|Dad is the one on the right
in the light suit.
1950 wedding day
I’ve been away for the last week and a half. My dad passed week ago Monday on February 22nd. He was 87. We knew it was anytime. Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in November. It must have been quite advance when they found it. He started going down hill immediately. In the midst of this I was right smack dab in the middle of moving house, moving state.
We made several trips back and forth through December and the first of January. I spent all these trips getting him settled in a nursing home and then struggling with the quality of his care. and fussing with nursing home administrators. He was on hospice and they were a great help to us. The last time I saw Dad was around the end of the first week of January. He was thinner, very agitated and somewhat confused. I spoke to him on the phone weekly and hospice kept in touch. Dad’s partner and her daughter were a God send for me. Donna was there with Dad everyday and I could count on Michelle to be an advocate for Dad and keep me informed. They were the ones who watched him go down to bare bones in one month, become more and more confused, most days not knowing who they were towards the last. I was spared that. They were brave.
I was waiting for hospice to call and say come, its almost time. They assured me they would know. But in the end he slipped away in the night before I could get there. The week before I spoke to him on the phone and he was clear of mind and said to me I love you very much, tell your mother and Donald I love them very much too. He had forgotten mom was gone. I had a feeling he was saying goodbye then. He’s with her now, all things made right.
Let me tell you the story…
|Their wedding day 1950|
Mom and Dad had a whirlwind romance, 3 months and they were married. Dad said he told his brother the night he met her that he was going to marry that girl. They were so much in love, I love looking at the pictures of them in the early years, its so obvious. They were married 8 years before I came along. Dad started hanging out with a group of guys and drinking. The fairytale turned into a nightmare. Cheating, coming home in the middle of the night drunk wanting to fight, calling her names accusing her of doing all the things he was doing, spending the paycheck on buying everyone at the bar drinks… All the while mom was stuck at home with my handicapped brother, and me of course. She wouldn’t leave, I don’t know why. I would have.
Years of this culminated into one horrific night when I was around 14 and she had to make a decision. He came home drunk and was unusually violent, he was choking her and thankfully my cousin was living with us at the time, fresh home from Vietnam. He got him to leave her alone and she grabbed me (my brother was at blind school) and we ran to the neighbor’s at 4 am and banged on the window for help. The police came. Dad was in the house throwing things and destroying things. They went in and subdued him and took him away. His family posted his bail and he ran but not before he went back to the house and finished destroying everything. Then he stayed hid for about a year. He started calling, coming around again and she took him back. He promised he had changed. They remarried. It only lasted less than a year. He started again and we had to have a protection order. Another divorce and this time he fled to Texas. Never paid a dime in support, never contacted us. He led a rough drunken life in Texas. My mom became a lonely bitter woman.
A sad woeful tale, I know. Why do I want to depress you like that? Because it’s not the end, wait for the end!
15 years or so ago there were just so many hurts and broken relationships in our family and I was praying on the way to work one morning about it, AGAIN and the Lord said very clearly this time, ‘I will restore everything‘. Did he say EVERYTHING? Of course he means when we get to heaven right?! and life went on as normal. BUT slowly little things happened.. broken relationships started to mend…
Mom’s broken relationships with her siblings (that’s a whole different story for another time. Grandma held grudges that fractured a family on her death) began to heal. She was reunited with her younger brother as he lay dying of a rare brain disease, she and her oldest sister mended broken fences and spent the last years of their lives happy and whole. And then one day…
The phone rang and it was Dad. After 30 years he called and asked if he could come home! He was old, on meds, his other family had turned on him and he was terrified of being alone. He wasn’t drinking anymore. He came back. I didn’t think it would work. Mom was very bitter and unforgiving. Let me tell you it was a wild ride! They were like two children, I was always having to intercede. But slowly they seemed to form a truce. She forgave him, for the most part, they got along well. Every now and then she would want to extract her pound of flesh from him, but in the end they became friends. They would sit and hold hands and argue about how things happened, but they loved each other still. They talked about getting back together, but it would not have worked living together, too much water under the bridge (and wee bit of dementia, on both sides!) so they just stayed friends. She even said he could be buried in the plot with her! True love. But she couldn’t quite let go of all of her bitterness and she died an unhappy woman in-spite of it.
Dad started going to church in the last few years and gave his heart to Christ and God in his infinite kindness brought Donna into dad’s life and for the last 5 years he had a devoted companion to take care of him and fill his loneliness. Mom and Donna became fast friends. Life was good. Donna said he got on his knees by the side of his bed every night and prayed for us. What a different man than the one who abandoned us years before.
I have no doubt that dad and mom are together now, healed and whole. With mom dying and then as dad lay dying I struggled with lots of unresolved things in my heart. But on the long drive home alone from dad’s funeral I had lots of time to think and talk to God. He said ‘Yes lots of difficult things happened to you in your life, but there was a reason you may not see. It all shaped who you are. It made you strong. Have I not restored? Will you fully accept it or hug that last little bitterness to yourself?‘ It’s up to me now. There are other relationships and situations in my life that aren’t perfect yet, but I can see the work being done now and there is hope.
So its not really a woeful tale, its a wonderful redemption story! Broken things made whole. Restoration isn’t an instant beautiful fix! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My experience is that is hard, messy, even bloody but the end result, well that’s sweet! The work will take until my death to be finished I’m sure, but it will all be fully restored.
I did not bury dad with mom. We opted for a military burial at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies south of Pittsburgh. It’s a lovely cemetery and the short ceremony was sweet. My brother will be buried there someday with him. Someday I will bury mom’s ashes in the family plot here in TN with her mom and dad and her sister. But for now I want her here with me.
What about you? Do you have a restoration story in your life too? You can you know 😉