Dad always had a travelin’ jones. He loved maps, highways, vacations, travel. It was an itch that could only be scratched with a road trip.
As Dad lay dying, he asked the logistical questions one asks when preparing for a journey. What time is it? Can we drive through for barbeque? Where are my children?
And, yesterday, he asked his son, Dr. Toby:
“Am I dying?”
Toby replied, “You are getting closer.”
There is a calm before the storm, a stirring before death, a longing to go, to leave this place that has provided so much heartache and laughter.
Last night a storm blew in with high winds and hail. Dad had the wits about him to ask us to pull all the cars beneath the protective roof of his carport. The winds and rain came and then the calm.
Dad was tired. His body worn out. Dad was packing his bags. He asked Terri to sing so we sang Blessed Assurance and I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me, because it gave us comfort and for brief moments, his eyes would open in recognition of those songs as he tried to sing.
We knew Dad was knee-deep in the Jordan. This morning at 2:00 am he dove into the depths of that mysterious river and left his battered and bruised body behind.
I watched my brother Toby stroke his head. Greg wept and did the same. To bid goodbye to one who has known you since birth and handed you the keys to cars and extended blessings in life and passed along genetic code to the enigma of ourselves…well, it hits you between the eyes, even though you know it is coming.
We surrounded Dad and prayed. I thanked God for the memory of gathering in an unlikely place, the bedroom of our Dad and Mom. This, strangely enough, was the church of our family. We often gathered in the bedroom of our parents to sing and pray in the evenings for family devotionals when we were pajama clad kids.
The circle had been completed. We returned to this place where so many prayers had been prayed and so many songs had been sung.
At midnight Dad was restless. Mom attended to him. Dad was mumbling and she tried to understand. Dad said, “Do you have three hands?”
Mom said, “Pretty sure, no. Both of my hands are touching you here.”
Dad replied, “I feel a third hand on the other side.” Maybe it was the hand of Jesus. Or perhaps just that old longing to get in the car and drive.
Mom went back to sleep. My brother called at 1:55 and said that Dad was passing. Those who knew him knew that at any moment he might break into a verse of that Willie Nelson song, On the Road Again. We came quickly…but he was not waiting for us. He was traveling. On the road, just like he sang to so many caretakers who put him in his wheelchair.
What a life! What a moment! What a journey that is just now beginning!
I miss him.
I love you Papa. Thanks for leaving behind a map and a flashlight and a car full of gas. I’ll see you down the road in a little while.