Monday, November 6, 2017

Part VII - Looking for love that never fails? Here you go!

It's amazing how God addressed each person's need when Dad passed away. You might recall that, as Dad battled cancer, his wife called one day asking me to come visit as soon as possible. "He's not dying or anything," she said, "I just feel like you need to be here."

Maybe you remember that the very next day, my husband just happened to be flying out on a business trip to a destination somewhat near Dad's hospital. At the end of his convention, he planned to rent a car and travel to meet me at the hospital where Dad was. 

I flew out Saturday, after making arrangements for our three school-age daughters to stay with a neighbor. Both their family and ours planned to attend our church's annual family camping retreat the following weekend, so I made plans to return Thursday night. 

Deep down, though, I knew that might change. I didn't know what I'd find once I saw Dad, who had been battling cancer, and I needed to be flexible. 

"I'm planning to come back Thursday," I told the kids, "but if Grandpa needs me to stay longer, I will."

"What about the camping trip?" one of them asked.

I told them I made backup arrangements for them to go to the camping trip with family friends if Dad and I couldn't be there, thinking that would make them happy and keep their schedules normal.

But before I left for the airport, our 8-year-old pulled me aside. Her little hands were shaking. Her lips were quivering. She looked up at me, her big blue eyes brimming with tears. 

"I want you to come back for the camping trip," she said, fighting the inevitable tears that spilled. "I don't want to go with somebody else."

My heart broke. I wanted that too, but I couldn't promise it.

"I'll do the best I can," I said. "But if Grandpa needs me, I'll stay a little longer. Don't worry. It'll be okay."

I tried to tell her the camping retreat would be fun with her friends, but she wasn't convinced. She tried to be brave, but tears silently rolled down her cheeks.  

Of course it was difficult. It's tough to face life and death issues. I could tell it rocked her world and that made me very sad.

I didn't know what I'd find when I flew to New York to see Dad. His wife said he's not dying or anything....but something told me otherwise.

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I arrived Saturday and spent the weekend in Dad's hospital room. He sat up and greeted me, but never really spoke again.

Then my husband Joe unexpectedly changed plans, left his convention, and arrived a day earlier at the hospital. It was Monday. Because Joe was there, and there was no room for both of us to stay in the hospital room, Joe, my stepmom and I all went back to the house that night. It was the first time I'd left Dad's side.

Dad slipped away later that evening. I think he knew we'd all be together, able to offer strength and support to each other, when the call came in. It was good we were there for each other. Joe is such a rock.

Back then, burials occurred three days after death. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had traditional wake services for Dad. Burial was Thursday morning.

Remember my flight home was for Thursday night? Before I even suspected I'd be in New York for a funeral? Thursday night, not morning, not afternoon. Nope, it was for Thursday night.

I offered to stay longer and help my stepmother. In the end, she encouraged me to take my original Thursday night flight home.

"I have a lot of family that's flown in for the funeral," she graciously said. "I have lots of support right now. I'll be okay. Go home. Your family needs you."

What a blessing she was.

Guess what?   By the grace of God, I took the Thursday night flight home. 

Guess what else?  Friday we attended the Family Camping Retreat. I never realized what a gift it would be to be surrounded by the prayerful, graceful support of our church family. Not only was it good for the kids to be there; it was an incredible gift for me too. 

That night, as we lit candles for the outdoor church service, my eight-year-old looked up at me. "I'm glad you're here, Mom."

Me too. I was glad too.

When I recall this story, it still amazes me how God addressed everyone's needs so succinctly. We would never have guessed that Dad would pass away while I was there, or that Joe, unprompted, would arrive just when we needed him most, or that, despite all that happened, I'd fly home in time for something so important to one little child...the family camping retreat.

Amazing, isn't it?

I stand in awe of a God who meets all our needs. He is with us in every situation, in every detail, no matter our age. We are all important. We are all precious. We are all heard. He knows us intimately. Indeed, the very hairs on our head are numbered.

Click here for a song, One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill

Click here for Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI of this story. Each installment reveals the astonishing care of God during this time.

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