The year I was seventeen, my life changed forever.
It began one August morning as I was practicing for my next piano lesson, when Father walked through the front door.
I said to my Father, “What are you doing home at this hour?”
“I’m just having a little trouble breathing this morning so I’ve come home to rest a bit.”
“Take deep breaths,” I offered, recalling that piece of advice from the previous years health class.
“I’m going to lie down for a few minutes until this passes. It’s probably nothing to worry about, just a touch of indigestion.”
After rehearsing all my assigned piano pieces, I went to check on Father. The door was open and he was lying on the bed.
“Feeling any better?” I asked.
“I can’t get my breath,” he replied and I noticed that he was twisting and turning his upper body as if trying to get comfortable.
“Take deep breaths,” I repeated as I began to feel concern, realizing that all was not quite right.
Father very calmly said, “Call your Aunt Esther at the church and tell her I’m having chest pains. She’ll know exactly what to do.”
Within minutes our house became a beehive of activity. First, my Aunt Esther arrived along with our pastor. Our family physician arrived only a minute later and then the siren of an ambulance cut through the morning air. My Aunt explained that Father was going to the hospital and she was leaving to meet my Mother who was already on her way to St. Mary’s Hospital.
I sat alone in a totally silent house, wondering what was happening at the hospital.
That evening someone told me Father had suffered a massive heart attack and that the first seventy-two hours would be the most critical. If he could survive that length of time then his chances for recovery were much greater.
As I lay in bed that first night, I prayed to God that my Father would recover. Sleep was elusive and I found myself missing his evening music. On most evenings Father would play his harmonica which was actually six harmonicas all attached into one instrument. He favored Stephen Foster songs to which Mother and I would sing along until he ended with “Amazing Grace.”
The second night I thanked God that my Father had lived through the first twenty-four hours and my mind wandered to our many fun times together. When very young, he would lift me up to ride on his shoulders where I could see the world from that height. Then there were the Cocker Spaniels he bred and their playful puppies we loved.
The third night I thanked God that my Father had survived forty-eight hours. Sleep was still elusive and I recalled the many times Father and I had watched Bonanza on television--quite often he would take my hand as tears rolled down his cheeks. Although young, I knew that only a strong man can be gentle enough to cry when someone is watching. Another thing I knew was that I could go to my Father with any problem I might ever have and he would help me solve it—I was his child.
The fourth night I was grateful that the critical seventy-two hours had passed and quickly fell asleep.
I awakened to the news that Father had died during the night. A few days after his funeral, my Aunt Esther (also my Godmother) found a time to talk with me about my Father’s death. I was missing him and couldn’t get my mind around why he had died while I was still so young.
She asked if I could be grateful for the years I did have with my Father. I found that I could be thankful for those years. I also discovered that I could take the view of my glass in life as being half full, not half empty. We talked of our hope for eternal life as Christians and how we can trust God’s timing in all things, even the death of those we dearly love.
Almost fifty years have passed since that day in August and I now know that love does not die. And I can look forward to that day when Father will again take my hand . . . and there will be no more tears.
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