My church has for many years participated in, provided really, a time of Christmas caroling at Niederman Family Farm Liberty Township, OH. The Niederman's have always been so gracious and faithful as they have opened their barns and lights to the community to help spread the true meaning of Christmas. Our church has filled one of the many nightly slots of singing & entertainment for the Niedemans during this seasonal light display for close to 10 of its 17 year history.
On the evening of December 1, 2013 we again filled this role as our choirs sang Christmas songs and our young people read Scripture to the crowd of cookie eaters and hot chocolate drinkers. It was also on the evening of December 1, 2013 that I would enjoy one of the final meals I would eat with my father before his earthly journey would come to an end.
As I grazed the Frisch's soup & salad bar that night, I didn't fully comprehend the close proximity of my father's passing. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma in the Spring of 2013, had completed some treatments, was starting to feel better, look more like himself and had actually been declared cancer free in August. His journey would end in 36 days.
The next 29 days went by with relative normalcy. We laughed. We talked. We ate. We hung out. We did the normal stuff that families do. On December 30, 2013 I received a phone call from my mother expressing concern over my dad's worsening condition. The cough was back. For the proceeding 10 months, the cough generally indicated bad news. Fluid, compression, something about his lungs, in the end, it always pointed back to cancer. That evening, December 30, 2013, my dad would return to the hospital for the last time. His journey would end in 7 days.
The next several days would contain a litany of test, suggestions on courses of action, consultations, etc. Back and forth we went to the hospital, each day hoping and praying for a change in the foreseeable future. On Wednesday January 1, 2014 much of our family gathered to celebrate the New Year with our parents at the hospital. Brothers, wives, granddaughters and grandsons all gathered in laughter and celebration. My dad seemed healthy. He was sitting up, cracking jokes, telling stories, he was himself and we, his family played the only role we knew to play, one of just being a normal family. His journey would end in 5 days.
On Sunday January 5, 2014 I sat on my couch heavily debating my next move. I was tired, it had already been a long day and I had not yet visited my dad on that day. I wanted to go but was tired and visits could be made tomorrow. After all, there's always more time and like we often do, I thought, "I'll get to that tomorrow." His journey would end in 1 day.
I'm thankful for a wife with discernment and that I made the decision to see him on that Sunday evening. Although we didn't speak much because of his pain, I was able to simply sit in his presence. His presence was comforting. Things were always right when he was around. Things would always be okay once he showed up. Even in the midst of his physical struggle that evening, he whispered the words, "I'll be okay buddy."
He would indeed be okay. In fact, in just under 24 hours he would be far better than I could have ever asked or imagined. In hindsight, perhaps that's what he really meant by his words, "I'll be okay buddy."
As I passed that Frisch's last on my way to Niederman this year I was reminded of the lessons I've learned through the loss of my father and questions came to my mind.
Would I have done things differently had I know the reality of his passing at the 36 day mark? What if I had known at the 29 day mark? What about 7 days? What if I truly understood what was going to happen with just 1 day remaining? Would I have said more, done more, loved more?
Allow me to encourage you to be intentional in all that you do. We know not the day or the hour of our passing nor the passing of those we love. Do not settle for going on as normal. Do not settle for doing what you've always done assuming that there will be time tomorrow to do things differently or better. Do better now. Do more now. Do what you know you should do now. Live your life on purpose. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.