Helping Dad

Gary has been in the process of putting up a small shed in our back yard, one that can hold our garden tools and implements.  Aaron has been very interested in Gary’s work.  Last Saturday, Aaron knew that Gary was going to be once again laboring out in the heat.  He wanted to go out and help Gary, so after Aaron got his morning routine accomplished, he walked with purpose to the shed site to see what he could do.

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Aaron doesn’t have great manual dexterity or skill, but Gary didn’t say a word about that fact.  He welcomed Aaron, even as he was searching in his mind for a job that Aaron could help with at that particular point. 

He told Aaron that he could help by handing him the screws when he needed them as he worked on securing the floor to the frame underneath.  But for some strange reason, Aaron said that he didn’t want to touch the screws with his hands.

Hmmmmm……

So Gary told Aaron to hold the box of screws, which Aaron was very happy to do.  When Gary needed a screw, he would reach into the box that Aaron held and get one out. 

Now Gary didn’t really need Aaron to hold the box of screws.  Gary could have easily just scooted the box around and keep it handy as he worked.  But he would never have hurt Aaron’s feelings by not giving him a job to do. 

There Aaron sat, in the hot sun, holding the box for Gary.  And talking, I’m quite sure.  Talking about his Star Wars game…….his Star Trek television show that he is watching……the latest movie he has decided to watch……and any number of other things that really only Aaron is interested in.

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I’m also quite sure that Gary would have much preferred some solitude outside……time to work alone after a long week of endless people and situations at work…….time to hear the birds……time to ponder his own thoughts.  But Gary saw beyond his own desires, and saw Aaron’s.  He knew how much Aaron wanted to help and he knew how much it would mean to Aaron to do so.

I believe, too, that Aaron wanted to do a man’s job.  Time with a man, especially time with his dad, fills a need in Aaron that he probably doesn’t even recognize. 

It did my heart so much good to look outside and see the two of them working together.  It did my heart good because I knew that it was doing Aaron’s heart even better.  And it was very pleasing to Gary to give Aaron that opportunity, but even more that Aaron wanted that opportunity to help. 

Such a simple time it was, and not one that lasted all that long.  But the impact on Aaron was huge, one that will last much longer than the actual helping did. 

Aaron walked inside later.  “Dad said I helped!” he proudly told me.  And I praised him for that, which made him smile and rub his hands together in delight before he went on his way.

Gary and I don’t have all the answers to Aaron’s needs.  On some days and in many ways, we feel like we blow it, for sure.  But I looked at this scene on that hot Saturday and I knew that Gary got it right. 

Being a dad is incredibly important, and for a dad of a child with special needs, it’s also incredibly difficult at times. 

How thankful I am for this man who has stood by my side for all these years!   He has stood unbending through hard times, but he has also bent down plenty of times to meet Aaron where he is. 

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Happy Father’s Day to Gary! 

 

Dad’s Bible

Eight years ago today we got the news that my Dad had stepped into heaven.  And for eight years before that, Dad had fought a hard fight against the cancer that eventually took his life.  So many stories of that time in our family…..so many memories of the month I spent with him and Mom before he died.  I’ve written much about it in the past.

This past Thanksgiving our family gathered in West Virginia, in our hometown.  Some still live there in Princeton.  Others had far to travel.  It was an epic gathering, really, and the first time many of us had seen each other in years.  Mom and Dad would have loved it, we all found ourselves saying over and over.  Wouldn’t they have been so happy that we did this?!

And look how we have grown.  This picture was taken in the mid-90’s.

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The below picture was taken this Thanksgiving.  Yes, we have multiplied!  And we were missing a few who weren’t able to come!

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We had a wonderful time, all too short, of hugs and laughter and lots of talking as we tried to catch up with each other.  The day was over all too quickly.  As nice as it was, though, I felt like something was missing.  It just didn’t feel the same.  I realized, as I thought about it, that the something missing was actually someone who was missing……Mom and Dad.

In the past they were the center of everything.  Stories…..laughter……teasing……singing.  So much of that revolved around them, and now for the first time this very important part of all our lives was gone.  That was the huge difference that I felt.  It just wasn’t the same, and I guess it just couldn’t be without Mom and Dad there as our focus.

