For the past several days I have had the privilege of helping take care of my father while he is in the hospital. Over a week ago he fell and injured his head and his leg, and in addition to those wounds he suffers from congestive heart failure, poor kidney function, some memory loss and other problems, but he is 92. I have been spending the nights in the hospital room with him. Sometimes he wakes up and calls out my name, and when he does, I come over to his bed and lay my hand on his shoulder and say, “Daddy, I’m here, and I will be here all night.” He responds with “Okay,” and immediately calms down. I can remember the times when I called out to him as a little boy when I would go to sleep while riding in a truck with him and how reassuring to wake up and see my strong father there, and now I do that for him.
Times like these remind me that life is so brief and fragile and only meaningful relationships will endure and not the material things of this world. What is important is whether or not we really know God and are ready to meet him when we die—because that is going to happen very soon for all of us. Secondly, it matters whether or not we loved and were loved by those around us. My father has lived a long, full life and has shared his love with me which in turn has helped me share that love with my family.
As I spend these nights with my father, I have no idea how many more I will have with him, but I am grateful for these special moments with him. We have many memories we have talked about and laughed about. In spite of his memory loss, some things simply cannot be taken from him, and by the grace of God they find their way out in our conversation.
I know that as I return to St. Louis, I leave a big job for my sister, mother and family to care for my aging father. We all see this job not as a burden but as a blessing. My father has always been a courteous man, and even with his memory failing, the kindness is still there. I am convinced that what has accumulated in our lifetime will surface as we navigate our last days on this earth. I hope I have the same great attitude and dignity that my father has.