Peace in Tragic Times

I haven’t really wanted to update my blog lately because I know that it means I have to carry on with my story. I have had to really talk myself into telling the next part because it’s still painful. I’m not ready to talk about my dad in past tense. It’s still very, very strange to me that he isn’t here. But, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I feel his absence even more. So, in his memory, I am going to tell the story because it’s a great testament to his faith, even when prayers weren’t answered like we wanted them to be.

After nanny came home from the hospital (and I mean literally, the week she came home), dad began to feel bad. My dad’s job was pretty demanding. He drove a delivery truck around town, and for a 61-year-old man, he was in pretty good shape. He was lifting heavy boxes, going up and down stairs, and walking quite a ways every day. He would often feel tired, but we just chalked it up to a physically demanding job. At Christmas everything seemed fine. We were hopeful with the progress nanny was making and things seemed to be turning around for the better. On January 2, mom and dad drove down to see us and we had breakfast with them at Cracker Barrel. It was a great day, but something felt off with dad. He just didn’t feel good, but he didn’t want the attention to be on him. He was more interested in seeing his granddaughter. Up until this point, I had no idea that dad was feeling so bad because he just wasn’t one to complain. Not one to easily be persuaded to go to the doctor, he even admitted himself that maybe it was time to make an appointment. Mom and dad left our house that afternoon, but I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

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Matthew, My Dad (Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick), Lydia Grace, and myself at Christmas. Mom was behind the lens. 🙂
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The last time my dad visited us in early January 2016.

The next day after church, I told Matthew, “I can’t explain it and I know we just saw them, but I really feel like I need to go see dad. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to, but I think I’m going to drive up there.” Matthew told me he would gladly take me. Dad’s energy seemed to be zapped when we got there, but he cheered up when he saw Lydia Grace’s face. We left after spending a couple of hours with him and dad went to work the next day. Mom made him an appointment for that week. When the appointment came, dad decided to cancel it because of his work schedule for that day. Looking back now, I really think he was nervous.

We saw them the following weekend for dinner and afterwards mom and I went to check on my grandmother who had just come home from rehabilitation. While we were there, dad called my phone and said, “Are you guys still there? I need you to come home. I’m deathly sick.” I don’t think I will ever forget the way he sounded on the phone that night. My grandmother doesn’t live far from my mom so we were back in five minutes and mom pretty much told dad he was going to the emergency room. Because it was January and flu season, we decided not to take Lydia Grace to the emergency room to wait. Mom and dad begged us to go home so we were planning to make the drive back. I had knots in my stomach. I started crying as we were driving away and Matthew and I decided to go back to their house to spend the night so that we could be close by if needed.

Mom called me at 2 a.m. that morning from the hospital. Because so many people were sick, the hospital had no available rooms and they were spending the night in the emergency room. Then, she told me my dad had cirrhosis. “He has what?!?” I asked. I knew what cirrhosis was, I just couldn’t believe my dad had it. He wasn’t a drinker. He didn’t have hepatitis. All the things you think of when you thinks cirrhosis didn’t seem to apply to my dad. How could this be happening?? I quickly consulted Google and found out that, while there is no cure, a person could live with this for a while and it could be managed. I was hopeful.

They kept dad in the hospital for about four days after diagnosing him. He was very hopeful, and for the most part, he seemed to be in good spirits. We were determined as a family to do whatever we had to do to fight this.

The next few weeks were hard. Really hard. Dad was released from the hospital but he would go in and out of the emergency room for the next two weeks. Then, I realized the severity of it all after Matthew got a call from my mom one Saturday morning. Mom always calls me. When she calls Matthew, I know something is up. He came in and told me that my dad was in the ICU. I rushed to get ready and we drove up there. When we arrived I just wanted to get to my daddy. He was conscious when I arrived and it was just me and him in his hospital room. The night before was very eventful, we would later learn. He had a lot of bleeding at home and an ambulance had to be called. It was the same night that it snowed and the streets were iced over. When I got to the hospital, he said, “Hey kid.” I hugged him and just sat there. It was the very same area my grandmother had been in. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was just glad to be near him.

