At about 2:15AM November 21st, 2011 my dad, Arthur Corbett, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I got the call from my mom at about 2:25am. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that this is not an unexpected event, but I've just learned that waiting for it didn't make it any easier. As you can tell from the first line of the post we are Bible believing Christians and we really do take comfort in the fact that the Bible teaches that those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ go to be with Him in heaven when they die, so that, while I titled the post, "Goodbye Dad", it is really more accurate to stay "See you later, Dad". I hope you'll indulge me and allow me to share some history and what I was thinking early this morning after getting the news.
The First Time He Was Dying
Back in 2000, my dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and there were 2 times we thought he was going to die. During this time, I had the opportunity to "make my peace" with him. There were decisions he made that I had held against him for many years, and though they weren't bad decision, in fact, they were good ones, I selfishly blamed these decisions for the problems I had in my life. As you can tell, he made through this time because of the marvels of modern medicine. He went to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and, after being rejected from the heart transplant list, was placed in a study comparing the effectiveness of medication vs. the use of an LVAD Heart Pump. My dad got the pump and within 6 months enough people in the study who had not gotten the device had died, that they stopped the study and gave everyone a pump. Two years later his LVAD failed (that was about the anticipated life span) and he was back in Brigham & Women's. This time they qualified him for a heart transplant and in early 2003 he received a new heart.
Fast forward 8 years, and he is struggling with skin cancer partly related to the anti-rejection drugs he's on. He's had several "minor" surgeries to remove tumors. This past spring he started having trouble opening his mouth, the skin cancer had gotten into his cheek and was invasive enough to be inoperable, at least for a 79 year old man, who'd had enough surgery to not want a full facial reconstruction. At that time we were told he'd likely have 6-12 months although the doctors really couldn't say. In September he fell and had a broken hip. Turns out the cancer was in his bones and his hip broke and he fell. He only made it out of the hospital on hospice care, and was never really out of bed again. Once again, the family came to him as we had in 2000 and made sure he knew we loved, honored, and respected him and had that love returned.
What I felt when I got the call
When the phone rang as 2:25am today, I knew why immediately. Honestly, my first thoughts were, "Thank you, Lord" and "Please help my mom deal with this". Then as I lay back down in bed memories of life with dad started to flow. This is why I struggled sleeping the rest of the night, the most vivid memories were the ones where I was fighting/arguing/angry with him. That really hurts. I told my wife and as I cried and thought about it, I realized, as only a dad can, how when in each of those memories, he had done nothing to deserve my anger, but that my pride and self-centeredness was what caused each of those incidents. Even though I had apologized, twice, been forgiven both times, and know there is nothing but love and respect between us, it still hurts. Here's why it hurts even more, I have son who is just like me, and I don't want him to have the same flood of memories about me when I die as I had last night. My dad did make mistakes just like I do, but I know he was making decisions because he believed that they were the best decisions for the family, just like the decisions I've had to make for mine. Just like I now know that I my attitude was what caused the friction between my dad and me, I know that much of the friction between my son and me is due to his attitude. I don't want my kids to make the same mistakes I did. I couldn't sleep because I know that's the road we are on, at least with this one son. Guess what, I woke him up at 3am, I told him I love him, like I've done many times. I also told him how I was feeling about my dad dying and what my memories were, and that I don't want him to have the same memories of me. I told him that there's not a lot I can do to change what his memories of me will be, but that I'll do what I can, and he needs to think about his attitude because I know he'll have those same memories if things don't change and it will hurt. This is why the Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 (ESV):
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,"God doesn't want us to have regrets, and I really don't because I know I made things right with my dad and that memory really trumps the others.
So what would your memories be if one of your loved ones dies?
I know if I hadn't made things right, as small as the problems were between my dad and me, I'd feel worse today.
What would your family's/friends' memories of you be if you were to die today?
Do what you can to make those good memories. Work, leisure, and community will always be there, you have a limited time to create memories with your kids.
If you have any problems with family or friends, think about the root of those issues and find a way to forgive or ask for forgiveness, and make it right. It'll be worth it.
I'm going to close with one more Bible passage, that is really helping me today.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18(ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.