I am writing hello from Whidbey Island in Washington state. I am with my family and my dad. My dad is dying from a rare and rapid degenerative brain disease called CJD.
I have missed All Saints (you) greatly over these past two weeks. It was very difficult missing June 10 and 17 and all the activities and celebrations these days held. I hated that I missed Kent’s ordination and especially the celebration of Steve and Sally’s ministry at ASC.
I love you all and miss you, but I know I am where I need to be. Thank you for your prayers and for your support and permission to be here with my father and my family.
For the full story visit dad’s caring bridge website and read the story. Click here.
Here is an update I just wrote this morning regarding how my dad is doing:
I am sitting next to my dad as I type. We are listening to Johnny Cash’s album: My Mother’s Hymnbook. Dad loves this album! Cash said it was his favorite album he ever made. It is classic, but rare. I burned it for my dad about 4 years ago.
We are sitting next to dad day and night and his time is near. He very well may die today. We will sit, pray, and talk to him through the day.
Family comes and goes, grandkids eat meals and tell of the treasures found on the beach, and the tide comes in and out, but dad remains laying in his hospital bed in the middle of the living room facing Penn Cove. His breathing is fast and shallow and his body is motionless save his breath; the breath of life that remains. He is alive, but nothing about his presence testifies to this except the air he is inhaling and exhaling more than twenty times a minute. As I sit with him and pray I find myself clutching his arm or hand and being warmed by his body heat and I also get distracted from prayer by counting his breaths.
Dad has not eaten for over two weeks. His body looks less and less like his. The once vibrant, strong, healthy and lean physique has become shriveled, atrophied, and it is eerily motionless but still tanned by hours spent outdoors and still moving with his labored breath.
Hospice has been a blessing. The nurses, aids and whole system is an incredible gift to families and communities. We are so thankful to be home. Tomorrow we will have been here a week.
It is right to have dad in this place that he loved. When my parents were newlyweds they moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to Anacortes, Washington. Dad’s basketball coach at the University of Nebraska had a connection out here and dad starting teaching and coaching in Anacortes and mom and dad lived on Alexander Beach. A gem of beach – sandy and flat – these are not common to Washington state. They fell in love with the tall evergreen trees, the mountains, and the water. Dad loves the water. He walked the beach daily and he created hundreds of pieces of furniture, mobiles, wall hangings, and random creations using driftwood, rocks, and found items brought in my the tide. I have a cross in my office at All Saints Church made of dozens of pieces of drift wood nailed together. I will cherish that cross my whole life long just like I will cherish my dad and his love and his life. He loved sailing, kayaking and crabbing in the summers. I will cherish my memories of him. Especially last summer when he took Hudson (my son) and I out crabbing. Hudson loved the experience and loves eating fresh crabs. I know he will hold on to this memory as well.
I will miss dad terribly. I already miss him.
Death is incredibly hard, dark, and confusing. It is easy to end up in despair, but we hold onto the hope of the new resurrected life that Jesus pioneered and offers to all who come to him in faith and repentance.
What an amazing experience to stand on this holy ground with dad and my family as dad is on the threshold between this earthly life and life eternal – new life – the glorious life in the presence of God bathed in perpetual light.
Dad’s life will not end, but change – and change gloriously for the better.
I have been clinging to this prayer in the Anglican liturgy for funerals. We come to the Holy Communion:
Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who rose victorious from the dead, and doth comfort us with the blessed hope of everlasting life; for to thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.
Lately death seems more and more like a mercy for dad. We have watched him become more and more trapped and limited by his diseased, immobile, and motionless body. We will miss him greatly, but he is no longer with us as he was – smiling, joking, hugging, working, creating, loving, laughing, modeling what it looks like to live well.
I already miss my dad and I long for him to be him and not the motionless and sleeping body in our living room laying in the hospital bed. I long for dad to be resurrected and restored and made new. I long to meet him on a day to come in presence of God and all his angels and to walk the beach with him in the new heaven and new earth.
Come Lord Jesus.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our dad, brother, mentor, coach, husband, friend, mentor Joel. into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let his heart and soul soon ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for your prayers, your love, and your support. We are feeling your prayers and your care and are incredibly humbled by the generosity we are experiencing daily.