Monday, September 28, 2009

The Laborious Labor Day Weekend

Sorry for the extended absence. September has been a rough month with so much in it that it overflowed into August and now October. This post is pretty much to relay everything that has happened, and I'm hoping a future post will be able to go into more details on reflections and impressions from that time.

On Sunday, August 23rd, I got my first panic attack in a long time. My dad had been in the hospital, and I just had this feeling.... I called him, and he seemed fine, so I went to sleep on edge, but I slept through the night nonetheless. On Monday, I felt an overwhelming urge from the Spirit to write an email to the church my parents had attended when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer. On Tuesday, I got a call from my mom and was told to get down to Arizona as fast as possible.

On Wednesday morning, my dad was to be taken into surgery for a lung biopsy. Because his lungs were in such a bad state, we were told that he would wake on a ventilator at least 3 days following the surgery...if he was to wake at all. So, that morning, we gathered around his bed and had the family talk. It was one of the most difficult moments in my life. He went into surgery, and through a miracle of God, we found ourselves talking with him 3 hours later! All seemed fine, and Nick left on a plane on Saturday, August 29th with the plan being that Sara and I would head home on Tuesday, September 8th.

That being said, we got a call from the doctors on the day after Nick flew home saying to get to the hospital because my dad was quite possibly going to be intubated, and this would be our last chance to say goodbye if he didn't recover. Well, recover, he did, and he was able to stay on a face-mask for oxygen and eventually be put back on just the nasal oxygen.

I started to spend nights with him so my mom would go home and get rest. In fact, on Monday night, we sat in his room and watched football together. Tuesday morning, I got back to the homestead and found a reply email from the church! It said that since my parents had been members, the church had gone through a massive leadership upheaval, and it took them a while to verify that my parents were members at that time because none of the current Elders or Staff knew them. I wept when I saw this email and sent a reply thanking them for making themselves available. As soon as I hit the send button, I got a call from my mom saying that the doctors were intubating my dad and that she wanted to be able to speak with a minister. I immediately sent another email to the church explaining the situation, and then I called our good friend and former pastor, Charlie Cummings, and asked him if he would call my mom. He did, and she said it really helped.

Meanwhile, we were stranded out at the homestead, so I called my Aunt Phyliss and asked if she could pick us up and take us to the hospital. She switched around her schedule, drove 1/2 hour to pick us up, and then drove 45 minutes to the hospital. Sara, my aunt & I arrived on my dad's floor at exactly the same time that 2 Elders from the church had arrived! By then, my dad had already been intubated, so the Elders anointed him with oil and prayed over him. The doctors kicked us out of the room so they could perform another procedure on my dad, so the 6 of us (the 2 Elders, my mom, my aunt, Sara & me) went into a waiting room and took communion together and prayed. The Elders began to minister to us, but especially my mom, and they began by begging her forgiveness for not having been there for them before this moment. We went back into my dad's room and prayed for him again, and then the Elders left. Yes, another miracle!

Unfortunately, within a couple days, my dad had maxed the ventilator he was on, so they needed to switch him to an oscillating ventilator which is quite new in the field of medicine. Because my dad's lungs had become so brittle, this machine would blow between 200 to 250 tiny puffs of oxygen per minute into him. The body naturally wants to resist this, so they had to paralyze him and deeply sedate him. We were told that this was a last-ditch effort to keep him alive and that now would be the time to call family to have them start coming into town.

Within several hours, my dad had maxed the oscillating ventilator as well, and it was apparent that the fight was over. I called the Elders and left a message. They had an Elder meeting scheduled for that time, so they canceled the meeting, and we found 4 Elders in my dad's room with my mom, Sara & me. We sent my dad off with hymns and prayers, and then my mom asked to be alone with my dad as they put him back on the regular ventilator and removed life support. So, on the morning of Friday, September 4th, my dad left the body that had dealt with so much frailty and pain for the past 3 years and entered into Heaven. Sara and I returned to the room with 2 of the Elders, and after the nurses had removed the tubes and wires and cleaned him, we entered. The nurses were crying, we were sobbing, and the Elders were holding us through it all.

On Wednesday, September 9th, surrounded by family and friends, Charlie Cummings lead the memorial service for my dad. I provided the introduction, giving a brief overview of who my dad was and what he meant to me, and then I made it clear that even though we were dealing with our own sadness and feelings of loss that this was a time of celebration to honor my dad and give glory to Christ. Chip Aker, the Elder on Staff for the church lead with the opening prayer. A wonderful woman from the church named Olivia sang my dad's favorite song, "You'll Never Walk Alone." Sara and my sister-in-law, Michelle, read Scripture. Charlie gave an amazing message that so eloquently presented the Gospel and the Hope of the Resurrection which was why the memorial service was a celebration. My Uncle Jon then reflected on my dad (I was told that since I was giving the greeting that I couldn't tell any jokes, but my Uncle Jon was given free reign...not fair...) in a humorous, respectful, and emotional way. In doing so, he addressed each of my dad's brothers and said what he had learned from them and finished with what he had learned from my dad. Charlie led the room in a unified reading of Psalm 23. Nick read a paper he had written about my dad back when he was in college...very touching and emotional. A wonderful man from the church named Reigh sang "I Can Only Imagine." Finally, Charlie closed with prayer and a Benediction.

From there was a weeklong whirlwind of the reception, the family get together at my Uncle Tom's house, family and neighbors at my mom's home, flowers, gifts, food, and fact there was an abundance of love throughout the entire process. Sara, who is amazing with details, took care of so many things and helped hold me together. When Michelle came, she helped Sara with those details, and somehow the numerous things that needed to be done were done.

On Saturday, September 12th, Sara and I flew home having been reassured time and again by neighbors and church members that my mom was in good hands. The next day, Sunday, September 13th, would have been my dad's 64th birthday, so we celebrated by going to church and being loved on and hugged by so many people.

The last few weeks have been rough as reality has set in. Fortunately, God is good, and love and miracles abound...too many miracles to list, but I'll give a sampling in a future post. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. - John 21:25.