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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sharp (03/07/13)

TITLE: A Startling Visit
By Janice Kelley


A Startling Visit
(A true story)

“When did my mother die?” The question surprised me as I lifted my eyes to Dad’s inquiring face.

“Grandma died forty-six years ago,” I replied.

Dad’s expression turned from questioning to quizzical as he continued: “I just visited with her yesterday.”

“Did you have a nice visit?” was my next inquiry. “Oh, we had a wonderful time.”

My ninety-five-year-old Father was usually mentally sharp and very much aware of the everyday happenings and his surroundings. We talked quietly for some time about the time he had spent with his long-deceased Mother, all the while I wondered if he dreamed of this visit. I even wondered if God might have allowed Dad to glimpse a bit of what his future held.

Years before I was faced with an aging Dad, I had often heard people advise that you must “pull your confused loved one back to the present.” It did not make sense to me then, and it didn’t make sense to me that day either. I thought trying to keep elderly loved ones in the “here and now” only frustrated and confused them more. What harm was there in letting Dad enjoy the time he had spent with his Mother, even if it was only in a dream?

I visited Dad again a couple days later with no mention of his Mother. Days and weeks went by with my seeing him every two or three days. Then, one day he casually mentioned that he had seen his Dad and Mom walking hand in hand down the hall. This time he did not question concerning the times of their deaths, but was comforted by just seeing them.

Dad lived another three years and for the most part was alert and clear of mind. The phone rang early one fall morning. The nurse on the other end of the line said, “Your Dad is not doing well. Perhaps you better come.” My husband and I dressed quickly and headed north on the lonely highway to the little Minnesota town where Dad lived in a beautiful nursing home. I had never been with a dying person, but when I saw Dad I knew he was on the verge of his Homegoing. He was very sick, but he knew we were there. His voice was barely audible, as he asked, “Am I going to die?” Forty-five minutes later his head rolled gently to the side and he expelled his last earthly breath. My mind snapped to: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” 1

Dad had lived ninety-eight years before stepping over to the other side of life. He enjoyed good health, a sharp mind and left a legacy of fifty-one descendents, all serving the Lord. Dad’s final journey was a day of peace and gratitude!!

1 Psalms 116:15 NIV

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This article has been read 259 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 03/14/13
Thank you for sharing this touching story of your dad. It made my heart leap with emotions, and I loved your view of "not bringing him into the present." As a counselor/director for my entire career in nursing homes, I too share your though process concerning their "reality check."

I am glad you were there with your dad as he crossed over to his beautiful new life for all eternity, as he joined his mother and father, once again.

God bless~
Linda Berg 03/16/13
Beautiful story of tenderness from the child for the father.

The ending was a dynamic presentation of the beauty of death for those who belong to God.
Linda Berg 03/16/13
Beautiful story of tenderness of the child for the father.

What a dynamic ending in describing the beauty of death for those who belong to God.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/20/13
I think you have created a masterful tribute to dads everywhere. Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses that affect the brain or the mind can sometimes hurt more than the death of that person. You showed, however, that simple kindness and common sense can go a long way. I agree with you there's no reason to pull people like Dad into the present. Telling him over and over that his mother died years ago would only cause him pain, but allowing him to immerse himself in his memories gave him a sense of peace and I think that is beautiful.
Judith Gayle Smith03/20/13
Lovely. So lovely. Thank you.
Edmond Ng 03/21/13
A nicely written tribute.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/22/13
I still think your story is great, but since you asked for some constructive criticism, I'll give you some of my thoughts.

You will hear the phrase show, don't tell often in your writing career. It's a hard line to balance. Sometimes telling works best, but sometimes you can pull your reader into the story more by showing. For example take this line: The question surprised me as I lifted my eyes to Dad’s inquiring face.
At first glance, it may seem quite descriptive, but you have told me. Different people look different when surprised, some may drop their jaw and widen their eyes, while another might cover her mouth with her hand So show me with something like this: The question rattled my stomach as I felt it churn. Looking into my dad's eyes, I could see my jaw drop open and my eyebrows wiggle in the reflection. They were the same beautiful blue as I had always admired, but they seemed to lack the usual sparkle.
Instead of using taglines like she said or was my answer, instead use that place to show the reader the MC's (main Character) emotions or personality. This is just an example to show you what I mean: "Grandma died forty years ago." I fussed with his blankets, keeping my head down as I smoothed out invisible wrinkles.
That hopefully shows the reader that the MC might be trying to distract herself from the question or trying to escape the reality of her dad's dementia, and it shows that she was the speaker. It might not be exactly what you were going for, but I hope it helps explain my point some. When using Father as a name, the first letter is capitalized, but if you put a my or the or her in front, then it is no longer being used as a proper noun and shouldn't start with a cap. F.

Although you don't do this often, try to avoid what I call pp (pesky passives). Words like was, has, is etc. are passive and if possible switch them with an active verb. For example this: but was comforted by just seeing them.
can be turned active like this: Just seeing them, comforted Dad.

I do want to stress the good points of your story. There are 8 criteria that the judges use when scoring an entry. You can find them in the message boards under The Writing Challenge. You had a great beginning. I could sense the conflict right away and was drawn into it. The ending may have been a tad predictable, yet it still left me with a warm feeling. Your transitions felt smooth and the dialog sounded natural. You did cover the topic, however, there were several stories similar to this one.

A wise person once instructed to write down the first five ideas that come to your mind when you hear a topic, then throw them out because likely everyone else thought of those same ideas. Now if you can think of a twist to the idea like (this may be a bit too far out of the box) but have the story told from the POV (point of view) of the nursing home cat, as she rambles through the building checking on the patients. You had a clear message and it didn't come off as too preachy at all. This also was well-crafted I saw few, if any errors. Overall I think this is fantastic for one of your first entries. Keep writing you have a way with words.