Your best friend, Pop Vickers, encouraged us to write letters to you. I’ve wanted to write, but I find my heart too scattered and too overwhelmed. I’d like to say that life settled down since your passing. Certainly we’ve learned a lesson or two about what is really, truly important. Here we are being so human. I think of you in heaven. Your mind is clear and healed. Your body in perfect condition. Your soul at peace and rest. I remember a pastor sharing that we would have work to do in heaven. I laughed, and I thought to myself, “Work? Can we have a short vacation before we get our job assignment?” So, Dad, what is your job in heaven? Singing? Writing? Talking to Paul about his writings in the Bible? Do you really get to see Jesus face-to-face? Dad, I’m so happy for you.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15: 2,13
These verses in my Bible study made me want to write to you today! God guided you to your holy dwelling! I will praise the God of my father!
I wanted to write to you about your homecoming. I know this is more for me than you. It’s also for my children, grandchildren, and all the great grandchildren to come. This blog is our story. I was scrolling through the blog, Dad, last night, and saw so many happy memories as a family. We sure know how to celebrate. Thank you for sitting at the head of the table and offering prayers of blessings.
Dad, I miss you so much. Adelaide still tells stories about you. She still calls the newspaper “Papa’s paper”, and, when she is visiting, she loves to walk to the end of the drive and bring it back to the house.
On Monday, September 21, we decided to get you to the hospital due to your symptoms. I walked beside you as they carried you to the ambulance, and I prayed over you. I prayed for God to do it again–to get you through whatever this was and to bring you home. We exchanged “I love you”, but, Daddy, your eyes seemed already transcending to another place. Maybe it was pain, but looking back, all of it seems so different. I knew you would come home, so I kept my appointments that day. I would join you at the hospital later.
I was in shock when the hospice nurse shared to send you home and to “make you comfortable”. I praise God that we brought you home, and that the hospice bed connection never happened. While we sat around your bed in the hospital talking to you and awaiting the ambulance to bring you back home, we all were able to share how truly blessed it was to call you father, and say over and over again, “I love you.” When they were taking you to the ambulance, I ran to you and kept yelling so you could hear –“Daddy! You are going home!” Little did we realize, you would leave us so quickly after you returned home.
I don’t know if you were aware, but dad you would still be talking about this today if you were here. Once you got home, we could not find a single flashlight to help get you around the front yard, into the backyard, and through the patio doors. Your side door was too narrow. Everyone had their cell phone flashlights on chasing behind you and the EMTs. We almost lost control of the stretcher when they encountered the ditch we’ve dug out for all the hurricane weather. I would love for you to tell that story from your perspective. You would put such a twist on that one, and we would all be in the floor laughing!
Dad, you were placed in your bed to rest. Between listening to medication instructions from the nurse and trying to be with you, I found myself torn. I wanted to keep you safe and comfortable, but I just wanted to lay next to you, too. You were awake for a short while before drifting to your final bedtime sleep in our home next to mom. During that time, many of us said, “We love you.” How awesome to hear you say, “I love you, too”. In the hospital, we had called some folks to say goodbye over the phone; however, this moment was more private. I’ll never forget the sense of family and what really matters in the end. No one was talking about work, the world’s problems, politics, or things to do. It was just pure love for each other. Why can’t we hold on to this way of being?
I wanted to rub your ointment on your feet. Mom asked if you wanted this, and you said, “I don’t believe so.” We laughed because it was so clear and a full sentence. You were struggling for words and your breath. I guess you knew it would be a waste of time. Also, that was a line your sister, Polly, would say.
Oh sweet daddy, it was hard to leave you to go to my bed at around 11:00 that night. How do you go to bed at a time like that? However, I knew my place. Mom laying next to you, holding hands, and snuggled up–that’s a sacred place for 63 years of marriage. At 1:30 A.M., I woke up to a voice that sounded like my mother’s voice. It was gentle and kind. It called to me, “Anna?” “Anna?” I woke up and wrestled with my sanity or was this from God. God confirmed in my heart–Get up child! I ran to you. All seemed so quiet, I thought, do not wake him up. I folded a load of laundry, and then I came to just check on you–your breathing, your pulse.
I’m not sure why I folded laundry. I still ask myself that question today. The laundry room is a special place in my heart. It’s right next to your part of the house, and I would often hear you talking, praying, and listening to your favorite church services. I don’t ever go there now that I don’t think of you and talk about what’s on my mind at the moment.
Daddy, you were gone from us. Your soul had transported to heaven. From the loving arms of your wife to the arms of Jesus. Franklin was in the next room, and he said you never got up again, and you had no pain or need for any more pain medication.
We did all the things you need to do with hospice and funeral homes.
Later, in the small hours of the morning, I slept on your side of the bed to comfort mom. I could still smell you and feel your presence. I held mom’s hand until she fell asleep. Something she said that she did with you each night. She misses you daddy, but she always talks about how you and her would study God’s Word in the morning and talk of heaven. She also said that you would talk about who would go first, and, whoever went first to be waiting. Mom keeps telling us how you and her treasured the 14 years in our home together, calling it a warm, safe place, in which you felt cared for and loved. She said that you loved sitting in your chair next to the bay window looking out to the garden with all the birds. Once she called your space, “The Garden of Eden”. Because of this, you and her could spend 14 years in your marriage drawing close and focusing intently on your spiritual walk together. She also thanked us for giving you privacy to experience this, but also for being available to meet your needs. This has helped my soul work, daddy. I want to know and feel like we did this well. We lived in love and a state of forgiveness.
Daddy, mom really ministered to us while you were awaiting your homecoming. She read scripture about “Death having no sting!”, and she kept telling you about the wonderful life you two experienced as lovers. Honestly, I would sit and listen, and think to myself, “How strong. How brave.” It would have been okay for her to weep, but she was calm and assured. She said to me the next day that you had told her, “I’m just so tired.” which was a line in a poem you wrote about heaven. She read the poem to me. You knew you were going home. This brought mom comfort.
I love you daddy. Thank you for your legacy of love, counsel, faith, writings, storytelling, and music. Thank you for being my daddy through all the seasons of my life. See you soon….
Heaven’s Avenue, Thomas F. Lloyd