For some five years I have wondered about my father’s death. My mum passed away in 2016, the toll of her devotional love and care for dad. Since then dad has been in a Residential home. Dementia had already taken him from us. Yet, how would he die?
On Tuesday morning just a matter of hours after I had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis in Rome I got woken in the night. Dad was being rushed to hospital.
On Wednesday night we made an early exit from Rome and I arrived in the Causeway Hospital at 5am. I have been here beside dad ever since. Being a pastor I know how the elderly can linger in those last days of death and I quickly sensed that dad had at least to the weekend.
Having slept on buses, planes and hospital chairs for the majority of the nights of this week, I wondered about heading to Ballycastle last night for a good night’s sleep.
Before I went my good friend David Quinney Mee sent me one of what I call his deep wisdom texts:
"Waiting. Where waiting is no longer waiting "for"... Deeper than waiting. Letting go of "for". Being. Being there. Being in the place. In the moment. And nowhere else. Love. Open and beyond request.... Present…"
Wow. That spoke to me deeply. David and Rachel had sat at their beautiful daughter Lucia beside for weeks and months over many years and David’s wisdom from that experience also inspired me to stay by my dad’s side. It is where I should be.
This morning, after the nurses attended him at 6, I sensed that my dad’s breathing was very slow. I played a video of a Luka Bloom song The Man Is Alive and then came round the bed and pulled a chair closer to dad and began reading… repeating these lines:
Psalm 91 - He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
Psalm 23 - He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
John 14 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
I then turned to my favourite goodbye to this world - Psalm 73. I started reading from verse 23 - Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
As I read “and afterwards you will take me into glory” God did. My dad left this life to those words from his son at his bedside.
If I had written a way for me to watch my dad pass away then it would not have been more perfect than that.
I sat with him and then played a new song by my friend Doug Gay about the shepherd lifting the lamb to set him free and carry him home. It was a holy space.
Can I yet again thank all of you for messages, emojis, texts, emails, visits and your thoughtful gift Helen Logan. We have felt surrounded by love and prayer and good wishes from those who aren’t prayers. It has been an overwhelming week. We are tired, grieving but deeply content.