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.

Sharing family…

I remember the first time I heard Harry Chapin’s song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”.  The story of the song essentially chronicles the circle of life of a son wanting more of his dad’s time to a dad wanting more of his son’s time.  As a father, I had my own brush with this after I had been preoccupied for several months with a plate that was far too full, when at 8 or 9 years old my daughter Jordan stopped me cold one night saying she “wanted her daddy back”.   And I’m sure I’ll have my moment soon where I’ll say “I want my baby girl back”.

Growing up in a clergy family we learned to share our dad.  He was counselor, mentor, friend and guide to many.  Oftentimes our schedule or plans changed suddenly because someone else needed our dad.  But when he was there, he was present, without distraction.  I don’t ever remember him not being there when I needed him.  He always found a way to make the time.

In a busy life, we are all shared in many circles.  The demands of life pull our strings and if we get too caught up in it, its easy to lose balance and just put everything off as “we’ll get together soon”.  Dad never lost that balance and provided a wonderful example to our family of how you can share your lives in many ways with others, but still keep family at the center.

The last couple of weeks have been really hard.  Watching how uncomfortable and tired dad is, is really hard.  I’ve asked the question over and over again quietly to myself, why does he have to live this way?  I think we’ve all wondered would we rather go instantly or decline slowly?  It’s a tough question and I’m sure there is no right answer.  And definitely not something we control.

I’m comforted that God is in control.  I do wonder if his plan for dad is mindful that his life has been shared by far too many for it to end too quickly.  The past few months so many have written notes, called him or visited – maybe God just knew there were so many people that needed to tell dad what he means to them, that going quickly simply wasn’t an option.

In that vein, mom and dad still welcome your visits and phone calls.  Just know that dad tires very easily and is really weak at this point.   But your words, prayer and encouragement are a spark for him, so please keep them coming.

Blessings to all of you and thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Fathers…

I’ve often said my first real understanding of all my Dad has done for me really didn’t start until the day my son, Marshall, was born.  In that one instant I immediately had a different perspective on the relationship between a father and a son, a son and a father, a grandson and a grandfather and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had a strong relationship with both my parents.  But it’s easy to take the importance of that for granted until one day you are a father yourself.

My grandfather, Ralph, our grandaddy as we all called him, was a pillar of immense strength to each of his 3 sons and their families.  Similarly, my Dad has been the same for Mary Beth and me, and our families.  In a world where too many children don’t have that strong male presence in their home, we’ve been so fortunate to have not just one, but two generations of strong fathers, and great role models, who have made us all better sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters and yes – a loving adviser and mentor as we’ve both experienced the blessings of being parents ourselves.

To some extent the only thing certain in life is death.  But for the lucky, a great father, provides a measure of certainty each and every day that provides encouragement, confidence and security.  I’m lucky to have had that and will continue to cherish that for whatever weeks and days we have left together.  As my journey with my own children continues, I can only hope in some measure that I have passed and will continue to pass forward a fraction of that same certainty to Marshall and Jordan.

The pictures below are 2 of my all-time favorites.  The one on the right was taken when Marshall was about 5 months old in 1998.  Pictured are me, my niece Jenny, nephew Matt, Dad, Grandaddy, Mary Beth, and of course Marshall.  On the left was this past Christmas with Marshall (now 21), Dad and me.

Dad is still hanging in there.  Basically stable, but episodes of extreme shortness of breath when he exerts himself are more common.  Phone calls and visits are still welcomed and continue to lift his spirits.  We continue to grateful for your prayers and ongoing support.  It means so much to all of us!

 

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe it’s 2019.  Like many of you, over the holidays we enjoyed time with our family.  While we’ve done this nearly every year of my life, this year felt just a little bit different.  Over the years we’ve grown in numbers and other ways.  But, the best traditions always have family at the center.   Wherever the road leads us, where there is family, there is home.

Thank you for your continued prayers, cards and visits.  Dad remains stable – with his Doctors remarking recently how tough he is.  He does tire quickly with physical exertion, but his spirits and independence remain high.

We wish for you a happy and safe 2019!

 

 

 

 

No load too heavy…

If you spend a few minutes watching the photo stream of Tom’s family, you may come across a photo or two of his grandchildren and one of his great grandchildren riding on his back, while he is on all fours.  As children grow, their interest in these childhood games fades, but a parent never grows too old to carry his family on his back, literally and figuratively.  Seemingly, no load is too heavy.  As a family, we’ve been fortunate to have a Dad (and Mom) who’ve embodied this thru 3 generations, as parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

Whether physically or emotionally, the unconditional love of a parent may be God’s most misunderstood and underappreciated gift to humankind.  Ironically, it is also probably the second greatest gift He has given us and one that comes continuously.  Even when their physical presence is gone, I know it is a gift that will continue in our hearts, through our memories, our children’s memories and so on.

9 days from now will be Christmas Day and we will be with family celebrating God’s greatest gift to us.  But personally, I will also be celebrating the presence of His second greatest gift – the love of my Mom and Dad!

Dad continues to be stable.  Physical activity tires him quickly, but he’s in great spirits and continues to enjoy all of the visits, notes and phone calls.  We truly appreciate all of the prayers and support!  From our family to yours – Merry Christmas!