Dad lost a lot of blood and had to have transfusions. The medical team recommended a risky procedure that would stop some of the blood loss. If he didn’t have it, he was a “ticking time bomb” as one doctor put it. Dad opted for the procedure because he said, “I have to do something.” He arrived at the ICU on Friday night. The procedure would take place on Tuesday morning. They were not successful with the first attempt so they decided to try again the next day, except the next day came earlier than expected when at 2 a.m. the medical team made the decision to do the procedure because of the significant blood loss. It’s hard to write this nearly five months later…..

Mom called us. We were spending the night at her house. It was odd being there without mom and dad. I missed them tremendously. She explained to me what was happening and just like that Matthew and I were up and getting ready. Lydia Grace was still asleep and thankfully she rode in her car seat to the hospital without a peep. When we got there, we actually saw the doctor who would perform the procedure coming down the hall. I don’t know why, but I ran to him and said, “You’re my dad’s surgeon!” He said, “Wish us luck. We’re going to do our best.” For the next three hours, I prayed nonstop. Mom walked the halls praying. I called Donna, a precious saint at our church, who often wakes up early to pray. She prayed on the phone with me. I tried to keep taking deep breaths but my stomach was in knots with the anticipation and readiness for the procedure to be over. Then, I heard it. “Code Blue.” They listed the exact location of the hospital my dad was in. It was 5:45 a.m., so I knew that there wasn’t another surgery going on. For a split second, I was hopeful it wasn’t my dad, but I knew. I saw medical professionals rushing in the room. Even now, writing this, the emotion that comes over me is incredibly strong. That sound of the code being called over the intercom haunted me for the longest time. Sometimes it still does.

Then, the medical team came out, walking back to their respective areas. In my head, I was asking, “Why?! Why aren’t you back in there trying to do something for my dad?!” And then the doctor came out to talk to us and tell us that dad’s organs were failing. He was bleeding out. There was nothing they could do. I looked at my mom and grief overwhelmed me. How can this be happening to her?! She looked numb. We were all in a state of shock. Just a month ago we were celebrating Christmas with laughter and joy. Now my dad’s gone? What?! Life can turn on a dime.

And on that day my life changed. I came to the hospital that morning for dad and I would be leaving there without him.

We have since learned that my dad actually had liver cancer. That’s why he passed away in a matter of weeks. That hit me incredibly hard, but it answered a lot of questions I had about the timing of his illness.

So how does good come out of this? Sometimes I still ask myself that. But, when my dad was in the hospital, things happened that were nothing short of miraculous. His heart for God and for people were more important to him than his medical condition. I will have to save it for my next post because it’s worth telling in detail. It may not seem like prayers were answered from the way things look. Truthfully, they weren’t answered the way I wanted them to be. I would much rather not have this story to tell. But, I can say with all certainty that the peace of God does indeed transcend all understanding.

On the day we buried my dad, I was broken. I was sad. I still am. I can’t even tell you how much I miss that man. But, the most amazing wave of peace washed over me at his service. It was January and the sun was shining. I felt the most incredible joy and warmth. I know joy is not a word you use for a funeral. Believe me, this is coming from a girl whose greatest fear was losing a parent. I have always been close to my parents. Losing my dad has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Please don’t think because I speak of joy that it means I don’t grieve because I absolutely do and I miss my father every second of every day. But, God provides. I can’t explain it, but what I felt on that day was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit, our comforter. God’s grace is the only way I am making it. I am thankful I have the promise of seeing my dad again.

I hope to write more about how God’s hand was at work at the most devastating time for me in my next post.

Until then, if you are going through a hard place, let me encourage you. It’s not pleasant and it hurts like crazy, but there is hope in Jesus. I am living proof.