DAVIS: The gift of a father shapes the future
Seven years ago, a life changing event took place. One that set the course for a future that I did not see coming.
I lost my job.
I was 49.
My father was very sick at the time. Two years prior, he had been through several operations, radiation treatments and chemotherapy to stop a melanoma on his scalp from spreading. With me unemployed, he was headed toward six-weeks of chemotherapy five days a week. The cancer had spread from his scalp, through his skull and had reached the outer layers of his brain.
But watching him, a person would never know what he had been through.
I viewed my situation as a blessing. Losing one of the incomes in my family was not the ideal circumstance, but the opportunity to help my mother and father deal with medical appointments and general errands could not be measured in dollars and cents.
After six weeks of chemotherapy, the result was not what we had hoped. While the cancer had not spread, it also had not shrunk. The doctors said there was nothing left for them to do. They had exhausted every treatment they knew. My father smiled and thanked them for trying.
Weeks went by. My job search was meeting with little success. My father continued to have doctor appointments. He spent time getting his affairs in order, telling me what to do once he was gone.
“All the information you need is in this folder.” he said as he handed me the details. “Everything is set for your mother. Keep an eye on her. Make sure she is OK.”
“Yes sir.” I replied.
In August 2007, he was placed in hospice care. An ambulance took him from home for the last time, and he knew it.
Every day until his death on September 9, 2007, I came to hospice and sat with him. We talked about the family and all the good times we had.
“I’m worried about you.” he said to me.
I didn’t know how to respond.
Finally, I said, “I’ll be OK. I’ve had a great role model.”
The days continued and I watched him begin to slip away. He slept more. His mouth would move in silent conversations. His hands would move as if he was cutting a steak and eating it. The motions of a laugh crossed his face as he slept.
It was at that moment that I came to believe that God was preparing him for what was next to come. My father was very strong in his faith and I knew he didn’t fear death. But now I knew he was being readied for it as well.
I kept a journal of everything that happened while I sat with him for all the days and evenings of hospice.
On the day he died, I visited him in the hospital. He was different.
I sat at the foot of his bed, looking up to his face that was turned at a peculiar angle toward me. I will never forget the look in his eyes. The glisten he had been known for was gone. The bright was replaced with dark. In hindsight, I know he was communicating with me as best he could.
He was saying goodbye.
My mother and my sister were there two hours later when he died. They sang a hymn to him and said the Lord’s Prayer.
“It’s OK, Harold. You can go.” my mother said.
And he did.
I look back through the pages of that hospice journal from time to time. It helps me to remember things I had forgotten. Jokes he told. Visitors that came by. Private conversations I had with my father. I miss him deeply.
The following year, I sent an email to The Saline Courier asking if they were interested in a new columnist. My father had always said he could see me living in a cabin in the woods, pounding out stories on a typewriter.
The publisher asked for samples of my writing. I quickly wrote two and sent them in the next day. The rest is history.
It seemed appropriate that my very first column was on Father’s Day in 2008. Without his direction, encouragement and example to follow, I’m not sure how things may have turned out.
One of the greatest lessons he taught in me in life was patience. I watched him patiently wait for God’s time and will to come. He did it with grace and dignity.
Here’s to you, Harold Davis. Thank you for your patience, your humor, your strength and your kindness.
From all of your children, you were a gift from God.
Brent Davis is editor of The Saline Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.