Death cannot separate the love between a father and daughter–and the God they both serve.
Papa looked tired. As his head rested crookedly on his pillow, a touch of melancholy hit me. My daddy L.C. was my champion and defender. When I wasn’t sure that God loved me, I knew my daddy did. My mom had had several miscarriages. I was the first baby who survived pregnancy. I was born a week before Christmas, and my first present was a Christmas tree. From my daddy.
“Is he born?” That’s what my mom said my dad asked the doctor when he announced my birth. I loved the mirth in my mom’s voice as she told me. No. I wasn’t my father’s son. But I was his oldest daughter—and the son he never had. I liked playing with my dolls and toys. But nothing compared to going fishing with dad at the beach or on a lake. Sunshiny warm days of laughter, excitement (when I got a fish) spent by his side. Catching fish was cool—but touching them freaked me out. But dad was always there to take it off my line.
As I grew older, dad’s presence filled my days. I picture him now watering the front lawn. I see him teasing my mom. I see him preaching God’s Word in church. Or praying to Father God with tears streaming down is weathered, brown face. I see him at my high school graduation watching me give the valedictorian speech. And walking up the hill to see me receive my college diploma. I also see him head bowed at my mom’s grave. And at my sister’s.
Now I know I am seeing him for the last time this side of heaven.
I sit beside him on the bed. His roommates tv shows the news giving details on the latest brush fires. It’s three weeks before Christmas but sunny and hot. The sound of feet walking on linoleum gets my attention. I see a resident and a nursing assistant shuffle by. It’s time for him to be free. Dad had lived in this facility for three months. He’d had some kind of attack. Though he recovered enough to leave the hospital, he could not be left alone. And after years spent watching over him—even when he fought me for doing so—I knew I could no longer care for him by myself.
“It’s not good for the man to be alone,” I read out of Genesis one morning.
I knew that was God’s way of letting me know it was time. I had to let others take care of dad and do what I couldn’t do. God being God knew the end from the beginning. The Father knew I would need to sell my house to pay bills and take care of my dad.
Dad’s breathing became more and more rough. Labored. He seemed to be fighting for every breath he could take. I held his hand. Glancing at the news. Glancing at him. I had told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for being a good daddy. Soon his breathing stopped altogether and he was still.
“Daddy?” I said gently, shaking him softly as I did. I waited a few moments. I saw a worker in a room across the way and went to her. She saw my face and was moving before I said my dad’s not breathing. The next few minutes were filled with nurses scurrying around and checking on dad. Someone decided to call it. He had died. His body remained but he had left it and was now present with the Lord. Nurses and attendants offered their condolences. I made a few phone calls. One of the male attendants asked if he could say goodbye to my dad. I thought that was nice. A tribute to my dad.
I stayed with my dad until the mortuary came to transport him. I didn’t want him to be alone. I had already made arrangements for his resting place the week before. Dad had been talking about how he saw visions of a little bluebird flying over a ranch house months before he entered the living assistant facility. I couldn’t help but to think of that bird as the mortuary driver loaded dad into the white van that would carry him a few miles away to the Palos Verdes hills. As the van turned to leave, I saluted him. My dad served in the Army during the Korean War proudly. I wanted to honor his service. I wanted to honor him. Death had parted us. But I knew my father’s God was also my God—the God who conquered death and promises to make all things new. There was no need to say goodbye.
“See you soon dad. See you soon.”