Friday, February 1, 2013

To the Edge of the River

This update from a dear friend on the death of his father was an encouragement and example to me.   Names and personally identifiable information have been changed or omitted, but otherwise this letter is unchanged. Daniel
Dear Friends & Family,
Last week we sent out our Family Update and requested prayer for my father’s condition. Five days later, at __ a.m., Dad passed away with my hand on his shoulder, and with Mary and David standing together with us.
Since we sent our update last week, many people have prayed with us as we dealt with this difficult situation. Thank you for your involvement and words of encouragement as we hoped in His mercy.
We believe that these past five days were an expression of God’s mercy, extending Dad’s life and giving us many more opportunities to share Christ with him. In those final days, my Dad was surrounded by our visiting family members each night, and then with Mary and I staying “on watch” through the nights with him after everyone left.
We needed wisdom as we handled Dad’s care in our home. Two times this week one of the visiting nurses came from hospice strongly encouraging us to use the low-dose morphine to “ease your father into the next life,” even though we and other nurses who had observed his heavy breathing felt that my father was not in any distress or pain. We opted against her advice and believe that minimizing the medicines allowed us to have more opportunities to talk to him.
Mary and I continued daily to witness to my father through singing hymns, sharing God’s Word, praying with and for him, relating memories, expressing forgiveness and release, and including each suggestion that came to us from those of you who wrote to encourage us. Even David talked with his grandfather and told him that he wanted Grandpop to go to heaven.
During these last days of my father’s life, he was unable to communicate with us, except through an occasional hand squeeze, slight shake of the head, or almost inaudible word which we could not understand. Even though we had to rely on these minimal and subtle signs of demeanor, we believe that in the final 24 hours of Dad’s life, several special things occurred.
On Monday afternoon, David and I had visited with a Christian neighbor, Mr. Smith, who I had only met twice before, to ask if he could help my mother in the future with little household needs. Mr. Smith is a building contractor and handyman, and as a believer, he agreed to be available in the future if he could help.
As I awakened early Tuesday morning, I was impressed by the Lord to call Mr. Smith and to ask him to come to witness to my father. When I called him to make my request, he said that his last prayer the night before was that he would have an opportunity to come and witness to my Dad. He was just waiting for my call!
He came to our house around 8 a.m. before going to his first job for the day, and with the hospice nursing aide standing nearby, presented the Gospel to my father. Mr. Smith talked directly with my Dad, using words of encouragement, including the way that Mom would be taken care of when my father was gone. My father seemed to hear and respond in a more affirming manner, which was unlike the many other times Mary and I shared with him before, when he would often show signs of agitation.
Finally, that last night, after my brother, sister, and Mom had all gone, Mary and I talked with my father again about the Lord, and the salvation available through Jesus Christ. I affirmed that we all loved him very much, and he was the very best Dad I could ever have. I held him in my arms, and hugged him so he could feel our love for him. I told him that if he had believed in Christ, he could go in peace, but if he did not, then I believed God was keeping him alive until he would surrender.
As I stepped back, we saw a tear come out of his left eye, and almost all of his facial expressions while we were sharing were peaceful, similar to the ones earlier that morning when Mr. Smith  spoke with him. After hugging him again, and telling him repeatedly that we loved him, forgave him, and many other special things, he seemed to go to sleep. Through the night and early morning hours, Mary and I sat with him, again sharing, singing, praying, and pleading with Dad to cease struggling and receive the peace Christ wanted to give him through faith.
On Wednesday morning after the nursing aide was gone, Dad’s breathing slowed. Mary called me from watching David downstairs (who often bounded through the house with great energy and noise enough to alarm my Dad), and I came upstairs to hold my Dad and talk gently with him. He winced twice, and then quietly slumped back down as his failing heart gave way and his breathing came to a stop. It was a very peaceful departure.
In reflecting on the past few days since the last Family Update, we wanted to thank you for your prayers as we put our hope in God’s mercy. We cannot say for certain that Dad received Christ, but a few days before, whenever he seemed to resist or grimace as we shared, Mary and I had prayed that the Lord would “shew me a token for good” and I believe God has answered those prayers.
Thank you again for your prayers, love, and support during this precious season we have had with my Dad.

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