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I’ve been thinking today about Dad on this anniversary of his death.  And remembering the very poignant part of our recent Thanksgiving meal when my brother, John, read to us out of Dad’s Bible.  He told us this story before he read Psalm 145.  In John’s own words:

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Regarding Dad’s Bible, it started on Thanksgiving of ’15, when I reached up to a shelf at home to get a Bible to read Psa 145 for our family.  I knew it was Dad’s Bible, but didn’t remember that he had carefully marked his daily readings with the dates on which he read each section (including the introductory notes and the 500 pages or so of study notes at the end).  When I looked at Psa 145, I noticed he had read it on Nov 26, 2000, exactly 15 years to the day before I was set to read it to my family.  There was something about that divine intervention that touched me very deeply.  When I got ready to read the same chapter to our family this year, the thought hit me to check his detailed medical journals to see what he was experiencing at the same time he was reading those passages of praise in Psalms.  He was right in the middle of his radiation treatments from his first bout with cancer.  He had already had the surgery to remove two-thirds of his right lung, and had already finished the grueling chemo treatments.  Now as he took radiation, he was circling verses like Psa 116:6, 116:15, 121:7, 126:3, 127:3-5, 131:2a. 138:8, and 139:16.  What a window into his soul to see the verses that God was using to comfort him, giving him hope and trust in the greatest challenge of his life.  And so characteristic of Dad, he was not talking with everyone about this.  It was a very intimate journey with his Lord that bolstered his soul as his body suffered.  I found myself thanking God for the man he was, and wishing I could talk with him about that journey.  I probably missed him more then than at any time since he had died.  What a treasure, though, to have that record of his triumphant faith in the midst of adversity.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m so glad John shared that with us.  Dad’s “triumphant faith in the midst of adversity” never wavered as his body wavered and finally succumbed to this disease that we all hate.  Dad remained true to the Lord, to Mom, and to his family.

And now today we five children carry with us his heritage of faith, as do many of our children and grandchildren.  I’m so very thankful for that!  Of all the many things to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving Day, that would be one of the biggest.

We miss you, Dad, but we know we’ll see you and Mom again.  Thanks for showing us the importance of following Christ, and for living out your own faith so beautifully and consistently.

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The Nail Trim

I remember climbing on my Daddy’s lap when I was a little girl.  He was sitting in his chair near the fireplace, with his shelves of books on one side and his end table on the other.  His newspaper was on the end table where he could eventually read it at the end of a busy, tiring day on the railroad.  His Bible was also laying there within easy reach.  He read his Bible often as he sat in his chair. He was always ready and willing to listen to my questions about what the Bible said about this and that, especially as I got older.

 
But when I was little and would climb on his lap, I remember the gentleness that he showed.  In the early years he smelled of pipe tobacco and smoke…..that subtle odor that comforted me.  I can still see him emptying his pipe of the old tobacco and then refilling it with fresh, tapping it gently and pressing the tobacco down just right.  I can hear the sound of the pipe stem on his teeth and see the soft, swirling smoke around his head at the end of the day as he relaxed.

Dad was never too tired to listen to us kids as we talked to him.  He was patient and kind, and so wise.  Sometimes when I would climb up on his lap, he would read me a book.  Sometimes we would just snuggle.  And at other times, he would take my hands and check my nails.  If they were too long, he would ever so carefully trim each nail.  I sat very still, watching him take each of my fingers and cut the nail just right.  Then off I would hop and go on my way, not giving much thought to that simple deed that Dad performed. 

Until years later…..many years later.  The tables had turned, as they so often do, and I and my family had become the caregivers.  Dad was in his last month of life as the cancer he had fought for eight years was winning the battle.  I had been able to go home to help Jan and John as they cared for him and Mom.  It was a month of many cherished memories that fill my heart every day, especially during this Christmas season.  It was December when Dad died.  It was December and Christmas that he and Mom loved so much.

One day I rolled Dad in his wheelchair into the living room so that he could enjoy the pretty Christmas tree.  I helped him get onto the couch, his thin body so frail and weak.  Then I sat beside him and snuggled close to his bony side.  Words were few because it took too much energy for him to lift his head and talk.  But he still smiled….that gentle, kind smile that was his signature. 

As we sat there in the soft glow of the Christmas lights, I looked down at his fragile hands resting on his lap.  Hands that had worked hard, disciplined well, warmly hugged, and folded in prayer.  And I saw that his nails were so long.  How had we let them get in that shape?  So I looked in his tired face and I asked him if he would like me to trim his nails.  He slowly lifted his bowed head and gave me that smile as he said yes ever so softly. 

