Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Good News

On Sunday, December 20th, I played the harp at a reception in the lobby of the Grove Theatre in Upland. It was a lot of fun, including seeing Dale Kristien (one of the first Christine Daies) and Bill Hutton (the original Joseph of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat) perform their annual Christmas program, and getting to meet Margaret O'Brien (the sweet little thing from Meet Me In St. Louis).

When Jesse and I finally left, I saw that there were two missed calls--one from my mom and one from Ami--and a voicemail on my phone. I panicked. Being away from the phone for hours meant that I could have missed something very important. Worried about Papa, I called Ami right away.

"Hello my Sweet B, how are you doing?" Ami asked, cheerful as ever when she recognized my voice on the other end. I was taken aback. Cheerful?

I said that I was fine and that I was sorry that I had missed her call.

"I just wanted to call you with the good news," Ami went on.

Good news? What's good news? My papa is on his deathbed; the doctor said on Thursday that he would only last about four more days (and that was three days ago.) He hasn't even been conscious since then. What's good news???

Excitedly, Ami burst out, "Papa became a believer today!"

Whaaaaat? My papa?

She went on so joyously that we both burst into tears. It was miraculous news. Something I had almost given up on since Papa hadn't so much as opened his eyes for days.

Since I wasn't there, I'm pasting my dad's words here instead:

Sunday afternoon I went over to be with Papa and Ami, and Papa was sleeping soundly. It looked like it would be another day that I would not have opportunity to communicate much with Papa. However, Maureen encouraged me that I should try, since I may not have any opportunity in the future. So I wrote out (in large block letters) a five page simple presentation of the Gospel. I certainly would like to have said more, but I thought it best to keep it clear and short. I began by telling Dad how he has always impressed us with being able to do practically everything. However, there is one thing that he can't do, and that is go to Heaven by himself. For that he would need to trust Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I briefly explained what that meant and how Dad could trust Jesus to forgive his sins and to take him to heaven, where we could be together forever.

I must admit that I was prepared for disappointment. I thought that it was highly unlikely that Dad would have enough strength to read all five pages. I was also prepared for an unfavorable response, so I had prepared another page which simply stated, "I don't want to argue with you. I love you and respect you". (The last two verbs were underlined.) I was prepared to lay aside the Gospel presentation if I needed to resort to that page. I was so relieved that I never needed to show Dad that page.

I watched Dad as his eyes tracked each word on each page. He let me know when to turn the pages. When he finished reading I realized that I had only explained the Gospel and had not asked him to respond to that in any specific way, so I quickly wrote, "Does this sound like Good News to you?" I was amazed when he looked up at me and nodded his head yes. He then returned to sleep.

About ten minutes later Dad was rubbing his head as if in pain, so I wrote a note, "Are you in pain?" and then I woke him up. Again he read each word of the note, and then vigorously shook his head sideways, indicating "No". Dad's response to that second question gave me further reason to believe that he had understood the previous question and had given an authentic response.

I certainly would have loved to have had further conversation with my Dad about the hope of the resurrection and the joy of salvation, but I believe that Papa read enough to understand the
Good News of Jesus Christ and that he genuinely indicated his desire for its benefits for himself. The very next day the nurses began administering morphine to Dad and that has brought a complete barrier to verbal/printed communication. (He still responds to touch and constantly wants to hold Mom's hand.) While I certainly would love to have further conversation with my Dad I am so thankful for the opportunity God has given each of us to pray for Papa and to show him love. I am most thankful for God's love in giving Papa the best news that he has ever heard. Rejoice with us.
Amazed by His Grace,

We are all so thankful!

I had to serve jury duty on Monday, and prayed that nothing would happen while I was unable to go up to Oxnard to be with family. God was gracious, and the entire room of nervous potential jurors was dismissed by noon, since there were no more cases for the day. That gave me time to go to Urgent Care to get my foot taken care of (I stepped on a piece of glass weeks ago, and though I pulled it out, the pain never went away. By Monday, I couldn't even walk without extreme pain. With everything else that's been going on, I had to time it perfectly so that I had a few days to recover before needing to hit harp pedals with my foot again!)

Jesse took me to Urgent care that afternoon, and I spent the rest of the day on the couch with ice, afraid to walk knowing that I could open the wound again (man, did that doctor dig around! PAIN!!!)

I was still in so much pain on Tuesday, that I sat back on the couch prepared to stay there all day. I called my mom to tell her about my foot, and she was very quiet.
"Beth, Papa doesn't have much time. I'm sitting here with end of life pamphlets, and he's got all the signs." We cried together on the phone, and as soon as we hung up, Jesse and I ran (or hobbled) all around the house grabbing whatever we might need to stay a few days.

When we got off the freeway, headed toward Papa and Ami's house, I called Mom to see if anyone was hungry and if we should grab food for everyone before coming over. Mom wept. We had missed his passing by about 20 minutes.

