It was Saturday, February 1, 2014. I had gone up to Enid to visit my Dad in the hospital, arriving at 8:30 a.m.. Like the principal he was, he reported that he had already had to straighten out one of the nurses for having a bad attitude.
When the complete report was finished, Dad turned to me and said, “I need to testify to you!” He pointed to the clock on the wall and said, “7:01! Remember that, 7:01! God spoke to me today at 7:01!”
Dad asked God if this was it and God responded, “Do you want to see a miracle?” I still don’t know for sure what that miracle is, but we spent the next few hours talking about heaven.
Dad asked, “What is heaven like?” I talked to him about the Bible’s description of heaven as the most beautiful garden beyond our imaginations. I even told him that several people had told me they had dreams about Jennie. Every time, she was a gardener or giving out flowers. As a farmer, Dad enjoyed thinking about a place where you don’t have to worry about the weather to grow crops.
Then Dad asked me, “Will we know each other?” I was able to assure him that we will. I was able to tell him the story of a husband we knew who had a massive heart attack three weeks after his wife had died. The man was taken into the Emergency Room. The nurse asked him if he had a DNR signed. When he said he didn’t, the nurse got the form and a pen. As Tom put the pen to the paper, he looked up at the nurses and said, “I am so sorry, but my wife says I have to come right now!” He laid back on the bed and died. We talked about seeing Jesus, Jennie, Grandma and Grandpa Schuneman and Dad’s brother and sister. He seemed to be at peace. So was I.
Dad concluded our conversation that day by saying, “I want you to know, no matter what, I’m ready!” I did not have reason to question his statement, because I had spent 61 years watching my Dad live out his relationship with Christ. One of the greatest gifts my Dad gave me was an unquestionable commitment to Christ. There was never a time in my life when I ever had reasons to doubt either my Dad or my Mom’s walk with the Lord. Their love for Christ and His Church was a vital part of their lives.
Dad was facing a further surgical procedure in two days to add a third wire to his pacemaker. The hope was that this procedure would improve Dad’s weakened condition. It did not take long to realize that the surgery had failed. Dad’s condition wasn’t getting any better.
On Friday, February 7, 2014 (which was my birthday), I got a call from Judy that Dad’s oxygen level was dropping. When I got to the hospital, Dad was taking quick breathes to get his oxygen level up. Even in the midst of this new development, Dad was winking at each person until they winked back. Bonnie didn’t see him at first, so he said, “Bonnie, you haven’t winked at me yet.” Of course, she did immediately.
The next day, the whole family was gathered in Dad’s room. Dad even got to see Truett, his one and only great grandson. It had been a good day of visiting. I looked around the room and realized we were doing something that often happens. We were talking amongst ourselves and not really too much to Dad. I asked Dad, “Would you like some one-on-one time with each of us?”
He jumped on the idea by saying, “Yes, I would. I want to begin with her! (pointing at Mom). We all excused ourselves to let Mom and Dad have time alone. Their love for each other after 66 years of marriage was undeniable throughout the last five weeks. The three weeks that Dad was in the hospital was the longest time they had been apart.
I am not sure what Dad said to Mom, but Judy told me that when she went into the room, Dad had asked Mom to climb in his hospital bed so he could hold her. Judy likened it to the closing scene of The Notebook. Enough said.
Judy began to apologize to Dad for all the times she had “debated” with him. Judy was never rebellious in any way, but she did like to discuss issues with Dad ranging from her hairstyle to the state of the Church. To be honest, Dad loved it! He wanted to make us think through our faith. He never got mad. He just kept firing questions at us both.
While Judy was apologizing, Dad put his hands on both of Judy’s shoulders, looked her in the eyes and said, “Forgiven!” Talk about concise theology! You see, Dad was ready!
He was very calm when he spoke to Joe Newsom, one of his financial advisers. Joe later told me, “I have never seen someone so calm while talking about his death.” You see, Dad was ready!
Dad and I had five weeks to talk. He affirmed how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. I already knew he was ready!
When my nephew had his moment with Dad, Jonathan asked him, “Poppy, what is God saying to you today?” Dad answered, “He said I have done a good job and it is time to come home.” Fortunately, Jonathan recorded that conversation. Dad then added the question, “Where is that music coming from? Do you hear the music?” You see, Dad was ready!
Saturday night, Robb and I stayed with Dad while the rest of the family went to a motel to get some rest. I was reminded that when I am dying, I want Robb by my side. He was amazing! It was a rough night to say the least. Dad was having horrible dreams. He started praying out loud for God to be with him. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Peace and comfort! Those are the words God gave me. Peace and comfort!”
Dad had a stroke at 2 a.m. that Sunday. Fortunately, his speech came back before the family all arrived around 3 a.m. He was still able to communicate pretty well up until the end. At one point, I heard him say, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
I have learned that many people look to their right before they die. They will end up with their head to their left. It was once explained to me that an angel always starts on the person’s right and then moves over them to their left. They died with their face in the hand of God.
I can’t prove that scientifically, but I can tell you that before he died, Dad was looking to his right. However, he was not looking at us, but over us. At one point, Mom asked if he knew who she was. Dad had to look down to see her. He answered, “Of course, I do. We have been married 66 years!” Then Dad looked above us all again. I was standing to his left and could see the distinct move very clearly. You see, Dad was ready!
At 2 p.m. on that Sunday, Dad turned his head to the left and laid his head in the hand of God. I have only seen one other person who was as calm and courageous when they faced death. My daughter Jennie was actually excited about seeing her Gammy and some of her “cancer kids.” Jennie and Dad taught me more about life in a combined 15 weeks than I could have learned in Seminary.
I will soon celebrate 2 years as a Hospice Chaplain. I must say it has changed my attitude towards death, but more importantly towards life. Life, at best, is short. The positions that we hold and the possessions that we have aren’t what life is about. The meaning of life is found in living in a state of readiness with Christ until we walk with Him every day until we see Him face to face. I wouldn’t want it any other way!