I got some clippers and a nail file, and I set to work on his nails.  I was afraid of hurting him so I worked very carefully, taking each finger and slowly trimming and filing.  He was very still and quiet as I worked.  Finally I was done.  He looked down at his hands and smiled again, and then slowly looked me in the eyes as he thanked me.  For days afterward, he talked about how good it felt to have his nails trimmed as he thanked me over and over. 

And just as when I was a little girl, the significance of that act didn’t hit me until later.  Dad showed me such love in the simple deed of trimming my nails when I was young.  Now it was my turn to show him the same love in the simple deed of doing the same for him in his weakened state.  His strength was mine when I needed him.  My strength was his when he, many years later, needed me.

And it was the love and guidance of Dad’s hands that led me to be there for him at the end of his life.  He raised me and my brother and sisters well.  He loved us deeply, worked hard for us, and led us to know and love the Lord. 

 
It seems like yesterday that I hopped off of his lap after he trimmed my nails, and ended up beside him on his couch trimming his nails beside the Christmas tree.  Now his and Mom’s memorial ornaments hang on my tree, and all I have are memories.  
 
But someday I’ll take his hand again in heaven, and Mom’s as well, and see them both strong and whole once more. 

 

Unto The Least: A Man Named Richard

I remember him so well.  Richard……….nondescript, uneducated, stinky, and often unwelcome Richard.  Our paths crossed because Richard attended the same church where I grew up and where I worshipped.  Our paths also crossed because God ordained it to be so.  God ordained it to be so………so that I would learn a lesson.   It was a lesson best taught by the method that God loves to use – the weak things of the world confounding the mighty. 

Richard was a very short little man.  I often think that he was our version of Zaccheaus there in Princeton, West Virginia where I was raised.  Richard didn’t have much education and he was also very simple minded.  Today I’m sure he would be classified as being developmentally delayed, at the very least.  Yet he had served our country in World War 2, returning to Princeton when his time was up.  I remember hearing the story of how Richard wanted to help build the parsonage for our pastor at Johnston Chapel Baptist Church.  The men decided that Richard could dig the sidewalk, and so they used twine and little posts to outline the walkway that Richard should dig.  As Richard dug, his shovel cut the twine and it veered off to the side……..and Richard continued to follow the twine with his digging.  I’m not sure if the men let Richard dig anymore after that or if they found another safer job for him to do. 

I remember Mom and Dad loading us five kids into the old station wagon and then leaving for church.  We never missed a service unless we had a fever or were throwing up, or maybe if blood was involved.  This was in the day of services every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and anything in between.  This was also in the day of revival services that lasted at least a week, and sometimes longer if the Spirit led.  There were mission conferences, too, as well as other special services thrown in here and there.  The Kings did not miss church.  If Dad was working, then Mom loaded the station wagon and off we went. 

I loved going to church, but I always dreaded that drive up Thorn Street because often we would see him………..Richard, standing on one of the corners of Thorn Street, not far from his house.  Richard, standing there waiting for a ride to church from one of the church members that he knew would drive by in our little town and see him, and offer him that ride.  Richard, whom I was sure never, ever, ever took a bath.   The smell was just awful!  We kids would strain our necks to look ahead to see if he was still standing there, hoping against hope that some other family had come by before us and picked Richard up.  If we saw him, we would beg Mom or Dad not to stop for him………..to let someone else have that privilege on this day. 

But no……..Mom and Dad would always stop for Richard.  He would hop in our already crowded car and immediately we would be assaulted by that odor.  We girls learned a trick.  We would take a small purse-size container of perfume and try to hide it in our hand as we held it up to our nose.  Or at least have some perfume on our wrists that we could sniff in the hopes of blocking out that smell.  I’m not sure what John did to combat the odor but at that point it was each King for himself.   If no one was able to give Richard a ride, then he would walk to church, regardless of the weather……and that was probably a five mile walk.

Richard would talk, talk, talk.  He had a very fast, clipped speech.  I can still hear him make a comment and then say, “Isn’t that right?  Huh?  Isn’t that right?”  Then he would laugh and launch into something else, and ask again if that was right.  If he wasn’t talking, he was making a clicking sound with his tongue, as if he was getting food out from between his teeth.  He probably was, since I also doubted that Richard ever, ever brushed his teeth……….which just added to his unique smell. 

