2 weeks ago, I got a call that changed my life forever. It was my mom, and she told me I needed to fly out there to say goodbye to my dad, because he only had days to live. I had no time to really process that, as I quickly threw things in suitcases and tied loose ends and bought 5 airplane tickets to Atlanta. We left from Sacramento at 3am and flew with 3 kids in tow for 12 hours. It was during a break in flights that my dad's condition got even more critical. I was told that when I got off the plane, I would only have hours with my dad.
I cannot tell you what that feels like to get off an airplane and drive to a place where you will see your father for the last time. It's an eerily surreal feeling.
I walked into the room where my dad was being kept alive by machines and plugs and medicine and I gave him a big smile. He of course cried, and I did too. But my dad has always been the guy to crack the joke in the room, and so I mustered up as much courage as I could and said with ease, "I would have been here earlier, but Olivia crapped all over me." He chuckled and for a little while, we were back to our old selves. I had each of the kids come in and talk to him, and tell him all about their trip to Disneyland, and Elijah going to school in the fall. He looked so content. But there was also a lot of pain in his face.
His arms were filled with big black bruises, and skin that had ripped off from the chords and bandaids. He couldn't breath, so he had an oxygen mask on his face and he had a giant cord connected to the inside of his neck that was pumping medicine in his body to keep his organs alive. Every few minutes he would shiver and shake or vomit. It's the kind of thing you hope you'll never have to watch anyone go through, yet there I was, watching it.
My cousins and aunts and grandparents had all flown in to be beside my dad as he passed and as they began to gather into that tiny little hospital room, it began to get more real. They would each tell him what he meant to them, offer up thanks, hugs, and prayers. And then, there was music.
My dad has always been a music guy. He went to college to study it, and eventually became a music pastor. He taught me everything I know about music; the best gift he could give me. And that night, there was music all around him. We all gathered around him singing praises to God, and singing some of his favorite songs. He started singing right along with us, raising his hands and praising God. He used the chords that were attached to him as a baton and began directing the choir or squeaky voices that surrounded him. We laughed, we told stories, we prayed and we hugged him. I said everything I ever wanted to say to him. It was a bittersweet evening.
That night I sat with my dad by ourselves. He held my hand so tightly and we smiled at each other. I looked at the clock, 1am, and told him that I would be back in a few hours, I just needed to catch some sleep. I kissed his forehead and said goodbye. Then I went to my hotel room where my 3 kids were going crazy. The baby wouldn't sleep and kept screaming. Elijah started throwing up all over the sheets and the floor. And I sat there holding his head as he threw up into the toilet. I couldn't help but think how I had just left my dad, stroking his forehead while he vomited telling him, "it's all right" and here I was holding my son's head doing the same thing. It had been over 24 hours since I had slept and when all the children were taken care of, I collapsed into a sleep coma.
At 11am I woke up to 6 messages on my phone. I shot out of bed and threw on some clothes. I called my brother and he told me to get down to the hospital as soon as I could. But it turns out, that it wasn't in time. By the time I got to the hospital room, the curtains were drawn and I could hear the uncontrolled sobs of my family members.
I had missed it. I had told him I would be back and I had missed it. When they finally let me back into the room, I spent a long time just holding his hand, studying every inch of him, kissing his cold forehead, watching how peaceful his face looked. Though I hated that he left me here, alone and missing him; how could I deny him the party that was no doubt being held in heaven right then for his arrival. He was free, and pain free, and happy.
It's been 4 weeks to the day since my dad went to heaven. It's not any easier, the hole in my heart is just as wide open and gaping. The giggles of my children don't stop, and they are a constant reminder to me of what little precious time I have with them, and how much I want to fight for them, and my time with them; just like my dad did. I had 30 years with my dad and while I feel ROBBED of him, and the time that I could have had, I know that he is with Jesus, my Lord and savior. And he is dancing, and singing, and laughing that hearty laugh. And I know, I have such confidence that I will see him again. So I cry, and I celebrate and I rest in the arms of my Abba, my first father, the one who will NEVER ever leave me, or die or grow old. The daddy that will always help me with the decisions I make, and get me out of trouble when I need it. I just wish I could hug my Abba.