Remembering the Day


Yesterday marked the 33rd anniversary of my father's death.   This year it happened to fall on the same day of the week as it did in 1983.   I remember that morning well because it began very early for me when my sister woke me up and told me we had to get to the hospital because dad was not expected to live long.

We had been in and out of hospitals for nearly a year.   Chemotherapy broke down his white blood cells and so he would have a transfusion to enable him to have chemo again, and on and on it went.   Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – it seemed every holiday was spent in a hospital.

It took a toll on his body and his spirit.   I was 19 at the time and just hoping to have my dad in the future.   However, sometime during the night of that May 27 dad had pulled out his IV, chest tube and oxygen and stepped out of his hospital room and down the hall.

The first time my mother apparently gave a shout and he was put back to bed.   The second time he did it they reconnected everything and strapped him down.   That's when they called us to come.   He never opened his eyes again, but he cried while we said our goodbyes and told him we loved him.     As the sun was rising, he died.

Later that day as we sat glumly at the house discussing our plans I sat up straight and said loudly, “Hey, no one is sitting at the hospital with Dad!”   Someone gently reminded me that we didn't have to worry about that any longer.

Since this was a holiday weekend his funeral was not until Tuesday, meaning a long weekend of funeral home visitation and waiting.   The only part of his funeral I remember was the casket leaving the church and being placed in the hearse.   I don't remember anything at the cemetery.

Years later when my uncle died and was buried near my father's grave, I knelt down at dad's headstone and wept openly, almost belatedly since I have no memory of doing so at the funeral, although I'm sure I did.   My mother lived another 30 years after my dad's death and I do remember her funeral because I savored it much more for the life she had lived.

This week I thought about my dad off and on, probably because of my oldest sister's visit and our times of reminiscing.   As a pastor I have attended many deaths, and none of those may have been possible for me to process or be present for if not for my experience of my dad's last moments.

On this Memorial Day weekend may we honor the dead and the living by caring to thank them for what they mean to us and remembering the legacy they leave behind.