ariel also got to hear Best Selling Author Joel C. Rosenburg. I am an avid reader of his work and I highly recommend his books to others. http://www.joelrosenberg.com/

And as always, when Ariel comes home from any trip, Wendy and I have the joy of her retelling us stories about her adventures. She never fails to keep us all laughing for days as she remembers one more “Oh! You have got to hear this one!”

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