My father was a man of great sin, and our family suffered from his choices. He hurt, abused, and almost destroyed us. As he lay dying, he faced it all.
For days, I had stayed by his side in the ICU. Near the end, he began to tear at the restraints, eyes squinting as into bright light. After a furious but silent fight, he grew quiet, cocking his head as if listening. Then he relaxed and flopped back. In minutes, again his body tensed and legs jerked against the ankle straps. He grimaced at some inner pain. Then his lips moved in silent confession.
I knew God was showing my father his sin. He repented. God forgave him and assured him that He would redeem the years the enemy, using my father, had devoured. The cycle continued for hours until, at dusk, he fell still.
That night he slipped into a coma from which his doctor said he would never awaken. Exhausted after two weeks at his deathbed, I asked why they didn’t just turn off the IV’s and oxygen, why keep him alive when there was no hope. The doctor said the machines weren’t keeping him alive–my father would go when God was ready—and that everyone in the hospital had great respect for the courage that had kept him alive this long.
Respect for my father–the alcoholic–the rage and fury of my childhood?
During the night, in the glow of machines, I realized his cheekbones were just like mine. For the first time, I was proud to have those strong bones, proud to be The Dutchman’s daughter. I rose and leaned over his bed. He opened his eyes as if I had called to him. He reached up and gently stroked my hair.
All my life I had yearned for that tender touch.
“I love you, too,” I whispered.
He smiled and closed his eyes. His hand fell back to the bed.
When morning came, my Mom arrived, fresh after two days of sleep. Completely exhausted, I dragged myself to our room and collapsed into bed. Several hours later, she shook me awake.
He was gone.
I felt cheated. I’d spent days at his bedside, then wasn’t there to say goodbye. God had brought spiritual healing to him during his last days, and I had felt a touch of the love I hungered for all my life, but now, I had nothing.
I grasped at emptiness, and found only pain, fresher than ever.
Several days later, Mom asked me to read a lesson at the funeral.
Choked with tears, I read “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” While I read, I begin to grasp that a God who was powerful enough to bring forgiveness to a man like my father, could bring life and healing to me.
My voice rang out as I ended: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:55,57 (NAS).
I felt the touch of the Father’s hand, the all-encompassing love of an eternal “Daddy” who will never hurt me or leave me.
And for the first time in years, I was able to pray.
Healing has been a process. What I experienced at my father’s death was a crack in the door, a chance for me to open the walls I had formed around myself–to choose life.
I have learned to release old hurts and receive love. God has redeemed the years of pain. Deep wounds have carved a crucible of joy that I can pour out for others.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart take courage.” Psalm 27:13, 14 (NAS)
Papa God, hold the little child in me who needs your strength and gentleness. Turn me towards the light. Fill me with your love, that I might love, and love, and love again.