At church, Richard would lean up on the pew in front of him and talk to whomever was sitting there.  His eyes would dart between the people as he rapidly talked, and clicked his tongue, and laughed, and said, “Isn’t that right?   Huh?  Isn’t that right?”  The large church helped to spread his odor out some and keep it from being as strong……….unless you were the fortunate ones who were sitting in front of him and with whom he decided to engage in his mostly one-sided conversation.   Needless to say, when I was older and had the opportunity to sit in front of Richard……….I tried to find another seat.

Richard, though, was good at math.  I remember how that always surprised me.  On Wednesday nights, four men would count certain sections of church and then give the number to the pastor out loud as they were called upon to do so.  Richard almost always added those numbers faster in his head than Preacher Jimmie could do on paper, and he was usually right.  Amazing indeed!  And also amazing was the fact that Richard loved the Lord in his own simple way and was one of the most faithful church members that I have ever known.    I don’t remember seeing Richard carry a Bible and don’t know if he could read, but he knew his Bible.

Time marched on.  We King kids grew up, went to college, married and had our own lives.  Mom and Dad both eventually retired from their jobs.  They continued to be active at Johnston Chapel, enjoying the freedom to spend more time visiting the sick and those who were shut-ins.  Among those that they cared for, none stood out more to me than their continued care of Richard.  He had aged, of course, and time had taken a toll.  Richard was not only feebler, but was also dealing with the ravages of cancer.

I know that others helped with Richard, too, but Mom and Dad did a great deal for him in his old age.  They helped him find a better house to move into, and then helped him move his meager belongings.  They were shocked at what they found as they cleaned his house.  Such filth was hard for them to imagine!  And there in his closets and throughout his house were stacks of Christmas presents that church friends had given him over the years, still wrapped and unopened.   Inside were clothes and toiletries that he surely could have used over the years, but when questioned about it Richard said that he didn’t open them because he didn’t need anything.  Mom and Dad bought him clean clothes and new things, but Richard still preferred his old belongings and his old way of living.  Mom would take him home-cooked food and encourage him to eat better than he was.  She and Dad bought him a small refrigerator to keep his food from spoiling, but Richard refused to plug it in because he didn’t want to waste electricity. 

Dad helped Richard obtain his VA benefits, and then made sure that Richard started going to the proper doctors at the VA hospital.  He took Richard for many of his doctor appointments.  This was no easy task in many ways, but none more so than just the pure embarrassment of being in a public waiting room and doctor’s office with poor smelly Richard.  Mom and Dad tried countless times to teach Richard and to urge Richard to use better hygiene, but I don’t know that Richard ever took it to heart.  Dad would explain things to the doctor, but the people around them that they encountered must have wondered about Richard and about Dad.  Eventually Richard’s cancer became more complicated than what the local VA hospital could handle, so Dad took him to the nearest major VA hospital………..in Richmond……….a six hour trip one way.  Twelve hours confined in a car with Richard, as well as the time at the doctor appointments.  The smell……..the constant talking……….the clicking tongue.   Yet Dad just smiled and did what he knew that God would want him to do………..to take care of this little unwanted and unwelcome man. 

When Dad tried to see if Richard qualified for any other assistance such as Medicaid, it was discovered that Richard had money.  In fact, he had too much money to qualify for any government help.  Richard never offered to give Mom and Dad, or anyone else, any money for the things they did for him.  They wouldn’t have taken the money anyway.   That was not the motive.  A brother that no one knew about showed up at Richard’s death, and Mom and Dad walked quietly away from any further involvement……..but not before they gave Richard one of their burial plots since he didn’t have anywhere to be buried.

Mom and Dad didn’t want any public acclaim for what they did for Richard.  They just loved the Lord and they let the Lord’s love fill their hearts and direct their actions.  I know at times their service to Richard was tiring, was frustrating, was annoying, and very thankless.  Yet Mom and Dad, and the others who served Richard, did so because they lived out their faith and they believed Jesus when He said, “When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.” 

