As all the family gathered for the second time in ten days to say goodbye, we circled his bed, prayed, read Psalms, sang the hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone" and I anointed him with oil and asked that God would answer all the good prayers for him from around the world in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. My mom began to whisper in his ear that we all loved him and we understood that if he was too tired he could go and we would see him again on that wonderful day of resurrection. As she whispered to him, we literally watched his panting for breath at 60+ times per minute slow to 22-24 deeper breaths per minute along with a rise of his oxygen level back over 90. Over the next two hours he stabilized and the doctor helped us to make the decision to return him to the ventilator if he needed to. After a couple more hours he improved enough that we did not have to put him back on the ventilator.
All day friends came by bringing prayers, love, food and hugs. Tonight, Lexi, our six-year-old granddaughter and one of three great granddaughters finally talked me into showing her grandpa on Facetime because she couldn't go into his ICU room. She knew grandpa was close to death but she insisted. I took my phone into his room. He hadn't been responsive for nearly 20 hours. As I was showing Lexi grandpa on my iPhone, he opened his eyes. I said, "Look daddy, Lexi wants to say hi." "Hi Grandpa." Big smile, "Hi Lexi." Lexi, "Love you grandpa." Grandpa, "Love you Lexi. Are you still swimming?" "No, grandpa, I'm finished until the fall but I won two medals." "Love you, Grandpa." "Love you Lexi." "Night, night."
I walked Lexi to the car to go home and sat outside a bit to enjoy a rare rain shower. Vicki called from the room, "Where are you? Your dad wants you to turn on the Royals game, he knows it's time for the game." The earliest connections I remember with my father were around baseball. I told him that the Royals have played great since he has gotten sick. He wondered if he should stay sick a little longer.
In the days and months ahead I have a lot of theological reflection to do about life and death but mostly about prayer. What is going on when we pray? What is the intersection between God's action and our action? My father is known as a Man of Prayer by all who really know him. I believe with all my heart that prayer is transformational. My father is a testimony to this, not necessarily by what has happened to him on this day, July 25, 2013 but because of who he is all the time.
This is a prayer one of my friends and youth worker colleague's shared with me today and is also a part of our Youthfront prayer liturgy.
"Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
And finally, here is the prayer for the completion of this day. I invite you to pray it with me.
Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.
Father, bless the work that is done,
and the work that is to be.
Father, bless the servant that I am,
and the servant that I will be.
Thou Lord and God of power,
shield and sustain me this night.
I will lie down this night with God,
and God will lie down with me;
I will lie down this night with Christ,
and Christ will lie down with me;
I will lie down this night with the Spirit,
and the Spirit will lie down with me;
God and Christ and the Spirit,
be lying down with me.
The peace of God
be over me to shelter me,
under me to uphold me,
about me to protect me,
behind me to direct me,
ever with me to save me.
The peace of all peace
be mine this night
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.