Thurman Herrington called everyone baby. Whether you were eight months old or eighty years old you were baby. He always planted a garden from which I ate of the fruit of his labor through the years. Finally the bitter weeds of life consumed the garden which reflected his health as his lungs began to fail.
Through those years I watched as emphysema slowly robbed him of his right to breathe the air God had created. It wasn’t long until he entered the hospital for the final time. The doctors, trying to prepare Grandmother, told her that he would not leave the hospital. And that he would die a very violent death because the blood vessels in his lungs would rupture. He would actually drown in his own blood. Later, with his shallow breath he and Grandmother shared their thoughts because Grandpa didn’t want to leave anything unsaid while he was still able to speak.
One morning he wanted to go outside, so I took him out on the sunny side of the hospital where we sat as he stared across the hospital grounds. After fifteen minutes with neither of us speaking a word, he broke the silence with a serious tone I had never heard him use.
“Isn’t that a beautiful tree that God made?” he said as his eyes seemed to trace every branch.
“Yes sir, it is,” I replied a little startled.
“And just look at God’s beautiful blue sky. Have you ever seen so much blue in all of your life?” he strained to say through his short breaths.
“No sir, I haven’t.” I said, smiling because I had never really noticed until then just how beautiful it was.
“Baby, promise me you’ll never take for granted anything God created,” he said as his eyes reflected the sky around us.
“No sir, I promise.”
Early one morning mother called and told me Grandpa wanted me to come pray with him. Grandpa was in the room by himself sitting on the edge of his bed. I walked in and hugged his neck.
“Hey Baby, have a seat,” Grandpa said pointing to the chair.
“Grandpa, momma said you wanted me to come pray with you.”
“That’s right Baby, I sure do.”
“Grandpa I need to know what you want me to pray for.”
“Baby, your granddaddy has lived a long life and this old body is tired. I am ready to go home,” he said as he looked at me with a huge grin that sent chills up my spine. “Now the docs are telling your granny that I’m going to die violently by drowning in my own blood. I don’t believe I have to go like that. I want you to pray that the Good Lord will take me in my sleep with no coughing and no choking. I want Him to just take me in my sleep in peace.”
“Grandpa, are you right with God?” I asked, not knowing if he had ever received Christ as Savior.
“Oh yes, Baby, I’ve made peace with my Maker.”
I turned and looked at the family out in the hall and knew none of them would understand that it would do no good to pray for healing if Grandpa didn’t want it. Since it was just the two of us in the room I could probably get by with it.
“Okay, Grandpa, I’ll do as you wish.”
He smiled and turned to see a friend out in the hallway. “Hippler, tell that bunch to get in here, we’re going to pray.”
My face went pale as they all began to file into the room and join hands. I began to pray for God to take Grandpa in his sleep with no choking or gasping for breath, and I felt holes burning into the side of my head from the disapproving family members.
I said, “Amen,” followed by Grandpa and Grandmother. No one else said a word as they glared at me while exiting the room. I knew that was being reserved for me later.
“That was perfect, Baby. It was just right.” Grandpa said as we hugged.
Three days later Grandpa was sleeping in his room as Grandmother and Aunt Francis watched television. He always slept on his back and had a light snore. Aunt Francis noticed that he was no longer snoring. The nurses verified what they already knew, he was gone. Without coughing, choking, or gasping for breath Grandpa passed into eternity in the tranquility of peace.
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