Saturday, October 12, 2013

In the Grip of Love...

"And God will wipe away every tear..." 
Rev. 21:4

In the strangle hold of lung cancer, I met the angel of death standing by the bedside of my father many years ago. It was my first encounter with the painful goodbye ritual forced upon me against my will as I struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis of the doctors who gave my father a scant three weeks to live, if that, at the age of fifty-four.

It was in the beautiful month of July. The sun was brilliant and hot in the sky, beaming its rays upon my face when I left the hospital that first day that I knew my father would not live to see another summer. I seriously wondered how the sun could continue to shine. How could people continue to laugh at each other’s jokes? How could everyone go on with life as if nothing had happened? Didn’t they know that the world had just come to a screeching halt inside the hospital corridors where my father was dying? 

I had never experienced anything like it before.  Time stood still for me as I found myself locked in a battle to say goodbye to my father for the last time. 

As a daughter who dearly loved her father, I stayed by his bed as he seesawed back and forth between wanting to live and wanting to die – the pain was just too much for him.  My own emotions rode a roller coaster up to the heights of believing God would hear my prayers and miraculously heal my father, and then thundering down to the depths of despair. There was no mistaking the dance of death as I looked into the eyes of my father who was now begging God to let him die – the pain had overtaken him and robbed him of any instinct to survive.
It was the most painful thing I had ever gone through in my life.  But, even as I sat by my father's bedside, I realized there was a mystery unfolding around me.  Running through our lives was a Hand of Blessing touching us, caressing us, comforting us, meeting us at the intersection of life and death. 

Over the screams of pain from my father and the cries of protest coming from my own heart, I could hear the voice of God, reassuring us, as any loving Daddy would  His child: "I've got you, I've got you.  Don't be afraid.  I've got you..."  We were, mysteriously, overwhelmingly, in the grip of Love...

Gone was any pretense that life doesn’t matter.  
Suddenly, nothing mattered more.
Gone was the silly, meaningless banter of people
for whom this was just another day. 
No.  I hung on every word he said because I didn’t know
 if I would ever hear his voice again.
Gone was my ability to hide my emotions. 
They couldn’t be contained, couldn’t be hidden. 
My love for my father burst out of my heart and
ran down my face, unabashedly,
tear drop by tear drop.
Gone was my taking life for granted ever again. 
 I discovered at the death bed of my father
just how incredibly precious life is
when there are only
a few weeks,
a few days,
a few hours,
or a few minutes
left in the life of a person we love beyond words.
Gone was my childish preoccupation with my own
selfish interest. 
This was my father screaming in pain. 
This was my father in need
as I had never seen him before.
This was my father who was dying…
Those last three weeks of my father’s life, I sat by his bedside and wept, and prayed and begged God to change the outcome.  My father knew he was dying.  But, he never said he did.  When the pain subsided and he had a few moments to breath, he sat on the side of his bed and smiled the most beautiful smile at me.  He told me what he wanted for dinner the first night he would be home.  He told me we would have a wonderful celebration of his homecoming.  Then he winked at me as if to say “it’s not so bad – there’s something wonderful coming!”

When his eyes closed for the last time and his voice was silenced forever, I could still hear him promising me that. I could still see his twinkling eyes smiling at me with love, assuring me that “there’s something wonderful coming…”
I wondered as I watched him take his last breath, where was God?  Why hadn’t He answered my prayers?  Slowly, I began to realize He was the One who took my father’s hand and welcomed him home.
I was so jealous of God.  He threw the homecoming party I had wanted to throw.  He took my father’s hand when it slipped forever out of mine.  He met my father’s twinkling eyes with a twinkle of His own.  He jumped up from His throne and ran to the edge of heaven to welcome my father home.  He shouted so loud I could hear Him all the way in Chicago.  “Welcome home, son.  I’ve been waiting such a long, long time…"  How could I even think of robbing God of His joy...
I will never forget the pain of those three weeks, nor the lessons I learned at my father’s side as he fought the monster of lung cancer that stole his life prematurely. 

But, I will treasure forever the memories I have of sitting by his bedside, loving him back home.

What a privilege to have been there. 

Just to love him one more time…


  1. It's amazing the power of a memory . Whenever I think about the day my sons died , I can still smell their scent in that memory as if it happened yesterday . I can so understand how you feel Maureen.

    1. Thank you, dear Lottie. The loss of a dearly loved parent, child or friend gives new meaning to the phrase, "love never ends." Never. Never. Never...


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