This handsome cowboy is my dad, Jerry. One year ago today he went to be with Jesus. I took this picture on Christmas Day, 2014. He had suffered a stroke in mid-September, entered a long term care facility for his rehab, and had recovered remarkably well. When I snapped this picture I was picking him up to bring him to our house for Christmas dinner. He was so proud of himself that he had chosen a red shirt to wear for the day! By midnight we were in the ER…he had had another stroke. For the next three months, one month he and I in a hospital 100 miles from home, and 2 months in a different long term care facility in our home town, he would travel back in time and wander through memories from his past…from his childhood to his present condition. I was the passenger in his journey…I listened and prayed as he seemed to reconcile every part of his life. I was the audience as he literally lived out the words of the old song, “Precious Memories”.
The last 3 months of his life were traumatic for both of us. After almost 30 years of seizures, brain bleeds and mini-strokes he had developed a condition called Frontal Temporal Dementia along with Sundowners Syndrome. As the doctor described it…his brain tissue was now like swiss cheese. His behavior was erratic and combative and he never stopped moving and walking…only when his body finally gave in to exhaustion did he ever sleep. He rarely ate or drank. The sedatives were inadequate. He was bed-ridden the final thirteen days and I only went home to sleep and shower. His last three days I slept in the room. I continued to talk to him about family and memories… because one of the most important things I learned in nursing school was this….they can hear to the end, even though they are unresponsive physically. I held his hand, stroked his cheek, kissed his forehead, told him I loved him, told him he would soon see Jesus. Over the years when we had talked about his faith and his personal relationship with Jesus, his face would light up, his eyes would well up with tears and he would let me know his heart was full and he was at peace.
At 6:30 pm…sundown… Monday, March 30, 2015, my dad took his last breath.
Sundown…March 30, 2015
Gary and I were with him. It was a holy, sacred home-going. I envisioned the moment he took that last breath of air…he stepped into eternity….whole…healed…dancing…(he loved to dance) … singing…(he had a beautiful voice which had been lost to the repeated brain traumas.)
I felt like Jesus was waiting on the other side of the bed with open arms to welcome my dad home and tell him…”Well done, good and faithful servant.”