“Gary, you have a beautiful face.”
As I stood at the foot of the hospital bed where my father lay, I initiated a few friendly questions to him in order to provoke some conversation. Dad was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, and life for him was little more than a quarter of an inch thick. Everything by now had become very much superficial responses.
This was Dad’s second trip to this hospital within the last few months. Before, he had fallen and broken his hip. Now, he was facing surgery again, this time for the other hip. Yes, Dad fell again, and his now fragile body could not withstand the jolt of a fall.
When Dad came back from the first surgery, we almost lost him. He contracted pneumonia while there, and it was a battle to keep it contained; and that was about all they could do – contain and isolate it. We took precautions to keep him from falling again. I warned the nurse – “If he ever falls and breaks the other hip, we’ll bury him.” Dad could not take another surgery, and here I was in his hospital room, standing at the foot of his bed, waiting to talk to the doctor about the ill-fated surgery.
At this state of his Alzheimer’s, Dad still vaguely recognized me as being someone he knew, but it had been quite a while since he called me by name. If he ever tried, he usually called me by my brother’s name, which was fine with me. Once while he was staying in our home, he walked out onto the back porch where I was standing, and with a puzzled gaze on his face, asked me – “I know you, don’t I?” Then even as he asked this, the fog of his mind parted ever so slightly and he said – “Yes, I know you.” But that was as far as he got. “Yes, I’m Gary,” and life went on, if you can call it life.
Like many sons, I loved my father very much. I had a unique relationship with him that went all the way back to when I was about twelve. My brother was three years older than me, and when he hit the teen years, Dad and he entered into many heated conflicts on various issues. My brother was a typical troubled and troubling teen, and Dad was not one to take his rebellious actions lightly. Being three years younger and seeing how my brother’s rebellion brought so much hardship, grief, and pain to my father, I made a commitment at that young age that I have sought to live up to for all my life. I decided then that I wanted to bring joy and happiness to him.
When I entered the teen years, I never rebelled against my father. I can remember one time at the age of twenty that the ugly feeling of rebellion rose up within me against him, and I was so very glad and relieved that I was about to get married; I knew that those evil feelings would never have an opportunity to take hold, and they never did. I always respected my father and his counsel (other than one time after I was married and had our first child and dismissed it, and suffered greatly for it, teaching me even more to listen to him).
Many years later when I had two children, Dad came to visit us, and as he sat in a chair in our living room and shared with me about a problem that he was going through, I went over to him, laid my head in his lap, and wept bitterly. Being convicted very deeply by the Spirit of Yahweh, I told him that I would never see any wrong in him. Oh, this did not mean that my father was perfect; he was by no means perfect. But, I would never ever relate to my father in any way, that would ever seek to correct him for anything. This was tested later, as my brother wanted me to go with him to Dad and say something to him concerning a situation where it looked like he was doing wrong. Flatly, no way would I go and do that. I would never ever judge my father.
But, because of several intercessions in my life to which Yahweh called me, which were a difficulty for him and the family, I had to look to Yahweh to fulfill my deep and abiding commitment to bring my father joy and pleasure. For seven years I could not celebrate any event or occasion, which meant not going home for holidays or, even most testing, not going to Mom and Dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. And then later, Yahweh called me to move to the state of Washington, which was not easy on Dad, though he agreed to it. (If he had not, I would not have gone.) All of this was very painful for me as well, for I had a deep longing and commitment that had been with me since a little boy that I would bring joy and happiness to him.
I had hoped that Dad would see the fulfillment of the Remnant Bride, and then his joy would be made full in our relationship. He would then understand why I had done all those unusual sacrifices; but now, his days were drawing to a close. Life had not given me the opportunity to bring my father that full joy that I had always wanted to bring to him, and my heart still longed for that. I knew Dad would soon be at the doorway of death, the surgery would be the last straw, and even now I sought to be a faithful blessing to him to the end.
As Dad lay there, and I waited at his feet, watching out the doorway, he spoke something to me with remarkable recognition. Seeming to momentarily pierce that cold impenetrable veil of Alzheimer’s, he said to me – “Gary, you have a beautiful face.” Then, after a slight pause, he said a second time – “Gary, you have a beautiful face.” I smiled, was very glad to hear him say my name, and thanked him.
The doctor came, the surgery came and went, and Dad went afterwards as well. The pneumonia that had laid there semi-dormant in his lungs, went full bloom following this second surgery. After the surgery he was never the same; he was very incoherent, and life became very, very frail. Dad was soon drowning in his own fluids. We comforted him, and in the end watched him only animatingly try to take his last breaths, a shell of a man whom I had loved, in whose lap I had wept, and whom as a young boy I had committed to bring joy and happiness. Dad died August 14, 2002, seven days after my own birthday.
With my earthly father gone, there remained only one Father with whom I could now seek to fulfill that heartfelt child commitment, the One to whom those feelings were ultimately intended in the first place. Even before Dad’s death, I had already transferred that commitment to Him. It was because of my love for and commitment to Him, that I would even do the things that I knew gave temporary sorrow to my earthly father. I had to entrust my earthly father to my heavenly Father on these points of obedience, in hopes that my childhood dream would be fulfilled someday. While I still did all I could to bring my father joy, I always wanted more, the ultimate, the fulfillment of him seeing that all the sacrifices were meaningful and worth it. And for this, I will still have to wait. Someday, he will see. Death is only an interruption in the unbroken string of life, a sleep from which man awakes.
Now, I remain among the living; and I realize that the desire Yahweh placed in my heart as a child long ago, has a much higher intended fulfillment with my heavenly Father – I long to bring Him joy and give Him happiness. And what does my Father think of me? I am too aware of what Alzheimer’s does; I know how much my father’s awareness had been dimmed, being made so incredibly thin, and I also know the ways of my heavenly Father. I believe that what my earthly father said to me in his final moments of awareness, was indeed the words from my heavenly Father to me. They were much too lucid otherwise.
After Dad died, I pondered from time to time on those words, and what they could mean – “Gary, you have a beautiful face.” I knew Yahweh was not talking about personal appearance; that point was obvious. So what was there about me that would elicit this response from my heavenly Father? How was my face beautiful to Him? It was not until five months later that the answer came.
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