 
Dad is with Richard in heaven now.   I sometimes try to imagine it, the two of them together up there.  Both have new bodies and are totally equal physically and mentally.  Did they hug when they saw each other?  Are they ever beside each other as they sing and as they worship?  Richard doesn’t smell anymore and Dad doesn’t have to explain him to anybody, or be embarrassed.  I wonder if Richard still talks fast, and does Dad still smile patiently at him?  I doubt it, but it’s fun to think about. 

And we kids are left with not only memories, but more importantly, we are left with a real example of selflessness that my parents demonstrated.  They loved the unlovely in more than word…………they loved also in deed.  I know that each of us has taken this lesson to heart in our own lives in various ways.  But I doubt that anyone could be any more kind and any more patient than my sweet parents were to Richard.

I can’t wait to see Richard in heaven!  I’ll give him a hug……….and no perfume bottle needed!

 

In The Blink of An Eye

I’m thinking of my dad today for some very special reasons.  It’s been 6 ½ years since he went to heaven after fighting cancer for 8 years.  Dad was the one of the godliest men I have ever known.  He was so kind, selfless, and loving.  He was firm in his faith, never wavering through all the ups and downs of life, including his two bouts with cancer which finally took his life.  Yet despite his strong faith and his deep trust in the Lord, Dad seemed to have a great fear of death. 

None of us looks forward to dying, so on many levels we could understand his dread.  As he weakened and the end was coming nearer, he still seemed to struggle more and more with his uncertainties.  Finally one evening my brother John spent some time alone with Dad, talking to Dad about what was on his heart.  It was during this conversation that John was able to gently lead Dad to really express his concerns about dying.  One of Dad’s biggest issues was that he wondered what he would say to Jesus when he first saw Him.  We all just smiled and shook our heads when we heard that.  There he was again, not worried about his own pain but instead concerned about what he would say to his Lord.  And how like Dad that was!  He was always the ultimate planner and organizer, so for him to face this uncertain encounter with no plan or idea of what it would be like was very hard for him to handle.  Plus it very much showed his humility as he felt completely unworthy to stand before Jesus. 

Something else that was heavy on my Dad’s heart was the fact that he would be leaving my mother.  They had been inseparable during the 22 years of retirement they had enjoyed together.  Then when dad was put in a hospital bed, Mom slept in their bed right beside him and they held hands through the rails.  Dad knew that Mom was really showing the signs of Alzheimer’s in ways that we hadn’t seen.  He kept trying to find ways to tell us about it without Mom hearing him because he was so worried about what she would do when he was gone, and he wouldn’t be there to help her.  Part of his letting go was hearing our words of assurance that Mom would be cared for and that he didn’t need to worry about her.

But it wasn’t just that Dad was burdened about leaving Mom alone.  It was also that he was very concerned, almost fearful, of him being without her in heaven.  He was so close to her, so dependent on her in many ways, that the thought of being without her……even in heaven…..was nearly unbearable to him.  So on the night that John talked to Dad, he told Dad to remember that God said a thousand years to Him is but a day.  John said, “Dad, I really believe that when you go to heaven it’s going to be like you blink a couple times and then Mom will be right there with you.”

I don’t know that anything comforted Dad more than those words and that thought.  Later that night, as Mom and I sat with him in their family room, he very softly and slowly shared that thought with us…..and he sweetly smiled as he said it.  His soft, gentle smile….full of the hope that the separation from his Beth wouldn’t be so long after all.  We all know it was that night when Dad felt released to go on to heaven.  He knew that everything would be all right, and that Mom would join him in the blink of an eye.  Several days later he left this earth for heaven.

I’m thinking of my Dad today, and definitely my mom, for another very special reason.  Today my mother also left this earth for heaven.  She and Dad are finally together, whole and healthy at last!  I can’t imagine the joy they’re both experiencing right now to be with Jesus, and to be together for eternity.  Jan told me that Mom opened her eyes, eyes that had been shut for days.  It was as if she saw something.  Then she closed her mouth, closed her eyes, and was gone.  Did she see heaven?  Did she see Dad, grinning from ear to ear?  Did she see her Savior?  What precious and awesome thoughts those are!   

So while we cry at having to say goodbye to our last parent, we can’t help but smile and be so happy for her and for Dad.  Oh my goodness, I would love to have seen that reunion!  Someday we’ll join them there, and we’ll have so much joy and so much fun.  But until then, while we will sometimes weep and we will often miss them both, we can smile at God’s sweet goodness and rejoice over the certain hope we have of life together in heaven.  
 

