Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One Last Christmas at the Farm

This was to be our last Christmas with Daddy. 
Instead it will be our last Christmas forever on the farm I grew up on.
Daddy had lived there for most of his 85 years. I only lived there for 14. We moved there when I was about 4 years old. But I don't really remember much about the first farm house we lived in, the house Daddy was born in. So why do my memories of my first 18 years seem to be half of my life when I have lived in my home with my husband for almost 40 years?  My childhood home is the place where I was taught everything that is important to me. It is where I was taught to love others and most of all to love the Lord. I was taught by word and by deed. My parents were wonderful examples to me as I was growing up. It is where my husband and then each new child as they came along spent many, many Christmases. It is where our family fled to, the Christmas after Amy died so we wouldn't have to spend it in our own home so full of her memories. It was my refuge. 
Daddy reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 a few years ago.
Mama is leaving before the new year and is going to live with my sister. The farm will be sold and before next Christmas there will be a new family starting memories in that house and on that land.

I am so glad I was able to spend almost 2 weeks there in June. Emily and I had taken a road trip and on the day before we left we  celebrated Daddy's 85th birthday. I didn't know it would be his last. Mama was not well. We were so worried about her. 

Then in early fall we got a call. Daddy had fallen, but seemed to be ok. It was then found out later he had a stroke. So that's when we decided we would spend Christmas in Iowa. Then in late October he had more tests done. The doctors thought maybe his gall bladder, then a test showed a mass so surgery was done on October 27th. I flew out on Nov. 2 to be with him for two help him and Mama in the hospital, to help get him settled back at home, to set up outside help for both of them at the farm, to do whatever I could to help we could come back and spend one last Christmas with him on the farm.
But doctors with all their training and experience still don't know what God has planned for a person's life.
Just two weeks later on the day I was to fly back home, Daddy was welcomed into heaven by his Savior and Amy. I'm sure she ran into her Granddaddy's arms and told him all about her mansion with all the rooms waiting for the rest of us that are still down here. Amy and Daddy are no longer in any pain from their earthly bodies. Amy has freedom from Rett Syndrome. Daddy has freedom from cancer and old age. 

Why, then, do I grieve so much?
Just a few short months ago, I felt like I had a handle on my grief. I was able put this scripture on my Oct. 9 blog from Psalm 30.

"Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."
And then Daddy died. 

When I was in the hospital with Daddy I started writing down all the things that brought flashbacks of my time in the hospital with Amy. After only a day and a half I had filled a page in my book, so I stopped. Everything, it seemed, reminded me of her hospitalization and death. From the simplest of things (like the way they propped Daddy up with pillows) to the hard things--interviewing with hospice and dealing with all that leads to the end of life. And the worst possible of memories...funeral homes, funeral directors and well-meaning people who really don't know how to deal with death, all brought back to stark reality that Daddy was gone, just like Amy.

But God gave me the strength to endure those three weeks in November.  And then back home, where life has not changed for most people. Thanksgiving and all the Christmas preparations. Happiness, Excitement, Joy. But my life has, once again, been turned upside down. 

Happiness, excitement and joy seem to be eluding me. But I do have a peace. Deep in my heart even though I am in such pain at losing Daddy, I know God loves me. 
He gave me a special gift. 
Quite a few years ago, I was watering my plants in the sun room and was consumed with grief. Because of the great love I had for my earthly father, I pleaded and begged my heavenly Father to please let me be there when Daddy died, to be at his side when he left this world and entered eternity. I never really expected God to give me that desire of my heart. As I imagine most long married couples do, Mama and Daddy wanted to die together so I figured they would be in a car accident or some such thing that fits my Disney view of life. 
But God is not Walt Disney. He had His own perfect plan for Daddy's life and for mine. 
Daddy came home on a Friday. A hospital bed had been brought in and the living room had been rearranged to accommodate it as well as a bedside toilet and a walker. Even though Daddy was in a great amount of pain and was taking the strong meds to fight it, he was determined to sleep in his own bed and use the bathroom. This he did Friday and Saturday. He was doing great both of those days and we were able to talk together and when James, Laura, and little Will came Saturday evening he was awake enough to know them and talk to them. 
Sunday morning he took a turn for the worse. We don't exactly know what happened, but he went downhill fast. There were still times where he was lucid, but it was hard to understand him and he slept a lot. I spent time singing to him and reading to him from where he had stopped his daily readings. It was in the Psalms. 
Monday morning was really hard. I helped the girl that stayed that night fix up his bed and he was in so much  pain. His sister (my aunt) came and visited. Some folks from church came also. The hospice nurse finally came around noon and said we could increase his medications. My sister took my mom to an eye dr. appointment and another friend from church visited briefly. I sat with Daddy and read to him and then started singing. I was concentrating on the old hymns since I knew he liked them. I was using the hymnal I had brought from home that I sang to Amy out of. I had just sung, "Praise Him, Praise Him," when an elderly friend of Daddy's stopped by.  James, Laura, Will and I were all around Daddy's bed visiting with the friend when Daddy just stopped breathing. We were all waiting for the next breath and nothing happened. He just peacefully passed from this life to the next. I was holding his hand. 

As I was lying on Daddy's chest crying and crying, Laura told me later that little Will waved goodbye and then turned to the window and waved goodbye out the window for a little while. Could he see Jesus leading Daddy home? Was Amy with them?  Will was only 13 months old at the time. He will never be able to tell us. Only God knows.  

What a precious gift God gave me to be able to be with my Daddy as I had asked Him so many years ago. I know from what the Bible says that He loves me, but I knew right then that He had tangibly showed His love for me by giving me this desire of my heart. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. 

That was exactly one month ago today. 

Bill, little Marissa Amy, and I went to a Christmas party today at the center where Amy attended. We ate, sang Christmas songs, Santa came and handed out presents and we visited with the teachers and Amy's friends. My heart was heavy. It was hard to be there, but the people loved seeing Mari and she was so happy and good while we were there. And it just seemed right that today on this special day, we share with those who Amy spent time with on this earth.

I know my heart will heal, but it will take time. God will give me the strength to say goodbye to the farm. I will be able to spend time with my sisters and my Mama. People are what is important, not things, not a house or land. 

John 14 says
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

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