I feel like I’ve been out of touch for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d give you (especially my Alameda church family) an update on what’s going on with my family and me. Let’s start with a brief recap…
On the weekend of March 16-17 my family flew to California for a planned trip with my wife’s family, who are originally from there. I had been in Cali for about 32 hours when I got a phone call from my sister telling me that my Dad had suffered some sort of stroke.
And each phone call after that brought worse and worse news.
My Dad had incurred a massive brain bleed – the sort from which there is no recovery, according to the three neurologists who looked at his CT scan.
The last phone call I got from my sister included the words, “The Dad that we knew is gone.”
He was still alive but he would not be for long.
The earliest flight I could get left the next morning, March 19, from San Jose and flew directly to OKC. At around 3:30 p.m. I walked into the hospital and found the ICU waiting room filled with family and friends. They directed me to my Dad’s room, and that’s where I saw my Mom.
We cried in each other’s arms.
I met with several doctors and nurses who got me up to speed on the situation, including one doctor who showed me the CT scan of my Dad’s brain. I was shocked at what I saw. Nearly a quarter of the left side of his brain was covered in blood.
Nothing could be done.
The doctors told us that it could be a few hours or a few days.
We gave everyone in the waiting room the news, and then gave them an opportunity to say their goodbyes to Dad.
During my time, I thanked him for all he had done for me and I read Scripture over him that spoke of God’s promises of resurrection and victory over the curses of sin and death for His faithful followers, of which Dad was one.
For the next few days, I would live in the hospital, sleeping on floors, chairs, and couches.
I would watch my Dad labor to breathe and listen to what nurses call “the death rattle” – the sound a dying person makes as they struggle to breathe. It was the same sight and sound I had witnessed from my own son before he died.
And it was awful – again.
Early Friday morning my sister shook me awake and said, “Rusty, I think this is it.” I jumped up and ran over to Dad, and he had stopped breathing.
We woke my Mom up and told her the news.
That Sunday morning, the thought of a church service was too overwhelming so we decided to do a “family worship” at my parents’ house with our immediate and extended family who were in the area. Nearly 40 people came. We sang songs of victory in Jesus, read passages of God’s great promises to his people, and shared communion.
Then I asked people to share one way that Dad impacted their walk with Christ – and the stories were incredible!
Stories of how Dad served them, taught them, redirected the course of their lives with one word of encouragement, studied the Bible with them, and provided a consistent example of what a Godly man looks like.
There were tears and laughs.
But above all, there was peace.
We were at peace.
The next few days were packed with things to do to get ready for the funeral.
Then there was the funeral.
Then there was the aftermath of the funeral.
Then there was the business of closing out a person’s affairs – which will continue for a long time.
Then there was the first church service without Dad. Thanks to the generosity of my elders, I was able to sit next to my Mom the first time she attended the church’s corporate worship without the man she had been sitting next to on a church pew since she was 19 years old.
That was yesterday.
Now, I’ll go back to work.
But, Alameda, I won’t be in the office most of the week because I am attending a preaching conference and gathering. In fact, I have been asked to share the story of the journey we are on together as a church family. Hopefully, others will be inspired to pursue the Great Commission of Jesus with renewed intentionality and purpose, as we are. So, please pray that God will use me (and our story) for His glory.
I will be in the pulpit on Sunday for our Missions Sunday, and I am looking forward to being with you. I do still have a job, right?!
I have left a lot out of this update, simply because too much has happened over the last couple of weeks. But here’s what I know…
- The promise of resurrection in Christ is absolutely hope-filling, joy-inducing, and peace-producing.
- In Christ, you can experience joy even in sorrow.
- The church, at its best, is an incredible source of comfort to those who are suffering.
- The gospel of Jesus Christ is an anchor in the storm.
- Simple, kind acts of service are so meaningful to those facing difficulties in life.
- I am richly blessed to have the network of family and friends that I have.
- My mother is one of the strongest Christians I know.
- My sister is someone you want by your side in times of trouble.
- I have watched both my son and my father die – an experience that brings tremendous clarity.
- I am crystal clear on what matters most in life.
- For all the bad news in the world, people are amazing at showing up in the lives of others in times of crisis.
- We will all die, but are we all ready to die?
And here’s one more thing I know…
My Dad was not a wealthy man or a famous man, but he impacted countless people and left behind an amazing legacy simply by seeking to live a life of service.
And each one of us can do the same.