I am writing you a thank you note because I want to say thank you for being the husband that my dear friend deserves. In the past fourteen years, you have shown her that you love her and appreciate all her talents and giftings. You valued her and showed her that she had great worth; I have seen her confidence be rebuilt and grow throughout her marriage to you. Because of you, she got to experience being in love and being loved! I remember R telling me after returning from your honeymoon that just holding hands with you was wonderful and that “fireworks still happen”.
You provided her children with the model of a father and husband that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They saw a man who was dependable and true to his word. They saw a father who loves their mother, holds them to a standard and receives them as his own.
You provided R with a house that you made so beautiful with your woodworking skills and other building talents. Just as important, you valued her input as you shared this common interest in the house remodeling and the Mission style furniture; I know that she sees your love for her with every replaced baseboard, cabinet and door frame.
I am so thankful that God put you in R’s life and she has shared these past 14 years with you. I know she has been amazingly strong throughout your illness, and I truly believe that strength is based on the fact that she knew you loved her and she could let herself love you in return. I admire you both so much – you are both a testament to the faithfulness of God despite difficulties in this life. Knowing that He is enough for you both helps me to know that He will always be enough for me.
Thank you for being the man you are. My friend R will be blessed all her days by your life. I hope my life will make an impact on those around me like yours has. Thank you. P
D was in a deep sleep as I read this, but I believe he heard me because he became so peaceful. I talked with him and prayed with him, and I thanked him for the time we had together. I told him I knew this the day he would leave the earth, and I was ready for that. And I felt something settle into my spirit: the grace I'd need for the day. This last day.
The family began trickling back in for the morning, and after taking shifts to go get lunch, we were called in to D's room: he had about an hour left. Well. How do you respond to that?
We just encircled the bed. I sat in a chair and held his hand. I stayed quiet for a while, asking the others if they wanted to talk or pray. No one seemed able to speak at that time. I didn't fault them for that: I'd had far more time than the rest to work through the reality of this situation. So, I began telling D how much we loved him. That we believed that all that needed to be said or done had been said or done. That a terminal diagnosis had given us the gift of loving good-byes. That we appreciated he'd bravely fought the cancer for 7 years, and during that "extra" time we saw all four kids graduate from high school, then enter college. One was now married; one was in graduate school. He had made it through some of the most important times of their lives. And now it was OK to let go of this world and pain, and to go to God. And he did. And we all prayed together one more time, and tried to figure out how to leave the room and resume our lives.
I've had several people ask me if I felt anything during that last hour. My answer? Absolutely. God manifests His promises through His presence. There was such peace, grace and mercy in that room. It was a real Presence. It is no mistake that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter: I like to see that as a quilt that is just laid over me. And it was.
To be honest, I have no memory of how I got home from there. I know Married Daughter took my phone and began making calls to my friends. I know the pastor and his wife were at our home almost immediately. Friends from out of town (I love you, Patty and Chris) came over as soon as they could. The memory of The Day is very raw. But the memories of the friends and family members who surrounded me and my children are full of love to the point of feeling like my heart will burst with joy.
And so I cross the line into a new year. The most important lesson I learned is simply: God is enough. I've heard it said that the base of all fears is the fear of death. I ask, like the letter to the Corinthians, "Oh, death where is your victory? Oh, death where is your sting? But thanks be to God that He gives us victory over sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ."
Pressing on to a year filled with victory, and a journey back to joy.