My Daddy left us two days ago. Simply, peacefully, quietly. Twelve days prior to his ninety-eighth birthday.

A farmer, his life was defined by hard work and his love for and devotion to my mother. He was fiercely dedicated to providing for my brother and me as we grew up. It’s the way he loved us. A man of few words and one who struggled to put his affection on display, he found joy in teasing those he loved.

He has left a legacy of love, laughter and commitment to family – for his children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and his great grandchildren.  He demonstrated how to do things well whether in the field, the backyard or in his welding shop. And all my life, he’s quietly stepped up to the plate when anyone in the family needed a helping hand.

A Gift by Example

God spared him the affliction of dementia, a blessing to all whose lives he touched and a gift – because during these past few years, he demonstrated how to live the last chapter well.

Daddy lost my mother, the love of his life, in their seventy-fourth year of marriage. He wanted to continue to live in their home but could not be on his own. He decided he wanted to live with me, and we had two precious years together before it became necessary for him to transition to an assisted living residence. Layered over these difficult changes, he progressively lost the physical ability to care for himself.

What I have witnessed through it all is humble acceptance, abundant gratitude, and genuine concern for others.

Throughout my adult life he’s talked to me of his fears about death and dying and his worst-case-scenario of being placed in a care facility. But when it came down to it, he adapted to his new circumstances with grace.

All of us who have helped to care for him these past few years can attest to the fact that he has been grateful for even the smallest kindness or act of care. He never failed to say thank you or to give a word of appreciation – every day – each time – a task was done for him.

There has been no bitterness, no self-pity, no wailing about life is unfair or this isn’t how I wanted things to be. Instead, he bonded with his caregivers and talked often about how grateful he was for each of them.

When I’d visit, sometimes more than once a day, he’d say he was taking up too much of my time and worry that I should be about my business. My brother, Bill, had a health scare and Daddy would ask me about it repeatedly, wanting reassurance we weren’t keeping anything from him. His love and concern ran deep.

He took joy in every visit from grandchildren and great grandchildren. Never a word about when are they coming again or how often. Always grateful and pleased to see them and oh, so proud of each one.

Unafraid

Something I am most thankful for is this – he wasn’t afraid. We talked a lot about how long he’d lived and how blessed his life had been. He had teased about not being here for his next birthday – for at least ten birthdays in a row. A ploy he used to make sure he’d have a party.

But this time, a few weeks ago, when he told me he may not be here for his birthday, he wasn’t joking. Though I could see he was serious, I insisted that he’d still be here, and he didn’t respond.

Humble acceptance, genuine concern for others. He was trying to let me know.

For most of my adult life I’ve talked to him about Jesus. He used to tell me he didn’t need to go to church because he talked to God when he drove the tractor. I’d wait a few years and approach the subject again. He’d tell me he took care of things at YMCA camp when he was a boy. Still, I’d bring it up again and finally wrote him a letter five years ago. He didn’t respond, but I discovered he did save the letter.

Finally, when he was living with me and had seen a vision at his bedside one night and again a few nights later, we talked about what it might mean as we had breakfast. He told me it was two different girls. “They just stood there and looked down at me, but I wasn’t afraid.”

He described their faces and attire in detail and with his words painted a picture of magnificence. He said they faded away a little while after they appeared. He’d never had visions before and I told him I believed they were angels sent by God.

He didn’t disagree. I asked him if he would pray with me to receive Jesus, he said yes without hesitation. And together we prayed at the breakfast table.

It’s why he was no longer afraid. After a lifetime of fear. And why his love and kindness and gratitude shone in his life above all else in the final chapter. It was because of Jesus, who said…

“Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

My daddy was gentle and lowly in heart, his soul was at rest, his burden light.

Until we meet again, I’ll miss him every day.

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