I’m overwhelmed this morning with memories of one of the momentous days of my life, but that day, we had no clue it would be forever written on our hearts. My family and I had found ourselves somewhere we’d never anticipated. It was a gorgeous August day in Alaska, one of the most beautiful of the Summer, and we were stuck in the Adult Critical Care unit at Providence Hospital in Anchorage.
A couple days before, a Thursday I believe, Daddy had been medivaced from our little hospital on the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage by helicopter. It’s a long story that I’m not going to go into now, but upon arrival at Providence, he endured an exploratory surgery which discovered an abscess in his colon, subsequent sepsis and a few very rocky days thereafter.
But that day, Saturday, he was significantly improved! We were amazed at the difference when we walked into his room that morning. His countenance was brighter, he seemed more energized and he even requested apple juice, which the nurses agreed to (he hadn’t been able to keep anything down for a month, food or drink). To watch him taste that juice and see the relief on his face as he kept it down was refreshing! Things were finally turning around and we were on an uphill climb. Dad even wanted to get up and walk (which he hadn’t been able to do for days) and those few steps boosted everyone’s morale!
Our entire family was encouraged and it showed; we felt a little more free to run to the store for a few items, take a little longer running to the restroom, and Nathan (my fiance), Brandon (my brother) and I even went out for dinner that night and took our sweet time, enjoying some time away from the heaviness that seemed to hover in the ACC unit. The sense of apprehension that covered us like a cloud for the month previous and especially the 3 days before were gone. Everything seemed like it would be alright.
At the end of the day, the nurses allowed the four of us, Mom, Brandon, Nathan and I, to sit with Dad in his room. The ACC is pretty strict and the “rule” was only 2 at a time, but since he was doing so much better, they let us all hang out with him. We talked and laughed, read some passages out of the Bible to him, per his request, and were interrupted by a commotion out at the nurse’s station, which was directly across from Dad’s room.
A 20-something-year-old guy was rushed into the ACC and we couldn’t help overhearing the nurse’s almost frantic conversation. He’d been in a motorcycle accident and they outlook for him was not optimistic for him at all. I think the four of us were so overwhelmed by the previous days troubles with dad, we weren’t even listening to what was going on. At least for me, I didn’t feel like I could handle hearing anymore sad news, regardless of whether I knew the patient or not.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:35 (NLT)
But Daddy stopped us and led us in prayer for the kid. Not long after that prayer, the four of us said goodnight to Dad, each of us hugging him and promising to return early the next morning.
That was the last time he was ever able to talk with and hug us. That night will be forever engrained in me. I wish we hadn’t gone out to dinner, I wish we had stayed in his room longer into the evening, I wish we’d soaked up more of the time we had to communicate back and forth with him, I wish I’d hugged him a few times more. That day has been one of my deepest regrets and also one of my most cherished memories. But we had no idea how things would change literally overnight. He lived several more days, but was in a medically-induced coma, and so he was practically unresponsive most of those days.
When this time rolls around every year, I’m always hit with a lot of emotion and I remember the significance of every date leading up to the day my dad left this earth. I think of this memory of my dad as a wise lesson in life—don’t be so focused on your issues, problems, fears and failures that you miss what’s going on in the lives of those around you, the lives you have the power to impact.
Daddy could have not paid another moment of attention to what was happening with that kid in the motorcycle accident, but he was always aware of what was going on with people around him. He never missed a thing. I need to be more like that! I’m thankful that even on his last day of communicating in this world, my dad was leading us to pay some attention to others in our sphere. At that moment, all we could do was pray for that kid. And sometimes, that’s all we can do for the people around us. But let’s determine in our hearts to reach out to more people. Whether in prayer or something more tangible… We never know when we will speak our last words.