I'm at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, GA with my father. He has an enlarged spleen and is awaiting a biopsy over the Labor Day weekend, which means it wont happen till Tuesday. I've been here through the night. Its Sunday now. Presently he is zoning on Demerol. Primarily I have been helping him sit up or stand or navigate his way to the can. I've also been interpreting treatment for him and keeping him from driving the nurses crazy. The pain has him somewhat disoriented, and he has a mild form of Parkinson's that makes it hard for him to access the words he needs to adequately express his thoughts when he gets stressed. In the midst of all of this we shared a prayer a little while ago.
We were talking about how he was glad to have me here and to receive care from me as a son and as a minister. I expected him to expect me to pray, but he began with a "Dear God" and I awaited like a child at Christmas to see what would follow. I truly expected to hear doubt and anger. My dad's been through a lot in the past few years with what he thought was carpal tunnel or tendinitis that lead to a diagnosis of Parkinson's followed by a car wreck that fractured vertebrae in his lower back and neck. About 8 years prior he lost his father in an accidental vehicular homicide and lost his job while spending extended time caring for his mother after that. He has not been active in a church in years, through his faith in the living God is sure.
So he held my hand in a way that suggested we might pray, said, "Dear God, thank you for all that you have given me. Thank you for the good care I am receiving and for my health. Thank you for giving me a good wife who treats me better than I deserve. Forgive me for not always treating her the way I should. Thank you for Zachary's willingness and even desire to always be here for me, even though I was not always there for him...particularly in his younger years." And the prayer went on from there. I prayed for peace, for healing, for a release from pain, and for a knowledge of God's presence. Fairly standard stuff, mind you, but sincere all the same.
After that we talked a little more about the fact that we have not prayed like that before. We have a family blessing that is as dear and sincere as it is wrote. We had family devotions on certain Sundays that we did not go to church as young children. I have prayed for him in recent years, but we have not prayed together. Not like this. We talked about how hard is not to ask why. Why would God do this after bringing him through so much? I assured him that God does not "do this" to people and that God, through Christ suffers with us. We talked about that a little and I asked him if it really helps to consider Christ's suffering. He said that it did, but as the next round of meds kicked in he said he thought God might be preparing me to help others as they suffer. I choked back tears and said I sure as hell wished he'd let me practice on someone else.
He's sleeping now, snoring actually. I fully expected a lab tech to come as soon as he went down, but God is gracing us with a few extra minutes. So, here are a couple more thoughts in response to this holy moment. In the event that my sister reads this, I want the record to be clear that she is the one who has been there for him the most. My brother and I have done our own thing in our own way, and we all love our father. I've done my part to stay in touch, as I have not been in the same town for a while. I'm closer now, but still two hours away. Still, Staci gets the stars in her crown for physically being there the most over the last two years. It is true that I've been an encourager, even if from afar. So I guess that counts for something. The other thing to note is that even though he was not physically there for me as much as I would have liked during adolescence, it was then that he encouraged me from afar. I never doubted his love.
So it is. So it shall be. For this I give thanks.