It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since my Papa stepped into eternity. Tonight, in memory of him, we will have steak ~ n ~ eggs with sourdough toast. This was another one of his favorite meals, and the last birthday dinner he chose. Words cannot adequately express how much my heart aches with missing him. This morning, when I first woke at 4:38, my heart was heavy knowing what day it is. Before I drifted off to sleep again, I thanked the Lord that He nudged me to wake up a little after 5 AM one year ago today with a strong desire to go check on Papa as he slept. How thankful I am to have had those last couple minutes with my hand in his as he took his last breath at 5:15 AM.
Over this last year, I have wrestled with myself often as I relive our last days with Papa. I wonder if there were signs I missed in recognizing his final decline. As a family, we were by his side by his side almost every waking hour of the last years of his life, especially in those last 7 months he spent bedbound. We lived our lives in his little part of our home, with him… how could I have missed knowing the end was so close? We were blessed in our last days with Gigi. She followed a pattern of decline and so it was very obvious to see that her time was close and we were able to be gathered around her bedside when she took her last breath. In my heart I guess I assumed it would be the same with Papa. I often rethink the day before and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We had soccer in the morning so some were gone and some were home, and Ramona came in to help with Papa. He was his normal self, kind and sweet, with “I love you’s” freely given. We spent the afternoon and evening in with Papa, watching a Boise State football game, sitting with him, visiting between his sleeping, and holding his hand. I cut the boys hair in there and per usual we ate our dinner in with him. We had Penne con vodka and fresh bread, a meal he deeply enjoyed. He had a bite of pasta, a bite of bread and even a little sip of red wine. We did our family devotions with him and then tucked him into bed. The only “difference” you could say is that by the time we were done getting him ready for sleep, he was already asleep. This wasn’t terribly unusual as he slept so much at that point but it was different in the sense that he was always awake to say his goodnight’s, I love you’s and give us all kisses. How I have agonized over those last hours. Our time with him was sweet and just as it had been every day for a very long time. Did I miss something? Should I have been alarmed that he wasn’t awake to say his usual goodnights? Was there something more in the day that I didn’t see? He was declining of course, eating less and sleeping more but this day seemed to hold nothing different than the days, weeks and even months before. I have struggled to leave this with my Savior. I have wrestled with guilt and sadness throughout this last year about how things might have been different had I known or recognized more in those last hours. I have been reminded many times by Chad to rest in the situation and realize…..how can we ever know? He has reminded me that we have no regrets in our years with them. At the time of Papa’s death we had spent 12 of our 18 years married with Papa and Gigi, and a myriad of precious memories were made with them.
Another truth that has been brought to mind lately is that while I would have taken more comfort in being with Papa longer in the hours leading up to his death, it is not I who would bring him comfort, but his Savior. I never wanted Papa to be "alone" in death. I have come to see though, that even if I had been with him through his last night in this earthly realm, in reality, that part doesn’t even compare to the comfort he received from Christ as he crossed between the earthly and heavenly realm. I could not “walk the vale” with Papa, so to speak, but he was not alone. Psalm 23 gives the reassurance that “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”. I am very aware of these truths in my head, but I struggle with getting my heart to follow. I have been and I still often ask the Lord to take this struggle from me and I need to trust him to do just that. How weak I am in my faith, how much more I have to learn and grow. How thankful I am that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me in spite of myself. How grateful I am that He is a sovereign God and that he knew and orchestrated the final moments of Papa’s life to be used for His glory and for the continual deepening of my trust in Him.
I wanted to share with you a portion of the devotional entry for today, October 2 from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions. I read it again today and I remember reading it the morning Papa died and I am thankful for this sweet reminder from the Lord.
“The hope which is laid up for you in heaven” – Col. 1:5
“Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy here. It will animate our hearts to think often of heaven, for all that we can desire is promised there. Here we are weary and toilworn, but yonder is the land of rest where the sweat of labour shall no more bedew the workers brow, and fatigue shall be forever banished. To those who are weary and spent, the word ‘rest’ is full of Heaven.”