This post is the twenty-sixth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998. He died 12 years ago on Memorial Day, May 26, 1998.
It had been a long night with little sleep as the sun began to rise on Memorial Day in 1998. My stepmom had come into the bedroom several times where I was sitting next to my father. She apologized for not being able to relieve me as she knew it would not be long before my father died. It was too hard for her emotionally to sit and do nothing.
I reassured her that she was the one who had done the hard work over the last four years.
She was the one who had gotten up with him at 2:30 a.m. when he was confused and thought it was time for breakfast day after day. She would respond with a smile and say, “Lewis, if you want to have breakfast right now, we will get up and have breakfast.” No cereal for him, only a hot breakfast.
It was my stepmom who had given him baths, and made sure that he took his medicine correctly every single day. She was the one who drove him to weekly doctors’ appointments that she lovingly referred to as their “social calendar.” She was the one who made sure he had healthy nutrition and all the love a man could want.
“It’s ok, Jimmie,” I said. “You come in and out of this room anytime. This is where I want to be. I’ll do this part. Thank you for all that you have already done,” I added.
I put my head on my father’s chest and began to slowly recite the 23rd Psalm:
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .”
And in the moment I said the word “death,” he stopped breathing. It startled me and I sat up.
I remembered what the hospice nurse had taught me the day before that often when a person is close to death, he or she will stop breathing and then after a few seconds will start breathing again. Sometimes this will repeat a few times before the last breath is taken over several minutes.
I lay my head back on his chest and continued.
And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I encouraged and coached him as best I could, “It’s ok Daddy for you to go to be with Jesus. We will be ok here. You go, it’s ok.”
And then, it was so. And there was peace, an amazing beautiful peace.
I was thankful there was no more confusion, no more weakness, and no more struggle.
My father had taught me so many lessons with his life.
And now he was teaching a new lesson in how to have a good death.
I am thankful for Lewis Marler’s life and death.
My father taught me so.
What about for you? Have you ever had witnessed a good death of someone you loved? What was the difference for you? How did this impact your grief in the months ahead? Will you share in the comments below? (If you do not see the comments, click on the title of this post and scroll to the bottom.)