Dad: the final years

There is something transcendental about holding the hand of my father in his final days knowing he held me during my first days.  Just as I entered this world knowing as I was loved, protected, and cared for, I want him to exit this world with that same knowledge.

Many do not know my dad’s story over the past seventeen years. For anyone who knew him from before, it’s not what we would have expected.

It’s an understatement to say he was an amazing dad while I was growing up.  After leaving our mother for another woman, his life began to spiral as he could not hold down a consistent job, struggled with alcoholism, and weighed down by guilt worked to distance himself from family and friends.   Throughout that time, I checked up on him: bugging him by calling once a month and swinging by to say hi whenever I was in town.  The constant message I attempted to drip in was I love you, I forgive you, I’m thankful you’re my dad, and I want you to be part of our lives. Each time I could see the downward slope he was on, which came to a head in August and September of 2015.

We knew the relationship he was in had turned dysfunctional and abusive with him living in a damp dungeon of a basement, no heat or air-conditioning, little access to food, surrounded by the fifteen stray cats he had taken in, and showing early signs of dementia.  My biggest fear was that my father who I love would die in that dirty basement feeling distant from those who cared about him most, so I decided to call his girl-friend and make an offer: “There will come a day where messing with my dad becomes too difficult and you give up on him… when that day happens, call me and we’ll take over.”  A few weeks later, I received the call as the combination of dementia and infections had made him deliriously dangerous to both her and himself. With the determined assistance of an agent from Adult Protective Services and medical staff from the local hospital, we were able to take over caring for my dad.

I would not trade the past two years for anything- they have been a gift from God. Despite feeling sad about my father’s impending death,  I’m incredibly thankful.  After seeing him weighed down with more guilt than I can comprehend, I watched him receive God’s forgiveness and experience true grace.   I was able to reconcile with my dad and see him reconnect with other family members.  I saw his posture and demeanor transform as he experienced relative peace despite his declining health.

These past two weeks the combined effects of dementia, cirrhosis, COPD, then pneumonia have proven too much on his worn out body.  I know he’s taking his final steps in this life, but I’m thankful that he gets to exit this life knowing he’s loved and enter eternity experiencing the embrace of a Father who loves him exceedingly more.  He’ll finally be free of sin, free of guilt, and free of sickness.

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