by Joyce Long
Many times the comment “Hi, Son! Good to hear from you” isn’t what we say within our family. “No news is good news” might be more accurate. This time was no different. After three months of physical therapy treating a dislocated kneecap, the “second opinion” orthopedic surgeon decided a ruptured patella tendon was to blame. A major surgery was immediately scheduled. My husband flew out to help, two days ahead of a blizzard that buried the Chesapeake Bay. Left home alone, I prayed for Chris’s recovery, for the weather there, and also for the incoming snow scheduled for central Indiana.
Then a few days before the surgery another phone call jarred our peace, this time from our daughter in Kenya: “Hi Mom. I fainted last week. I’m very weak. Must be a parasite or something. They’ve taken me off the mission to a private residence. Good news! I’m with a nurse. Please pray for me!”
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).
“Dearest Lord, I’m frightened for my children. Please heal them as only you can. Work through those ministering to them. Restore their health and give us peace. In Jesus’ name, amen!”
The phone rang again Monday.
“Joyce, it’s Mom. Your dad’s having trouble breathing. He can’t sleep and he’s exhausted. I don’t know what to do.”
Minutes later I breezed into their assisted living apartment.
“Do you want me to take you to the hospital, Dad?” He looked out the window.
“It’s cold, isn’t it?”
“Brutally so.” The forecast predicted another 12 inches of snow by morning.
“I’ll stay here.”
A Prayer Answered
We prayed: “Dearest Lord, let my father have perfect peace tonight as he sleeps. Restore his strength. In Christ’s name, amen!”
Driving back to work, I had no idea how that prayer would soon be answered. When the phone rang early the next morning, a distant voice said, “Hello, this is Jane. Your father passed away last night. I’m with your mother now.”
Words muffled as my eyes flooded.
“I’ll be right there.”
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23: 4).
I ran outside to find my next-door neighbor shoveling our driveway. After hearing the news, he gave me a quick hug and scrambled to get his wife, who is my close friend. Jumping into their four-wheel drive SUV, we rushed to the assisted living facility two miles away. Another dear neighbor began calling friends.
My parents’ apartment door was open. The facility’s director had wrapped her arms around Mom, the sheriff and fireman were talking, and Dad lay peacefully on his back in his bed—a scene eternally etched in my heart.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).
Friends began gathering while the staff brought us breakfast. The director expedited transit for Dad’s body since the journey to his hometown would be a few hours. Mom and I sat on the sofa calling first my sister in California and then my husband who was still out East with our son.
Our Needs Met
“Mom, I’m alone at home. Why don’t you stay with me for a few days?”
After our neighbors drove us back to my home, another neighbor rang the doorbell bringing Chinese take-out for our late lunch. The next morning a couple from our church stopped by to shovel our long driveway that others had already cleared. A pot roast, chicken casserole, and a multitude of desserts kept coming.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).
The snow fell. Flights were canceled. Our hometown funeral director 75 miles away called Wednesday afternoon.
“Joyce, we’re just checking in. We know the weather is an issue, but have you thought about when you’d like to schedule your father’s funeral?”
“My husband’s not due back until Saturday, and my sister’s flights keep canceling. Could you do both the visitation and funeral on Sunday?”
“Valentine’s Day it is, then!”
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
After choosing photos for Dad’s slideshow, I bought a tri-fold display for the prints. Driving home I was startled by a cardinal swooping across the windshield, pausing ever so slightly for me to see his scarlet wings. The strikingly brilliant crimson male was my father’s favorite bird, our school’s mascot, and a reminder from God of my father’s love. I had never seen one so close.
His Love Displayed
With the temperature below zero and a penetrating wind chill, the day of Dad’s celebration of life could not have been more frigid. Dad hated the cold. Born on July 6, 1920, he was a firecracker of energy who loved to sweat. But on Valentine’s Day 2010, people from his childhood, his career, his church, and his neighborhood stood in line to pay their respects. Approximately 50 of our friends sacrificed their Sunday afternoon to travel two hours on snowy roads. I smiled and cried when greeting them. God’s love had never been more real to me.
Neither of our children could attend their grandfather’s funeral due to the storms raging in their lives. But they loved from afar. Chris wrote this eulogy I shared as the memorial began:
Dear Grandpa, my mother once said the biggest takeaway from her childhood was witnessing all the kind acts you and Grandma performed for other people. I can only pray that I may plow through life with the same grace and vigor that you did. So I’m going to finish this last set of leg exercises because I will see you again, and then we can have that race you challenged me to last time we spoke.
Other tributes made the afternoon one of joy rather than sorrow. Dad’s life was long, full, and sacrificial. Our loss would linger but his memory would last.
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mark 4: 39, New King James Version).
Our perfect storm would soon end.
Joyce Long is a freelance writer in Greenwood, Indiana.
Simple Ways to Help People Deal with Grief
Contact them via phone, social media, e-mail, or in person.
Pray for them to deal with their grief.
Share memories of their loved ones.
Send a card, even if it comes weeks or months after the death. Just to know someone remembers is comforting.
Provide Scripture that illustrates God’s love and comfort.
Listen when they want to talk about their loved ones.
Respect their need to deal with grief in their own way.
Remember the milestones of their beloved’s life: birthday, death, and so on.