First of firsts…

Sitting quietly on Good Friday evening realizing this is the first of many firsts we’ll have without dad. In this case, it’s the first holiday and the first Easter weekend.

It’s been 2 weeks since dad passed, but it seems like yesterday. Everyone is holding up well, particularly mom. We are all looking forward to celebrating his life next Friday, April 26 at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. Dad’s full obituary will be in the Charlotte, Hickory and Gastonia newspapers Easter Sunday.

Thank you for all the cards, prayers and support!

Service Arrangements

First of all, I want to offer our heartfelt gratitude for all of your prayers and support in the days and weeks leading up to last Friday, but particularly since Friday. Your words of encouragement, as well as sharing what Dad has meant in your lives, has made this process not only bearable, but a fast start toward focusing on celebrating his life.

Yes, we are sad and as so many have said, it feels like a huge gaping hole in our hearts right now. But that healing process has already started.

Mom is doing great. Numb, but already leaning on the great support group she has at Aldersgate. She even initiated lunch with a close friend yesterday. I admire her resiliency.

The Memorial Service for Dad will be at 1pm on Friday, April 26 at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. A reception will be held following the service at the church. We will provide more details closer to the time, but we wanted to get this much out to you now since so many have asked.

As always we truly appreciate all of your support!

Calling All Angels…

Dad passed shortly before 2pm today. About a half hour before his death the Hospice nurse said he was in God’s waiting room waiting on his number to be called.

I had felt all day that dad was waiting on something. And maybe it was for his number to be called. But at some point during our discussion my dad’s brothers walked in, spoke to him, and within a couple of minutes he was gone.

Pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer can have such a painful ending, but dad’s journey was peaceful with little pain. He was at peace and full of grace to the end. Now he has the new lungs he wanted. He has new life. We are grateful.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.

Feel the love…

Last night, Dad was surrounded by family – his wife of nearly 59 years, his children, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren, one of his niece’s and various spouses of all of the above. At some point my son Marshall, who rarely expresses much emotion, remarked about how he could feel the love in the room. We often express our love, but those powerful moments where we truly feel it – and see it – give you strength to conquer nearly any challenge.

Dad rested comfortably last night. We know each breath at this point could be his last. But love is in the room and we feel it. And love conquers all.

Thanks for all of the continued prayers and support.

Octogenarian

Today is Dad’s 80th birthday. I think for the last 6 months what I’ve wanted more than anything is for him to see this day and for us to celebrate it with him. We made it.

Now I sit here with him and family in what appears more and more certain to be his final hours in his earthly body. Not the birthday celebration we had planned. But a peaceful day nonetheless.

So much to say but words don’t come easy in these moments. I’ll just leave it at this. Happy Birthday Dad!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Pray for comfort and strength. And pray for grace and gratitude for a life well lived.

Hotel or Hospice

The last few days have been a bit of a blur.  Late last week, Dad had begun to experience swelling in his right leg,  which was confirmed Monday morning to be a combination of pulmonary edema and blood clots.  By Tuesday morning, after several falls during the night, Dad was moved to the Asbury Care Center at Aldersgate.  He’s resting comfortably, and after a rough day on Tuesday – yesterday and today have been a little better.  But, the painful reality is that these are all clear signs that his earthly body is starting to give out.  This morning he was admitted into Hospice care.

But that’s the sad part.  There is joy in all of this.  The continuous (literally) stream of visitors coming by to spend time with Mom and Dad has been amazing.  I never doubted when my parents told me some years ago that they were moving to Aldersgate that it was the right decision.  But never would have imagined how powerful of a support structure they would be surrounded with.  Mom and Dad knew that all along, and now I know it too.

Dad had a book published in 1998.  Notice I didn’t say he wrote a book in 1998.  “Wind Chimes” is a compilation of short vignettes he wrote throughout his ministry as church bulletin covers or short articles in the North Carolina Christian Advocate.  One of these was titled “Hotels or Hospice”.  I read it earlier this week and it spoke to me (again) about our role and place in community.  Whether that community is your church, your family, your retirement community – whatever – I think this message is very powerful in the context of our family’s current situation.  But also very relevant to current events in the world around us.  I’ve retyped it below and hope you find the same comfort and inspiration that it gave me.

Thank you again for your continued prayers and support!

HOTEL OR HOSPICE by Tom Sigmon

If you listen to some people you would think that all the active and faithful churchpersons brush their teeth with Crest, wear white hats, chew sugar-free gum and never swear (even if ever so slightly).  Furthermore they all appear to have had grandmothers who taught Sunday School and grandfathers who were the very rock upon which the Church was founded, and always sat around in velvet lined chairs reading the Scriptures (in King James Version, of course).  The same folk, with some degree of innocence, paint glowing pictures of the Church as a sweet and innocent society of like-minded people who never get angry (especially at each other).  The imagery consistently thrust forward is that of a nice, plush “hotel for saints” (with saints always erroneously defined as “God’s good guys”).  After you’ve heard, and lived with, a good bit of this, it is tremendously refreshing to hear proclaimed the Biblically based truth that we are called to greater values than these.  We are, in fact, called to be a caring community as Church, bound together far more by love and concern for one another than to be drawn into proximity by like-mindedness and agreeable camaraderie.  There’s more to friendship than casual surface relationships and there’s more to Christian brotherhood than the ability to get along when all is going well.

During the middle ages, a term was used which applies very dramatically to our present day need to change and renew our image of Church.  A proper application could shake the foundation of any entrenched mutual admiration society.  The term is “hospice” and it referred to the resting place provided by the Church for pilgrims who were in search of truth.  It’s application is breaking out again in our country, in medical circles.  It’s coming more and more to mean a place where terminally ill people can rest in the final stages of their lives, where the sting of death is lessened and the joy of life enhanced.

Isn’t that what the Church is really about?  Don’t we face, on a daily basis, a large section of a society which is terminally ill and in need of hospice?

It’s great to have “camaraderie” and “good spirit” and “friendliness,” but it’s more vital to provide the care and concern which helps people know how good God is because we embody His love.  There’s a need for “hospice” in most of our church houses.