We didn’t get to be together for Thanksgiving. The Colley crew had the flu. We didn’t get to have our Christmas Eve breakfast at Celine’s house because Christmas landing on Sunday messes up all those preachers’ schedules. I’m pretty determined to get this mammoth mess cleaned up, so we can make another one here as we ring in the new year with my father’s chaotic family of–(wow!)–29, now! There will be bazillions of presents under the tree that’s been a stand-very-tall-great-water-drinker for a whole month now, thanks to Ezra (this year’s tree-picker.) There will be lots of football foods (although it will be a lackluster year in that “arena” for sure…) and there will be the fireworks at night–the ones on which my dad always spent way too much money!) I’m hoping the great blessing of a brand new baby over in Mississippi in the Nicholas family will pick another day to arrive, so that more of that part of the crew can come here, but we will be blessed and ecstatic even if he picks that very day! And, yes. This party will also be on the wrong day, after all those preachers (and the rest of us) get finished with the most important first things of every week.
SO, here’s hoping this tradition can avoid cancellation this year! In honor of its founder, here’s a reprint of what was happening in a hospital room just five years ago during the holidays. It seems like yesterday and it seems like an eternity ago. I’m glad this pain for Dad has been over for five years now and that there’s much faith that he is whole and happy and now with the most influential person in my life. She’s been there for 30 years now and how I have missed her! There’s been some ( a lot) of a different kind of pain since that December five years ago that I’m happy he did not have to know. But God is sovereign and God is good and God knows all things. There’s great comfort in the fact that He knows our hearts, intents, and he has fashioned our eternities. He knows the end of every trial we face before we even feel the pain. He has got my life span’s little speck of eternity in the palm of his hand and He is cognizant of and cares about every need that looms large (to me) in my little speck. I constantly remind myself that this crisis or that huge wound is just a wrinkle in the little speck.
I praise Him for family that means so very much in times of rejoicing and in hours of trial. I praise Him for Jesus who advocates for me before His throne at all times.
Five years ago:
Tonight in this hospital room, this daughter experienced a few very sweet moments. I will treasure them in memory whether my dad and I have lots of future sweet moments in time or not. As today has gone by, my Father who has said precious little, and only in in breathy, labored tones for several days, has become more and more alert. Mind you, what you might think is pretty much asleep all day was still more alert to those who have been keeping this vigil.
Every time I see his eyes open, I try to go to his side and grab his hand. Tonight he grabbed right back. He even gave me his signature quick nod of recognition.
Then I always think of everything I can talk about in his one ear that now has a hearing aid. (The other hearing aid was crushed on the floor of the ambulance—and that was another story as Sami chased the driver down and out of the building to try and find the missing hearing aid.) I talked about football. I talked about getting better. I talked about what I was eating and about breathing treatments. And then I told him I loved him. He slowly forced out the “I” and then put his very sore tongue to the roof of his very blistered mouth to make that “L” sound.
I said “Are you trying to say “I love you?”
“Yeah” he said.
That’s all I needed to hear to be okay through this long night. Such a great little present for a this weary pilgrim. But that was not all. I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible. This time I got a clear “Uh-huh.”
Before the hospitalization, we’d been reading in Acts and we were ready for chapter seven, so I read the story of Joseph to Him as told by the first martyr, Stephen. I think I was reading so that all the staff out at the nurses station could probably hear. When I got to the resolution part about Jacob going down to Egypt, Dad just drifted back off to sleep.
I’ll take it. A few minutes of communication is a great source of comfort in this very well-lit, bustling, but yet, very lonely room. It is the best one of today. There are a few lessons in every gift. Here are tonight’s five lessons.
“Yeah” is easier to say than “I love you.” That’s true in just about every relationship. Short answer quizzes in families and friendships are just easier. Sometimes in all kinds of life problems, we have to help each other say those three words. It’s always better, if someone’s having trouble saying them, to assume he means them till you know differently.
You never know the value of healthy communication until you have to do without it. So don’t let days go by—days when you could be talking and sharing with the ones you love. Don’t let those days escape while you pout or exchange the silent treatment or engage in hurtful communication. Especially, don’t do this in your marriage. You will experience deep regret.
Only the people you’ve really loved with agape can appreciate fully the three words when you say them. See, Daddy did not love me just enough to share some material blessing with me (although he certainly worked hard to do that). He did not just love me enough to put up with my inadequacies (although he surely was in the next room during the messy, late- night-studying, bathroom-hogging teen years). He did not just love me enough to build things in the wood shop for Christmas (although there was the doll bed and the cabinet for my tea set during the sixties and the wooden purse, stilts and shuffle board game of the seventies and the marble mazes and rocking horses and graduation banks for grandchildren of the eighties). He, along with my mother, who was also sharing and making and building, loved me enough to give their lives for me, if needed. They loved me enough to pray about inadequacies and to correct them. They loved me enough to build more than toys and purses. They loved me enough to build character. That’s the most enduring home-made gift.
There’s something very ironic about the goal. Heaven is THE goal. Ironically, God has placed in us a very strong desire to keep our loved ones here with us rather than to be completely willing to have them go and be with the Lord. I cannot fully explain that fierce desire to preserve and protect feeble life. But I know it is right to have it. It is right to protect and preserve life, because that defense is innately built into the moral compass of people of conscience. One has to be trained to devalue life. It is not the natural affection of Romans 1: 31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. So I grab that hand and it’s the best when he grabs it right back.
There’s great comfort—always, in all ways— in the Word. There’s an amazing example, for instance, of the application of Romans 8:28 in that ancient account of Joseph in Egypt. We get to look at how a faithful person perseveres when there are family members who are spiteful or friends who falsely accuse or forget about the good things we do for them. We get to see, up-close and personally, how the faithful react to both poverty and riches. Sometimes, when we are weary, there’s so much comfort that we can go right off to a deep and peaceful sleep while reading the Word. I think I can maybe even do that tonight…right here in this chair.