Two nights before my daddy passed from this earthly realm, my Granddaddy gave thanks for our dinner. He prayed for peace for our family, especially my dad. That evening when I ventured out to collect my children from their outdoor play I gazed skyward at the most vibrant double rainbow I have ever seen. (Pictures never do this sort of thing justice). Although the rain had not yet fallen, that rainbow was a symbol of peace for us. As it symbolized God's hope and provision for Noah so many years ago, so for me it was a balm to my soul that in the midst of what would look like destruction there would be hope for a future, peace that passes understanding, and provision through the journey of this life.
People have commented about how unfair it is that my dad had cancer when he was a minister of God and a "good man." Unbelieving friends even see this as a sign that God does not exist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even Jesus taught His disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." The sun rises on both the good and the evil; the rain waters the fields of the just and unjust alike. Of course I recognized the tragedy when the first man I loved had lung cancer of all things - a disease that would not only affect his life but his ability to share his voice in praise of his Lord. I sat in my closet and sobbed uncontrollably. After all, I've always been a Daddy's girl. But I made the choice to not dwell on the thoughts of "Why?" that spring from my natural self and instead on "What?" Of course I wondered "what" I could do to help my parents through this time and "what" could be done to heal my dad. But I also looked for "what" God was teaching His children through the process.
In the three year journey of my Dad's cancer I treasured the time with him. Had he died suddenly I perhaps would have missed opportunities as I focused on the craziness of raising two small children. I learned what true love is as my mom gave her energy and time to care for my dad as he received treatment in Asheville and Chapel Hill. In the last two weeks of his life she was by his side, patiently waiting for him to accomplish the smallest of tasks and striving to preserve his dignity to the end. I am thankful that she was with him when he took his final breath and opened his eyes wide as his faith became sight.
I learned the value of family as my granddaddy and my dad's two sisters dropped all responsibilities to care for my dad (and mom) so that he could spend his final time at home and not in a facility. Other family members came as well, and my children and I grew close to them in a way that could not have occurred at holiday visits. We are now bound together with invisible but unbreakable bonds.
I listened as my grandfather soothingly read scriptures to his children and applied his beliefs as he made peace with the death of his only son. He taught me to be strong, trust God, and give thanks in all circumstances.
I drew on the power of the Holy Spirit like never before, especially as many of us sang to soothe my father in his final hours.
None of us would choose to learn these lessons at the expense of my father's suffering. The price is too high. And being believers, we knew that our God had the power even to raise my father from the dead. Until the end I prayed for my father's miraculous healing and believed it might happen.
My favorite Bible story is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. These three Hebrew children faced the furnace knowing that God had the power to save them, but even if He did not they would not worship the king. Following their example I choose to worship and praise God through the storms of life.
No other choice could better honor my father's legacy.