Hey Mom, you and Dad have a great time up there! 

When we all get there, I do hope the Lord lets us sing “Oh, It Rained, Rained, Rained” again, just to torment dad. 

We’ll all see you in a couple blinks of an eye.    

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Gary’s military career took us to many places over the years.  Many of our family were able to come visit us in the various places that we lived, including Germany.  Fort Huachuca, Arizona, was our last assignment before Gary retired.  We had lots of family and several friends that were able to come and spend some time with us while we were there, but one trip will always stand out as the trip like none other……….the trip that no one would want to re-live.
Our military housing on Fort Huachuca, Arizona
My mom and dad came out to see us in October of that particular year.  October in Arizona is usually a great time to travel because it’s not too hot and not too cold.  Since Dad didn’t like to fly, they drove for several days across country, all the way from southern West Virginia to southern Arizona.  Mom and Dad enjoyed traveling, so the long drive didn’t bother them.  They had decided to just take their time and enjoy each day.
Our backyard view –  Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Now my mother, years prior to this trip, had been diagnosed with a very rare form of colitis.  She would go for rather long periods of time with no problems, and such was the case before they left for this long vacation trip to Arizona.  She had been fine, so she didn’t even think about bringing any of her prescription medicine.  However, on the long drive across the country she began having problems with her colitis.  As soon as they arrived at our place, later that evening, Mom pulled me aside and told me that she would need to go the emergency room the next day to be checked and to see if she could get some of her medicine.  It really wasn’t a big deal, she assured me, and so I wasn’t alarmed.
The following day, I took her and Dad to the ER in the town of Sierra Vista.  She was examined and plans were made to get her unusual prescription filled there in town for her rare form of colitis.  This would take some time, though, so in the meantime the doctor gave her something else to take.  In addition, they noticed that her blood pressure was high……….so the doctor said that she would need to come back the next day to have that checked as well.
Over the next several days, we juggled Mom’s ER visits with our day trips around southern Arizona.  There is so much to see and do there, and they didn’t want to waste a minute.  Mom’s colitis, though, was not getting any better but was actually worsening.  And her blood pressure was still an issue, so back and forth we would go to the ER to have her checked.  We were also dealing with Aaron’s seizures and behaviors……but despite it all, we were having a great time as we saw the sights and went on picnics and enjoyed time together.
One day I drove us all up through the Coronado National Forest.  We ended up at the top, at Montezuma Pass, where we looked out over the gorgeous view.  On the way back to the van from the overlook, there was just a tiny little incline with very small rocks on the ground.  Dad usually took hold of Mom’s arm to help her in an area like that, but this time she had gone on by herself.  Before we knew it, she slid on those tiny rocks and fell down.  We rushed over to help her up, and she assured us that she was fine………except that her lower leg hurt.  As we drove down off the mountain, I heard her tell Dad that her leg really hurt and that she thought she should go back to the ER to have it checked.   Now Dad, who was the sweetest husband ever, proceeded to tell Mom that her leg was fine and that she did not need to go to the ER.  At this point, they had been to the ER so many times that some of the staff knew them by name.  Dad was hoping that their ER days were over, but it was not to be.
Coronado National Forest
As soon as I dropped the kids off at our house and left them with Gary, I drove Mom and Dad back to the now very familiar emergency room.  Dad and I waited while Mom was X-rayed…….and then we were both shocked when the doctor walked out to tell us that Mom’s lower bone in her leg was broken.  Broken?  Are you sure, we asked?  Yes, we’re sure, he answered.  So Mom’s leg was put in a splint, and we were instructed to be seen by a certain ortho doctor on Monday.  This was Friday, so we had the weekend to wait.  And now Mom couldn’t walk……..and her colitis was bad, which meant frequent and VERY fast trips to the bathroom.  Oh dear.
We also, for some reason that I have forgotten, could not get a wheelchair at that time.  So we would put Mom in Gary’s desk chair with wheels, and we would roll her quickly around our quarters to the bathroom when the need would hit…….which as I said, was often.  VERY often.
We also had another little complication on this ever more interesting vacation trip.  Remember that we lived in military quarters.  When the housing authorities decide to make repairs on your quarters, they don’t typically ask if they can make said repairs.  They TELL you when they are making the repairs, and you deal with it.  Before Mom and Dad’s trip, we were told that there would be a certain project that would start on such and such a day on our house.  Just a small project…………putting on a new roof.  Oh, and since they were fairly certain that there was asbestos in the old roof that would be removed, we would need to make plans to be gone from our house on that day.  Gone…….as in gone ALL day……so as to avoid the asbestos.
