When we take a trip, it's something that we usually look forward to, or are at least excited about. Last week, however, I took a trip that no one looks forward to. It's a trip that you may simultaneously want to take and not want to take... but you never look forward to it.
The reason you don't look forward to it, is because it's the journey of the last good-bye.
How do I share all the things going through my heart and head... I knew it was coming, but I kept hoping that it wouldn't. It isn't that I haven't had time to prepare, I have had nearly 10 months, if I am honest with myself.
It was 10 months ago that my stepmom passed away, and at that point my dad felt that his job was complete and he was ready to go, anytime God was ready to take him. I know this, because he told me it at that time. I am the eternal optimist, and I wanted to think he would change his mind and that he would decide to try to gain strength. But at 91 years old he had made up his mind. He wasn't going to do anything to shorten his time, but he wasn't going to try to extend it, even though he knew if he exercised he could get stronger.
Let me share a bit of background--
Forward 6 years, he meets Carol, an amazing woman, very different than my mom but such a perfect match for him. She literally saved his life during their courtship period by getting him to the ER where they gave him an IV of Antibiotic... if she hadn't taken him to the ER, then we would have lost him in about 20 years ago... instead, he was blessed with a 2nd marriage to a wonderful lady that I loved very much. We used to tease that it was an "online romance," they had 'met' online, in a Lion's chatroom. Though they did have real-life friends in common. They were married on a January day, and it brought a smile to my heart that my dad had found love again. (I pray that I am so blessed.) I was also blessed with a big sister through this union, and what a blessing she has been!!
During their marriage they traveled and lived, life together, They cared for each other, and when one was ill the other stepped up, including 3 years ago when my dad began to bleed internally and had to be resuscitated. - He woke up and thought, "Why is this guy beating me up?" He recovered from that and got better. When Carol began to grow more frail, I watched my dad, once again go into the mode of protector. He knew that the Lord was keeping him around to take care of her.
Now forward to the present... Once Carol had passed he then felt his job was done. Now he is ready to go, the same thing that almost took him 3 years ago, now has happened again, he is bleeding internally... this time he isn't worried about being here to take care of anyone. His only thought when I spoke to him 10 days ago was to let us know; If any of us wanted to see him, sooner would be better than later. This gave me my directive... make it happen!!
I had been planning on going up at the end of the month, but I then knew I needed to move my trip up sooner, or not be able to say good-bye to my dad. I also then began to do what I could to reach my 4 brothers. At the time of reaching out to everyone, they were spread over 3 states. My dad lives in WA and 2 brothers live in OR as do I, one brother was in AZ and one in AK. But I am so glad to say that they made it, everyone got there to say good-bye and spend some time with him. In addition, 6 of his grandchildren and 5 of his great-grandchildren made it also. For the first time since the loss of our mother 24 years ago, all 5 of us were in the same place at the same time. My dad was so happy!!
Even though he was tired during the time we were visiting, he was so happy to see everyone, he shared stories, and got a bit of one-on-one time with everyone. At times he was just simply happy to have everyone there and talking together. It was, a happy, crazy, loud, and sad time... and I wouldn't trade the ability to have that gathering for anything.
Yes, it was the trip that no one looks forward to, but they are happy that they make it. At least I am happy that I did.
I am now calling my dad everyday now, he sounds weaker by the day, and I know that, one day, very soon, he won't be there to answer. Until then, I will look forward to the sound of his voice one more time.
When it's all over, I will have my memories of him. He was the man that taught me what love and respect were, and showed me the kind of man I wanted to marry, and I did. He demonstrated a life of service that I have tried to show my children. He and my mother, took us to church my whole childhood, a place where I first began to love God. As an adult, I no longer attend that church of my childhood, but church and the Lord are a major part of my life... It is the Lord first and everything else after that.
My parting thought here, you we need show those that you love how much you care when you can. And above all else, if you have a chance to do it... make "That trip."