“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh
My dad went to be with the Lord on Sunday.
He made the journey to home hospice 11 days before his homecoming – 10 more days than we thought we’d have with him. He held on till right after his 87th birthday, where he was surrounded by family and friends and joy — just what he wanted. I’ve had treasured time with him the last months, singing with him in the hospital (all his favorite jazz and classic musicals, of course) and talking about seeing the Lord soon. God is faithful. Dad came to faith just a decade ago, at the age of 77. If you knew him, you know he was your biggest cheerleader. He believed in you and your dreams. Dad gave us vision to see what matters most and how to love people well.
It was a beautiful day in Gulf Breeze—a “perfect 10,” as dad would say. His breathing changed, and we knew his time was nearing. We spent a long time with him together, telling him how much we love him. Mom poured out love and devotion. Stephen cared for him just as he would have wanted. Dad settled for a bit, and I stayed so they could rest for a moment. I sang two of dad’s favorites – “This Little Light of Mine” by Sam Cooke and “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley – and God decided it would be me there for his last breath. I assured him that his faith was about to become sight. I’ve never walked someone home before, and to be there for my dad leaves me without words. I called Stephen in the other room. He came in just as dad went home.
And now life is different. When the gentlemen from the funeral home came, the hospice nurse held me and said, “This will be hard. One day, you’ll be able to come into this room without your heart aching, but not for a long while. It won’t go away. It will change, but it will always be there.” Those words were what I needed to hear. The degree of our sadness and grief is directly proportional to the amount of love we shared. We will always have that.
Dad finished every phone call and visit with me for the last decade with these words I now cherish: “Bye, bye, blues!” No more sadness or tears or pain—the blues are gone away, indeed, Dad. We love you and miss you terribly.
Friends, thank you. I’ve been given comfort in this grief by the love of many friends. I’ve held tight to so many generous words. I’ve written them in my journal, read them many times over, repeated them to Ari as I’ve grieved, shared them with my mom and brother, and listened to messages from friends in the many times I have the urge to call dad and I remember. I’ve read cards slowly and with praise in my heart for the Lord. I’ve smelled flowers sent to us more deeply than before. They smell like love. Thank you, friends. Your words and kindness mean the world. They matter more than I can tell you—and they’ve taught me how to do the same for others in the future.
One of the many encouragements that has stayed close with me: Till you meet your dad in heaven again may you cherish every memory and pass the legacy to your children. We do not grieve as those with no hope.
Dear Dad, may I live with faith, love, and humility as you did. May my life be a reflection of the reality of God’s transforming grace as yours was. May my faith become sight, as yours has. I love you, Lala.
I’ve been writing what I’ve learned in this experience and will share that soon. Till then, here’s what’s on my Tending List for August, a reflection of this new time of life.
Friends, may this new month be filled with what matters most. Our little by little moments add up to a lifetime—and a legacy. No perfection required. What goals are you tending to in September?
Sending you and your family the biggest hugs, Lara! And rejoicing over your dad’s homecoming as he delights in the presence of our Lord!
Your love for your dad spills off the page. I wept with you reading this. You sound like you loved him so well in this transition. Thank you for sharing the story of your dad with us. Your words brought honor to him and our Lord. Sending love and prayers to your family.
Something about the sentence “And now life looks different” really hit me and made me tear up – simple but poignant. I’m sorry for your loss and praying for you and your family. And I am grateful that we do not grieve as those without hope!
Lara, my heart grieves with you at the loss of your dad, and rejoices with you that you will see him again. It is so clear how much he meant to you, your family, and his community – what a gift to live a life like that! And what a privilege to have been the one to walk him home. I have no doubt your bravery and grace in that moment was the proudest of his life – both this one and the next. I am struck by so many parallels in our stories as I sit here in hospice next to my dad in his final days: his 87th birthday is nearing on 9/23, he too went to University of Pittsburgh (perhaps they were in the same class!), and he too has always been the biggest believer in my dreams. I will miss bringing my latest life news to him and listening to his trusted advice – most of all I will miss his hugs and “I love you”s. From one daddy’s girl to another, thank you for sharing your story with us. There is so much beauty to be found in these moments. It has helped this reader more than you can know <3
Lara, your dad was born a month before my dad, Frank. My dad passed away from late stage Alzheimer’s in 2014. The best advice I can give you, Lara and to anyone who has lost a parent, is to hold on to the stories you have of them. Lara, remember the stories of your dad, recount them as much as you’d like, share them and if you dad was anything like my dad, laugh whenever you’d like when remembering the funny, quirky man he was. Our deceased loved ones live on through their stories and their stories allow us to never really have to let them go. I’m looking forward to seeing my father again in Heaven, just like I’m sure, Lara, as one woman of faith to another, that you are assured in your heart that you will one day be reunited with your dad in God’s Kingdom.
Sending you so much love and so glad to hear he was a believer. How special he came to faith later in life, I don’t know if you have shared about that before but that’s so beautiful.