You can probably guess that the day of the roof removal was on that Monday……….the Monday that Mom was scheduled to go get her broken leg put in a cast.  I had planned a full day trip to Mexico for all of us so we could do what the contractors told us to do……..which was to be gone………..and so we could avoid the nasty asbestos……….and so we could show my parents Mexico and we could shop and we could eat and we could have so much fun.  Instead, we were trapped in our house with Mom in a rolling chair with her leg stuck straight out, careening up the hall like crazy people to take her to the bathroom……and contractors at our door bright and early, asking us when we were leaving.  I explained that we were NOT leaving, and these Mexicans were trying to understand until they saw Mom……….and then they knew.  So they instructed us to keep our windows closed and good luck.
Dad and I got Mom to the doctor, and she came home with a nice new cast…….and still with her colitis, as strong as ever.  I don’t even remember how high her blood pressure was at this point, but I’m pretty sure that Dad’s and mine was right up there with Mom’s.  At least now we also had a wheelchair, and so life was a little easier……..except that our quarters weren’t exactly big enough, especially the bathroom doors, for a wheelchair.  Boy oh boy!
The Mexicans were working on the roof and we had our windows closed, but we noticed the dark clouds that were rolling in over the mountains.  Surely not.  It couldn’t be threatening rain in Arizona in October.  Not with our roof off………not with Mom in a wheelchair and a cast.  Soon our doorbell rang, and one of the Mexican men stood there rapidly firing off his mixture of Spanish and English.  I knew enough to know that he was telling me that they were hurrying as fast as they could to beat the rain, but that most of the roof was still not rain-ready.  And as we stood there, they also told us to move our vehicles because they were spreading tar on the flat roof………and the wind was whipping up because of the approaching storm.  So now we had very little roof and we had blowing tar.  Yes, blowing tar.  The tar didn’t get on our vehicles that we moved, but it blew all over our yard and carport……..and it seeped into our storage room………..and it got tracked all over the inside of the house.
Then the rain came………a hard, blowing rain.  The workers all left………..and we were left with drips coming out of our ceiling all over our quarters.  We used trash cans and buckets and bowls to catch the water.  Which meant that now we had Mom with a broken leg in a cast and with colitis………bad colitis, remember………being pushed quickly up the hall to the bathroom while dodging buckets and bowls and trash cans……….and somehow making it with our help to the toilet.  Soon after this rain fiasco started, I heard Mom in the bathroom laughing.  There she sat on the toilet, with steady drips of water landing right on her head.  Well, at least it was one drip that didn’t need a bucket.  We just kept the toilet lid up to catch the drips, and handed Mom a towel to hold on her head whenever she had to go.
The next day the workers returned and I tell you no lie………the same thing happened.  It rained yet again!  We had to laugh at this point.  I was so thankful for Mom and Dad’s good attitude, especially Mom’s.  Dad was getting a little stressed, of course, as he worried about her and wondered how on earth they were going to get home to West Virginia.  Finally, the decision was made.  My sister, Jan, flew out to Arizona in order to ride home with them.  I picked her up in Phoenix, and on the drive down to Fort Huachuca she asked if I could stop to let her use the bathroom.  On down the road a short way, she asked me once again to stop.  When she got back in the car, I asked if she was OK……..and she sheepishly said that her colitis had flared up.  OH NO!!!!!  She made me promise not to tell Mom and Dad, and she said the next day that she was fine……….and off Mom, Dad, and Jan went to drive back to West Virginia.
From what Jan told us, the drive back across country was pretty much a nightmare.  One day she told me that she stopped counting at 27 the number of times they stopped for Mom’s colitis attacks.  Many bathrooms were not wheelchair accessible.  Some hotels didn’t have any handicap rooms available.  It took at least 5 days to get home………..maybe more………..neither of us can remember.  I do know that Jan said by the time they got home, Dad was totally exhausted and he looked grey.  Poor Mom was wiped out………pardon the pun, but she would totally love that.
But things were not over.  Nope, not by a long shot.  When they got back home, Mom ended up in the hospital with pneumonia!  Yes……..colitis, broken leg, and now pneumonia.  But wait……….there’s more.  While in the hospital with pneumonia, she developed a blood clot and had an embolism.  She was in the best place for that to happen, although it was still a miracle that she didn’t die.  Of all things, this was her second embolism.  She had one years earlier after toe surgery.  She must be some sort of statistical miracle for sure!
This long story is just to show that through it all……….through this absolutely horrible vacation……….Mom and Dad stayed calm and strong.  Especially Mom.  Her strong will and her sense of humor kicked in, and she never acted like she was down or distressed.  She joked about everything and made the whole situation easier.
And most of all, as she lay in that hospital bed after the embolism, she said that God comforted her by giving her the verse that became her verse.  I wrote about that verse yesterday.  Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”  She said she lay there and just let her mind dwell on that verse.  She knew that God was in charge of all this craziness, and in charge of her health………..and that if she died, it would be fine………..and if not, then she would remember that He is God.
Tomorrow is Mom’s 87th birthday.  She has Alzheimer’s and has forgotten more than she remembers now.   I bet she can’t remember that disaster of a vacation…….and maybe that’s best.  But I’m thankful that the rest of us can think of it and remember what a testimony she was through it all.
We love you, Mom!  And we think of what you always said when you had these colitis episodes……”It’ll all come out OK in the end.”   HaHaHa!  That’s my Mom!

