My father passed away yesterday, after a long journey through the shadows of dementia.
He was my hero.
Dad was a pastor with sand in his shoes. He and Jesus dragged the four of us all over the globe, serving churches in Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, Indiana, Venezuela, Trinidad and of course, Alaska. We occupied 38 different residences during my childhood. Mom learned it was pointless to hang curtains – we’d be moving again soon.
Dad was an intelligent, well-educated man with 2 advanced degrees. But later in life he experienced a series of strokes which led to Alzheimer’s and dementia. By 2017 it was impossible for him to live alone, so he came to live with us.
My husband David and I were able to care for him until about 10 days ago, when his condition deteriorated to the point we had to put him into a dementia care home. His caregiver called me yesterday morning. “Gina, something has changed,” she said. “You need to come right away.”
David and I arrived at the home to find him laboring to breathe. He was unconscious and unresponsive.
David had forgotten something at home, so he went back to get it, leaving me alone with Dad for about 45 minutes.
Even though his eyes were glazed over and he didn’t respond to my voice, I acted as if he could hear me. Over the years Dad had had many brushes with death, so we’d talked together about what to say at the end. I started in with the most important:
“Dad, I love you.”
I waited but no response except rapid, shallow breathing.
“Jesus will be there. I know it is time and it’s o.k. to go. Remember you told me that one of the questions you wanted to ask Him was ‘Who was Melchizedek?’ You’ll get to know the answer now!” (see Genesis 14 for explanation)
I cried for a bit, then found my voice again.
“Tell Mom I said hi.”
Then I remembered Dad always told me he wanted Amazing Grace sung at his funeral. We were still alone so I felt brave enough to warble…
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see…”
As I sang his breathing quietened and became steady. When I finished the last verse, his breathing sped up again.
I stayed close to an hour. I kissed him bye and told him I’d come back later than evening. There was no visible response.
As David and I left the house, we met the hospice nurse, Heather, coming in to check on Dad. We spoke briefly, then got in the car and drove on.
Within 10 minutes Heather called. Dad was gone.
“I think he waited until you left, because he was breathing when I walked in, but he was gone before you’d driven around the block.”
Our journey with Dad was done.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us this whole journey. The race was finished well.
And God, in His providence, orchestrated special care for David and me, too.
Eight years ago when we were caretakers for my mom at the end of her life, we happened to be in Texas. We hardly knew a soul there, but the same week Mom died, some close friends from Alaska were visiting relatives nearby, and we were able to go be with them in our grief. Last night those same friends just happened to be spending time in Phoenix. Once again as a parent died, we were surrounded by the same loving friends in a place where we know few people.
It wasn’t a coincidence; it was just what we needed.
Gina, you are an amazing lady! I am sure that is a product of your upbringing, you must have had an amazing mom and dad!!! I am so happy that your dad is at peace, up in heaven with our Savior! He and your mom are reunited and what solace and joy to know that someday you will see them again!
Much love!!! Cherie
A good ending for a life lived well!! God bless you, Gina for your desire to love him all the way!!
My sweet friend Gina, I am holding you tight with my prayers at this time. Love you and miss you, Lana
Gina, thanks for a loving tribute and for honoring your father well. May God grant you peace and grace as you grieve your loss… his gain. Blessings to you and David, Mike Young
In our prayers
Even though I mourn with you for his passing, I stand amazed at your strength throughout this journey…the Lord has not only blessed you with exceptional parents, but with a loving husband, friends, children and grandchildren…may you continue to feel His love and presence through the prayers being lifted up today…
IWhat a beautiful and inspiring tribute to your father this is! You and David have truly shown how to live the commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.” Y’all will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
Our condolences in your loss. I love my Daddy too. Blessings.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. What a blessing and a light in the darkness of grief.
Thank you for sharing yours and David’s walk with your Dad these past few months. I glad you know that you did your very best for care for him; now he’s home with Jesus.
Blessings on you and your family.
In reading your heart words Gina, it feels like something is finally resolved, completed, finished. It’s sad, certainly, but also cause for rejoicing — your dad is free! Hallelujah and amen.
So beautiful. My thoughts and condolences are with you. Your love, compassion and wisdom through this journey gives me hope, peace, courage and believing God is walking with me in my caretaking of my mom. Peace be with you and David in the days ahead. 🌺. 🙏🏻
I loved and admired you dad. He was an encourager to me.
Beautiful life he lived, and sure included that final time with his daughter as she spoke and sang to him.
Peace and love,
Your father was a great comfort to our family we my father was sick and at the end of his life. I will always remember home at the bed side speaking words of comfort.
Your father preached the funeral as well.
My mom appreciated all Gene did in that time, my brother and I as well
My heart goes out to you with this loss. I agree he was a wonderful man of God.
You wrote so beautifully about your father, Gina. Thank you for sharing your grief with us. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I am so happy that you KNOW where he is today! He sounds like a wonderful man. Oh, how sweet Heaven is! May God comfort you in the days ahead.
This is so beautiful, Gina, as I read through the tears. Have known your parents for most of my life! He was pastor at University
Baptist when I was in school in Fairbanks. I was on the pastor selection committee when we hired him in Valdez. I have had the honor and pleasure of hearing him speak many times since I’ve lived in Anchorage. Hadn’t gotten the usual Christmas greetings in the past few years, so suspected life was taking over. I’m so sorry for your loss, but it is certainly heaven’s gain!! He and Jane will be dancing in the streets! Praying for you.
Thanks for sharing this story. May God comfort you and give you peace.
I can clearly visualize you as you write this story of your last moments with your Dad. You write so well. It’s been a pleasure to meet you Gina and I’d truly enjoy a coffee with you before yo head to the Southern Hemisphere if possible God Bless you and your family Louanne