Saturday, December 8, 2012
I had many conversations with my father the last year of his life. Conversations about God. Conversations about family. Conversations about work. In fact, I probably had more conversations with him that last year, than in the previous 5 years combined. There were days we just sat in silence. There were days we walked around the halls of his hospital floor. In the midst of his ridiculous jokes and teasing of the nursing staff, I remember looking at my dad most days and sensing his sadness and discouragement over what the cancer was doing to his body, to his spirit, to his life. I remember much of that last year with sadness for him, but I also remember it with gratitude for the opportunity given to me by God for reconciliation and restoration of this relationship.
While there isn't need for much detail here, I will say that my father had high levels of anxiety, thus high levels of anger. That said, I grew up fearing my dad and his wrath...and the beatings. Let me be clear here. I loved my father. He was a funny, charismatic, highly intelligent man who provided for his wife and family. But, of course, he wasn't perfect. His anger needed an outlet and most days when it did, the outlet was me.
As a result, I grew up believing there was something inherently wrong with me. That there had to be something about me that would drive a person to behave that way toward me. It became part of my identity and impacted my belief systems and my relationship with others. It affected my relationship with my father. Long after the beatings had ceased, I continued to feel very distanced from him emotionally and continued to create the distance. In essence, I had questioned my father's love for me my entire life up through that last year of his life, and my overall lovability with others. Thankfully, sobriety gave me a way to begin the process of forgiving my dad, learning who my Heavenly Father was, and learning who I was or could become. I began taking steps forward toward relationship with my dad and, though there were many steps backward, God had begun the restoration of the relationship.
The last few days of my dad's life were intense. He had found out within the prior week or so that he would never be able to return to his teaching job which was the majority of his identity. My mom and I were praying for his salvation, but I wasn't sure my father had made a decision about God. My dad gave up and, shortly after, declined rapidly.
They were preparing him for hospice, when I arrived one mid-morning at the hospital. I relieved my mother and brother so they could take care of some things. My father had been unconscious on pain medication all morning and was out cold when I showed up in his room. I sat in silence for maybe 5 to 10 minutes as he lay there. Suddenly, my father sat straight up in his bed. This man, who had not been conscious, let alone lucid, said something to me. Though, the phrasing/order of his words may have differed slightly, the message was as clear as day and as urgent as I could ever remember him speaking to me. "Emily, I love you. it's' important you know, I love you. You need to know. I love you". I told my dad I knew he loved me and I loved him too. He laid back down, just as quickly as he had sat up, and was again unconscious under the influence of pain killers and sedatives.
These were the last words my father ever said to me, and I believe these were the last words he spoke to anyone. He died in hospice two days later, November 1, 2008.
The impact of those words continued to hit over the next few days and I knew it had to be God speaking through my dad. I had hoped this also meant my father had said yes to a relationship with Jesus and continue to place my hope in this today. A few years later, in 2011, I had several experiences which confirmed the gift of what had happened that day with my dad and God's hand in it. God had used my dad to share His love with me that day and to once and for all restore the relationship I had with my dad, just before he left this earth. In 2011, in the midst of emotional pain, God used kingdom fathers and kingdom mothers to share similar encounters they had had with the Lord Himself. God used some of these kingdom parents to share His love and their love for me and it brought me tremendous healing.
I share this story to remind myself that my dad did love me. I share it to remind myself that there was nothing wrong with me, my dad just didn't always react well to his emotions. I share it to remind myself that God loves me. I share it to declare that I am lovable. I share it to say how important knowing the love of the Father is in a person's journey. I share it to thank God and to thank kingdom fathers and mothers, including my amazing pastors, for showing me, despite all experiences, the real truth. LOVE. CONQUERS. ALL.