When I went in to see Dad Tuesday evening, I could not be sure he knew who I was. He simply looked at me without expression in his eyes or on his face. He didn’t speak. My attempts to engage him in conversation were fruitless. He drifted in and out of sleep several times.
After watching him sleep for about an hour, I decided to talk to him, in the hope that his subconscious might absorb something of my words. In essence I said, “Dad, you have been a good Dad to me and to Vi and Linda. You have been a wonderful example of how to live a good life, a life of integrity. You have been a mentor to us and our children. You have also been an example to our friends.” (I have many times repeated to him the positive comments made about him by my friends.)
“You have also been an example to your brothers and sisters. I can tell that they have a tremendous respect for you. What you have sought to accomplish with your life will be carried on, even though you can no longer do it yourself. You have done your part. Now it’s up to us to continue your work.”
When I ceased speaking I thought there was a flicker of a response in his expression, as though he was accepting what I had said. I prayed audibly for him then, and again he seemed to acknowledge the prayer.
As I sat at his bedside that evening, I wondered if we would lose him that night. His breathing was loud and he fairly regularly pretty much stopped breathing (I think this is called chain stoking). It seemed that his life force had been spent and there was little left to sustain him. I left when it seemed he had drifted off for the night.
Amazingly, Gail came in to an entirely different person the next morning. He wanted to talk and recounted several incidents from his past. He remembered having gone to a street corner in a rundown area of Vancouver to do music with Nick Klassen. One of the songs they had sung there came to his mind and now he and Gail sang it.
At one point in their discussion, he asked “what does a man have left?” He didn’t provide an explanation of the question, but I wondered if it indicated an awareness that the number of his days is dwindling.
In response to his question my mind went back to the morning when he went out to his machine feeling deeply disquieted by a longstanding misunderstanding between two men in the Mennonite church he attended. They had not spoken to each other for some time. Dad started his machine and let it warm up.
He had no peace,however, and so he shut it down and drove to the home of one of the men, in the hope of persuading him to seek a reconciliation. When the man realized that Dad was willing to sacrifice to achieve a reconciliation, he agreed to go with him to find the other man. That morning the problem between them was dealt with and they were again brothers.
Increasingly, I’m finding that I want people to know about Dad’s values and how they directed his thoughts and actions. Having been positively impacted myself by his life, I feel a responsibility and desire to speak and write about how he has lived, in the hope that possibly others will benefit.
He said to me this week, “I want to carry on.” It seems he still has reason to live and inspite of his hurting body and the dire predictions of the nurses, he is pressing on. His desire to live is giving a (limited) measure of strength to his body. He is sleeping a lot, but when he is awake he is alert and completely aware. Will he last until Christmas?