It has been a long time since I submitted a column. Life has been full of major changes and upheavals. The major ones of the past few months are:
1) I have moved.
2) My dog was hit by a car. (She’s okay.)
3) I’ve had major dental work. and
4) My Dad died last week.
I now live in Painted Post, NY. I was appointed to serve as the pastor of the two United Methodist Churches in Corning, NY. I’m still not unpacked but settling in nonetheless. My new congregations have given me a warm welcome and we are off to a good start.
Betty had hip surgery after her accident and spent my last week in Pennellville in the hospital. Her two back legs are permanently impaired but she has resumed normal activities for the most part. I will probably always have to lift her into the car but other than that limitation she is also settling in here and enjoying her fenced in back yard (as is Thunder the cat.)
I had a root canal the week before Dad died. I left Betty at his house while I went to the dentist. It turned out to be my last conversation with Dad. From his
sick bed he told me that he felt sorry for me having to undergo the root canal. At that point, I had no idea we would never speak again. I hugged him and said goodbye not realizing how final a goodbye it would be.
I found out that I was being moved the middle of May. Dad was having problems with his blood sugar. He had never been diabetic before. The medicine that he was on was not helping. Becky and I convinced him to see a specialist but he was hospitalized before he ever made that appointment. They removed three liters of fluid from one lung on that first stay at the hospital and momentarily he felt much better.
Though he was home for the 4th of July we cancelled our usual potluck picnic for friends and relatives far and wide. We spent a quiet family day at his house. He slept most of the day which was most unlike him. There was nothing he liked more than to have company and conversation.
He returned to the hospital for a CAT scan and that’s when the cancer was confirmed. At first we hoped he could receive chemo but it was not to be. It was hard to believe that he was seriously ill. The only unusual sign was that he slept more than usual and didn’t have much appetite. It was only the last 48 hours that he was unable to keep up a conversation – though he was still able to convey that he did NOT want to take his medicine. All through this ordeal he was adamant about staying at home. No way would he willingly return to a hospital. His wish was granted. HOSPICE had a hospital bed delivered. Friends, family and neighbors took turns staying at the house with him while Becky was at work. And on the night he died, his four daughters and one granddaughter were all there with him.
Moving here to Painted Post was a major hassle and a monumental change. I wonder if I will ever be all unpacked.
Betty’s injuries were a major worry with a happy ending.
My dental problems were mainly just a major expense. Dad’s death, on the other hand, is a monumental turning point in our lives.
Over the past eight years in Pennellville, I got used to being able to drop in to see Dad whenever the mood hit me to do so. My dentist, doctor and car repair place were all in the Vernon-Oneida area. Many a time Dad would pick me up while my car was being worked on and we’d go shopping or out to lunch or both. After a doctor appointment – or before a dentist appointment – we’d often have lunch. Sometimes friends would go with us, meet us – or other times it was just the two of us.
We laughed because we could both order from the Senior menu and get that Senior discount. He had his walker. I had my chair. He was quite fussy about where we could go to eat. I usually let him decide. I will miss those lunches and our conversations.
Dad and I also had some memorable field trips. We visited all three locations of windmills and have the pictures to prove it. We traveled up north to visit Fran and eat that wonderful harvest dinner in Edwards two years in a row. We got to visit cousin Retha in the bargain. I will very much miss my chauffeur and traveling companion.
We had our last heart to heart talk the end of May after I knew that I was definitely moving – and that it would be far away. He was happy to hear about the move, distressed that it meant I would be too far away to drop in. It is now a three hour trip to Vernon instead of the 45 minute jaunt it was for these past eight years. I already miss being closer to home. And I don’t know what I am going to do without being able to pour my heart out to someone who loved me and listened to everything I said.
But I know that all is proceeding on God’s timetable and grand plan. There have been many God sightings in this past year affirming and confirming that God’s love has been woven into everything that is happening – good and bad. There is one special God sighting I want to share.
Dad loved gladiolas. We used to plant them as part of our 4-H Club each year. Long after we left home and there was no more 4-H Club requirement, Dad planted them because they were beautiful flowers that came in almost any color. The casket spray from his four daughters included many gladioli. On the bulletin cover was a picture of a peach colored gladiola from his garden last year.
My new back yard holds a neglected flower bed. I had already decided to reclaim it before I knew that Dad was sick. It is overgrown with weeds. I walked Betty by this flower bed every morning and saw no signs of life other than the weeds.
Last Thursday morning I let Betty out at 5 a.m. I could not believe my eyes. I needed to leave that morning by 8 a.m. to make it to Dad’s calling hours. I was dreading the trip – and cried every time I thought about where I was going and why. Right before my eyes in that neglected flower bed I saw something that made the tears flow even harder. There stood a single peach colored gladiola – blooming gloriously.
That flower appearing when it did assured my soul that God was weaving miracles into our grief and sadness, reminding us that life itself is a gift – even when we are consumed with grief.
That flower appearing when it did tugged at my heartstrings visibly reminding me of my Dad and putting me in touch with the depths of love we shared, as well as the profound pain carved into my heart when I felt his physical absence.
That flower appearing when it did also soothed my soul with a visual reminder of the continuity of life, how death and life are intertwined in mysterious ways we will never fully comprehend.
I am glad that Dad is no longer suffering. I am sad that I can no longer pick up the phone to call him and receive his compassion for my suffering.
I am glad that Dad is reunited with a special aunt and uncle who unofficially adopted him, his parents, three sisters and a brother, his wife (my Mom) and his son (my brother), along with more friends than we can count. I am sad that he will be physically absent from our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations this year.
I am glad that our family has received prayers and support in abundance. I am sad that I cannot respond to each and everyone individually to let them know their contribution made a difference.
I hope that many who read these words will take this as a personal thank you. Prayers, empathy, cards, words and yes, even food – all helped us to get through. Thank you all!