When we opened the door to Papa and Ami's house, everyone was sitting around his hospital bed. There were tears in everyone's eyes, but it was so peaceful in there. Jesse and I went around the room hugging our family members, and the
n I sat between Ami and my sisters. We cried together, held each other, and held Papa's hand, cherishing the warmth.

It would be three hours before the funeral home people came to get Papa's body, and until then, we really didn't move. We shared memories like we had on Thursday night, we commented on how peaceful he looked, thankful that he died holding Ami's hand. We read Scripture. We rejoiced that, like the thief on the cross, Papa was enjoying what we still can only imagine.

Isn't it funny to think about God's timing and how He works, sometimes? If I went through Papa and Ami's house right now, I know I could fill a large box to the brim with letters and cards, pictures and Sunday school crafts we have given to Papa over the years. Each one of us has worked hard at one time or another to give Papa practically a handmade book trying to witness to him (Dad has witnessed to Papa all his life through words, but my siblings and I had to write everything down because Papa became deaf.) Even though Papa refused to listen, he never took down what we put up. There are handwritten Bible verses that Jon and Laura put on his fridge, a painting by Kate, and a booklet that I made on his bookshelf. It wasn't for lack of our trying. God knew just how He wanted Papa's story to go.

On Christmas Eve, while I was playing prelude music at the Christmas Eve church service, it struck me that Papa, in his new, heavenly body, can hear music again. I don't believe that was he looking down from heaven and listening to me, but he can hear the angels in heaven, and how sweet their music must sound!

Thank You, Lord, for taking care of my papa, and for bringing him to You in Your own timing. Keep him in utter amazement of Your goodness, so that when we come join you, we can all marvel together!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

There is Love

I got a phone call in the school office right before I sent the kids to lunch on Thursday.
It was Jesse. I'd left my phone in the car, and he needed to reach me.
Papa Chuck has started hemorrhaging and was losing so much blood that Mom and Dad had called us all to come to say goodbye.

As soon as the kids came back from lunch, I had them all sit on the carpet with me so I could let them know. Before I even began, one of the 4th graders noticed, "Mrs. Brubaker, you're eyes are all red." I said yes, and I told them that my Papa was very sick. I told them that I was going to drive up to see him as soon as school was over, and let them know that it's ok for me to be feeling sad right now. [I feel that too often, children don't know how to express feelings or react to situations because they don't see their adult role models show emotion. Hiding sadness or any other range of emotions stifles a child's ability to be able to deal with things of their own. Off my soapbox.]

They came up to me and gave me hugs. I asked them to remember my papa and our family in their prayers. David, one of the 5th graders, folded his hands and said "Let's pray for him right now!" The kids all bowed their heads, and David led us in a beautiful prayer for my papa. It was very sweet. I love these kids!

Jon met us at our house about the same time that I got home from school, and the three of us drove up to Oxnard together.

When we got to Papa and Ami's house, it was warm and cozy with soft lights and lots of blankets to keep Papa warm. Ami, Dad, Mom, Kate, Laura, Uncle Todd, and Uncle David were sitting in the living room where Papa's hospital bed is these days. Jon and Jesse and I joined the group, and we sat there enjoying Mom's shepherd pie for dinner.

There were tears intermittently through the night, but it was a happy night, a blessed night, where we were all together as a family, enjoying one another's company, reminiscing in favorite stories, catching up with each other, and being there for whenever Papa opened his eyes.

He is so weak right now. The amount of blood he has lost has left him with skin that is cold to the touch, and only enough energy to open his eyes and wave to people in the room before drifting back to sleep. But he was there, and we were there. A whole family. Treasured moments.

Ami's tender love for her best friend is so beautiful. March 2010 will be Papa and Ami's 60th wedding anniversary.

With everything that has been happening the last few weeks, Papa and Ami'se tree had been put up, but there were only two ornaments on it! Laura and I spent some time filling it out with the treasured ornaments that we remember as little children. I love trees that have stories behind each ornament!

Now Papa can see the Christmas tree from his bed, and Ami can enjoy its cheer while she sits next to him.

I read something tonight about what a sad Christmas this is, with all of the tragedies that are happening this season. I don't feel that way. God has blessed us in so many ways. He's blessed us with a family that has been so close, supporting each other in everything, rejoicing with each other in everything. He's blessed us with time that we didn't think we would have with Papa (I've driven up to Oxnard 5 times since September to "say goodbye.") He blessed us with the ability to be together as a family for another night. Blessed us with joy and comfort that evening. Blesses us continually with the fulfillment of his Promise, which is why we celebrate Christmas.

These days are hard, preparing daily to say goodbye, dealing with guilt about being unable to be by Papa's side every moment, praying desperately that he will see his need for his Savior. But they are not hopeless.

I've never felt that so much as I did on Thursday night, surrounded by the family I love.