Letting Daddy Go


Mother had been at the hospital late that night with Daddy. She told us that the doctors didn’t know for sure what was wrong with him. There was nothing to do but wait and see what tomorrow would bring.

Before we went to bed, Mother telephoned the hospital to check on Daddy one last time. A nurse told her that they would call her back in a few minutes since they had an emergency to take care of. We didn’t know it at the time, but the emergency was Daddy.

When the nurse called back, she asked Mother to come immediately. My brother, Lewis, and one of my sisters, Rebecca, said they would go with her. Tired and worried, I dressed for bed, but when I lay down, the Spirit said to me, “Get up—you’ve got to go.”

I ignored the voice, but it came again, stronger this time, and I didn’t argue. When we arrived at the hospital, Mother said, “I’ll go right into the intensive care unit and check on Daddy. I’ll be back in a minute.”

After a long time, she finally came out and said, “I can’t let you see your father in his condition. It would break his heart if he knew you saw him like that.”

We loudly protested, but she stood firm, saying, “No. Remember him the way he was.”

Surely Mother couldn’t mean that Daddy was dying! I was frantic with fear. Then my eyes fell on the Bible lying on the table. I took it and started reading. As I read, my attention was drawn to one verse in particular:

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philip. 1:23).

When I finished reading, I knew Daddy must go. Lewis was now sobbing in the waiting room. My younger sister, Rebecca, was telling me how it hurt her to see Lewis cry, and how hard it would be to not see Daddy here in the hospital. My older sister, MaryAnn, and my two brothers, Karl and Michael, were still at home, anxiously awaiting news from Mother. Oh, what awful news to hear!

After shedding many tears, we all sat on a couch and drifted in and out of fitful, uneasy sleep. I remember thinking: It can’t end this way. Something has to happen to let us know he’ll miss us and to give us comfort in the years ahead.

When I drifted off to sleep, I dreamed that Daddy was standing in the doorway, dressed all in white. He was crying, but I knew he was happy. He raised his hand and whispered, “Bye-bye, kiddies.”

I didn’t want him to go, but I awoke suddenly and he was gone. He died later that night.

I woke up the next morning in my own bed, barely remembering that friends had taken us home from the hospital the night before. I sat up in my bed and looked around the room. I knew something was wrong, and then I remembered: Daddy died last night. I sank back down on my pillow, already damp with tears, and cried some more.

The days after the funeral were the hardest: setting the table with only seven plates, hearing my mother softly crying in the night, and seeing his chair—empty. Where was the father I loved so much? Then I remembered my dream of his tearful good bye, and the scripture, “Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”

Yes, he would be with us in spirit whenever we needed him, memories of him bringing us great comfort. Knowing that he was with Christ made it easier for me to bear my sorrow.

[photo] Photograph by Melanie Shumway