My Dad went home to be with the Lord on September 3. You can read what is in effect my eulogy for him here.
Reflecting back on his loss of physical strength and independence and then on through the last week of his life, my sister, brother and I learned a few lessons – many of them closely related – that might help you. Here they are:
No Regrets – Several times during the last week of Dad’s life, my sister mentioned that she had no regrets. When our Mom died a little more than 24 years ago, it was sudden. She never recovered from heart surgery, and died two days later. She was on a ventilator and we couldn’t communicate with her. At the time some relationships were better than others, and there were some regrets. In Dad’s final days, we fortunately had a little more time to spend with him.
Leave Nothing Unsaid – Any time we leave a visit with an elderly parent or other loved one, we realize that it could be the last time. Of course, we know that a loved one doesn’t have to be elderly; none of us are guaranteed life for the next minute. During this time, we learned not to leave things unresolved. As an example, my relationship with my Dad throughout my life was complicated. We went through long periods of not talking during two parts of my life, time we could never get back. In January of this year, during a time when Dad spent time in three different hospitals, I felt prompted to ask for his forgiveness, which he graciously granted.
During the last week of Dad’s life, we were able to thank him for being such a great Dad and giving us such a good life. We are so glad that we had that opportunity.
Forgive Others – Similar to my example above, do you have unresolved issues with loved ones? You may not even recall what originally led to the break in the relationship. Why not take the step to try to mend the relationship, asking for forgiveness for anything you have done and forgiving the other person for any hurt they have caused you? This doesn’t mean that you have to have a relationship with them going forward, but it’s time to lay that burden of bitterness down.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13
Stay Connected with Extended Family – Our Dad and Mom were raised in the Chicago area, where much of their remaining family members still live. After we moved to central Illinois in the early 1960’s, we would often make the trip back to Chicago for holidays, weddings, etc. However, as time went by, we each started our own families and the trips became less frequent. After our Mom died in 1996, we rarely saw extended family members. Seeing some of them at Dad’s visitation and funeral brought us mixed feelings – joy in seeing loved family members, and sadness and regret that we have let so much time go by without trying to connect with them. My hope is that after this pandemic, and it is safe to travel and be around people again, we will be intentional and proactive about visiting with both sides of our family.
Tell Them You Love Them – This is the most important lesson of all. Don’t forget to tell your loved ones that you love them. During the pandemic, I started taking afternoon walks, which usually included a call to Dad. We would talk about politics, sports, the news of the day and my brother’s upcoming retirement. I would end each call telling Dad that I loved him. It was uncomfortable at first, as we didn’t grow up sharing our feelings like that, but it became more comfortable, and he would tell me that he loved me as well.
In the hospital during Dad’s final days, my sister, brother and I had the opportunity many times to tell Dad that we loved him. Even if your loved ones know that you love them, why not be intentional about telling them as often as you can?
I hope these lessons that we learned from walking with Dad in his final days will be of some help to you in your particular situation. What lessons that you have learned would you add to our list?
September 7, 2020 at 6:44 am
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad. I had some similar experiences in losing my Dad 7 years ago to an aggressive cancer. Prayers for you at this time, Dee Ann
Dee Ann Turner, LLC Communicator Consultant Coach Deeannturner.com
September 7, 2020 at 8:16 am
Thanks so much, Dee Ann. I sure appreciate it.
September 7, 2020 at 9:50 am
This was beautiful. Thanks for being vulnerable. Most of us can probably describe the relationship with our dads as complicated. Glad your last year was filled with some good memories.
September 8, 2020 at 12:43 pm
Thank you, Russ.
September 7, 2020 at 10:20 am
The picture of the Canadian Geese is very powerful and moving! A great reminder of your Dad. And, it marries so well with the flyover you mentioned in your other article. Jim Bauder and I were talking about this recently how it seems to be a heavenly reminder they are still with us. His story mentioned Cardinals, mine a Hummingbird.
September 8, 2020 at 12:44 pm
Thank you Greston.
September 7, 2020 at 11:32 am
Hi Bill, First, I want to tell you that I very much appreciate and look forward to your posts. The book reviews/summaries and accounts of your personal odyssey with Jesus are special.
Re: this post on Lessons Learned, my sister, wife and I are currently giving hospice care to our 95 year-old mom who came to be with us a little over 2 weeks ago. She, like thousands of elderly in assisted living during isolation due to Covid, was being negatively affected in areas of mental health and we decided we could meet her needs here at home. Little did we imagine that Jesus was bringing her “home” in prep for truly going HOME. Her decline was rapid and He granted us these last days together. She loves the Lord, was witnessing to any who would listen and was greatly grieved by those “who would not believe”.
We can identify with several of your observations (reminders to them of our love, reconnecting to extended family – This has been a particular bonus, and having no regrets) And, we are thankful that we have not had to face matters relating to forgiveness, conflicts in relationships, etc.)
I think what I would add would be the precious time spent with sister and sweetheart as we are being drawn closer to Him, each other and mom during this time+. The care giving reminds us of the abounding love and care our Father has for us, as we, too, are not always aware of what our needs truly are in the moment, nor are we able to meet them ourselves.
Plus, knowing that she will be joining two godly men whom she out-lived, and many other believing family and friends, gives us great joy and peace.
Together, we look to the Blessed Hope and eternity in the New Heavens and Earth.
Grace & Peace in all your endeavors. A PCA brother
September 8, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Fred, thank you for the encouragement and the additional lessons you share from your time ministering to your Mom.