O Death where is your sting?
O Hades where is your victory?
I Corinthians 15:55
My dad died last Monday and we had his funeral on Thursday. Here it is Saturday and I am writing this. I feel moved to write this piece as there were things that I felt I could not say at the funeral out of respect to his widow and several family members who for reasons of their atheism would find my comments offensive and dad’s funeral was not the platform to proclaim my Christian viewpoint. But this is my blog and I will say what I want here. I’m also going to post my eulogy here in a separate post for those who want to know what dad meant to me.
Death is that pivotal moment in a person’s life, on the doorstep of the hereafter, where there are no redo’s or take-backs. Where are you with God at this one crucial point? Where are our beloved family members at this juncture? None of us will ever be certain until it happens to us, as people don’t come back and tell us. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 16:20-31 about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar and the gulf between them in the afterlife. The rich man begged to be able to warn his brothers, but Abraham told him basically that if they didn’t believe what was already written they wouldn’t be persuaded even if someone returned from the dead and told them.
Over the years I had many a conversation with dad about God and it was not that he didn’t believe, it was that he was impatient and didn’t want to waste time in church on a Sunday when he could be out doing other things. Dad was a person full of restless energy, never liked sitting still or lazing about, as he called it. I think there were some other reasons which he kept to himself, but the last time I visited him before this final visit, he talked of a minister who was an immoral man (the details of which are too personal to share here), but I could hear dad’s hurt and anger underneath what he was relating. Nevertheless, we got away from people and what they did, and back to God in the conversation and dad asked me to find the Sailors Hymn on the internet and play it for him. Which I did, and also set his itunes up and to his delight I found a funny ditty he liked ‘The Hartleypool Monkey’. This is after his 92nd birthday I might add, so the technology was a thing of wonder to him. I read him a little from the Bible and we did go to church that visit, but he still seemed a little reticent about the whole thing.My sister also visited and she would have steered the conversation to Jesus when the opportunity arose.
I think it was 2 weeks ago in Church or maybe it was 3, I felt so strongly to pray for dad I nudged my sister and said “We have to pray for him now!” I felt a sense of urgency in my spirit and I also felt that thing that people describe as the burden of intercession. A heavy welling grief that is not my own. We prayed and were prayed for and at some point I felt a completion and we sat down again. I sat in quietness as the music was playing and the Lord gave me a picture. It was very clear. The picture was of a new born baby wrapped in white cloth and I heard the Lord say (in my spirit) ‘this is your dad and his sins are washed away, he is as a newborn baby.’
When I got the message from dad’s wife, Helen, that he was gravely ill, I wasn’t sure at first whether to go down or whether to wait a few days. I didn’t know about getting time off work and wasn’t sure how long he had or whether he would bounce back or not. He had had so many close calls in the last year and always came back to (relative) health again. In fact he had only been out shopping the previous weekend and had been in fine form. When I got to church, before the service started as we were having our time of prayer I had a very strong nudge from the Holy Spirit that I should go down to dad as soon as possible. I needed to drop everything and go. I told my sister and we got the first flight we could. I also persuaded one of my brothers to get there as quickly as possible.
We got to Mapua Monday lunchtime, my brother arriving early evening. Sadly my other brother didn’t arrive until the next day, but my nephew was able to get a flight that day. So most of us were there at his side for his final hours. He couldn’t speak at this point but he could hear, born out by his obedience to the nurse’s instructions to poke out his tongue.
Dad was at home, he hated the hospital, and the hospice people provided everything to keep him as comfortable as possible. He was in a lot of pain. We took turns at his bedside and my sister read him the bible and prayed the Lord’s prayer with him. I was at his side when he finally passed. He was so peaceful, I sang to him and when he struggled to say something I stroked his head and told him we were all there and that we loved him and he just slipped away.
Although I felt loss and grief at that point, I also had such a sense of peace that he was safe with the Lord, that there was no more pain and no more tears. I feel so incredibly comforted by this. Dad wasn’t a perfect person by any means – our family is a pretty dysfunctional one, but I also feel glad that in the last years of dad’s life I have no resentments or grudges against him, that I could love him freely at the end. I think it was only 4 or 5 years ago that he was finally able to tell me that he loved me. Our family journey has been a rocky one.
So these are my thoughts on my dad’s passing. I will not know for sure until I myself go to be with Jesus whether dad made it there, whether he made his peace with God and accepted him as his Lord and Saviour, but watching him slip gently from this world to the next I believe he did. My God is full of grace and mercy and as he said to the thief on the cross next to Him “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”