 

Psalm 46

Today on the radio I heard David Jeremiah talking about those times that we come to God with such heavy hearts that we don’t really even know what to say, and so we just ask Him to speak to us in a special way.  I guess hearing him say that has caused me to think today about one of the most meaningful times that I did just that.

In May of 2000, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He went through months of grueling chemotherapy and radiation, and was doing very well.  After four years we were all resting easier about his condition, praising God for His healing hand on Dad.

I’ll never forget the day in early November of 2004 when our phone rang.  It was my mom and dad calling me from West Virginia.  Some routine blood work that had been done a few weeks earlier had shown that some of his levels weren’t quite right.  On the phone that day, he and mom broke the news to me that a liver scan had shown that Dad had liver cancer.  It was inoperable, but chemo was once again an option.  However, we knew that this was very serious and possibly terminal.

None of our family was expecting this news.  We were all devastated, of course, and so sad on many levels.  The next morning after receiving this awful news, I sat at the table with my coffee and my Bible.  I was trying to find the motivation to work on a Bible study I was doing, but my heart wasn’t in that.  Finally, I just called out to God and said, “Oh God, You know that I am so sad and so hurt over Dad.  Please, Lord, I need to hear from You right now.  Please speak to me.”

I opened my Bible randomly.  I had nothing marked, nothing stuck in the pages of my Bible that would have caused it to open where it did.  I looked down to where I had opened it and saw Psalm 46.  This was a special Psalm to my extended family.  Verse one says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Beside that verse I had written, “‘Dad, cancer: 2000.”  Then verse 10 is my mother’s verse: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I had her name written beside that verse.

It was a very special time of worship for me that morning.  I said, “Oh, thank you Lord, for reminding me of Who You were to all of us during Dad’s cancer in 2000 and of Who You still are today!”  And so I added the date of 2004 to that verse as a reminder of this wonderful word once again from God.

It was a Friday morning and I knew that back in West Virginia, Dad was at the Men’s Prayer Breakfast that he always attended.  That meant that Mom would be alone, and so she and I could really talk.  I called her and for a few minutes we talked and cried together.  Then I said, “Mom, God did the most amazing thing this morning.  I asked Him to speak to me and so I opened my Bible……………”   But Mom interrupted me before I could say anything else.

She said, “Wait!  Don’t tell me!  Was it Psalm 46?”

And I replied, “Well, yes, but how did you know that?”

And she said, “Yesterday when we got home from the doctor, your dad went back into the bedroom and stayed there a long time.  When he came out I asked what he was doing, and he told me that he was reading Psalm 46.”

Oh wow!  God was reaching down to us, so many miles apart, and showing us that He was there…….that He was aware of our need and of our hurt……..that He hadn’t forgotten us…………..that He truly was a PRESENT help in our trouble.

God gave us four more wonderful years with Dad.  We would often say to each other, “Remember Psalm 46!”

What a faithful and awesome God we serve!