When I was growing up, my Dad was a force to be reckoned with. His addiction to drugs and alcohol created a rage within him that caused my sister and my Mother to consistently walk on eggshells. The pattern continued throughout his life.
When I was 18, I became a devout Christian and I prayed for him and for my entire family, especially our safety. I received a scholarship to a nearby college, which thrilled me because I knew that the only way to get away from the house of sorrows was to make excellent grades and apply for scholarships and Pell grants (we were very poor). I finished my degree and moved an hour away to begin my new career. Two years later, I began working on my Master’s Degree — I felt so overwhelmed because of work and the commitments of grad school.
One Friday as I came home from school, I met my husband with his military gear (he had to go to drill for the weekend). I was SO relieved because all I could think about was how much work I was going to get done… turn off the phones and dive in to my assignments.
As soon as I opened the door to my home, I heard a deafening sound (I was all alone). They were words so overwhelming that I couldn’t even sit down. Two simple words: “GO HOME!” I tried to shake it off, thinking to myself how strange that was. The words continued for 30 minutes over and over, louder and louder until I packed a bag and got in my car to go to my parents.
As soon as I backed out of my driveway, the words disappeared. I called my Mom and told her I was on my way, which surprised her because I really don’t like to be in turmoil and my Dad was the author of chaos and turmoil. When I walked in the door, my Dad smiled at me. There he sat, almost frail like and the color of grey. I said my hellos and followed my Mom in the kitchen. “How long has Dad looked like that?” “What are you talking about,” my Mom asked. “He is grey, I said.” My Mom saw the worry on my face, quietly walked into another room, called my sister (newly married but was working her day shift), and told her to come home. She then called my Dad’s Mother and Father.
My Dad kept saying he was okay, just having a bit of a problem swallowing but nothing major. We had dinner. Dinner filled with nice family style conversation that I’d never experienced. My sister and grandparents then went home. Saturday I asked my Dad if he would let me take him to the doctor and he declined. We had another nice day; just my parents, sister (she took off Saturday, too) and me.
That night, I was lying on the sofa watching TV with my Mom and Dad and I dozed off. I felt the gentlest touch brush the hair away from my eyes. “Baby, you need to go to bed,” my Dad said. “I promise if I don’t feel better tomorrow before you go home, I’ll go to the doctor.” So, I went into my parent’s room (I was going to sleep with my Mom because Dad had back problems and always slept in his recliner). “Oh no,” I sighed. “I forgot to tell my Dad I loved him. I’ll tell him tomorrow.”
At 7am, my Mom nudged me awake and said, “Will you go check on your Dad? He is sleeping so soundly.”
I walked into the den and there my Dad was. Head slumped to one side, eyes closed with a drop of blood on the side of his mouth. I touched his neck and he was ice cold. I had to tell my Mom that Dad was gone. She collapsed in tears. My Dad, age 47, died of a massive heart attack.
I went into the mode I know so well being in the medical field. I called 911 only to notify the coroner, my sister, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles.
My Mother and sister were inconsolable. I will never forget the cries from my Dad’s Mother: “LORD, please give him one more breath to make everything right with you!” It still haunts me this day 20 years later. I ordered my Dad’s casket, I pressed his flannel shirt (he was not a suit man). I took it all to the funeral home. I ordered the flowers for his casket.
The days immediately following, I wrote all thank you notes, the obituary and helped my Mother as much as I could. My sister in her grief was so angry with my stoic like behavior, yet really, I felt numb going through the motions because Momma was in no shape. She could barely eat, sleep, and exist. He was her first love, no matter the relationship.
I remember two things at the funeral visitation: one was the coroner (the sweetest woman with the kindest voice) pulling me aside. “His heart burst. Nothing could have saved him. I want you to know I gave him a good bath and I made sure that I treated him as precious as my own Dad.” The second was our minister who came up to me and said that my Dad had gone to see him just a week ago and said he was ready to make right with the LORD and he wanted to be baptized soon.
The reason I write this is very simple: The LORD commanded me to “GO HOME” so I got to see the softest side of my Dad. So my sister and my grandparents were able to see my Dad. Most importantly, My Mother would not have to be alone the day my Dad died.
I have tried so hard to remember what those words sounded like but I can’t.
All I know is that they were like no other sound and they would not be ignored.
Thank you God for Insisting that I LISTEN and OBEY.
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