Just recently, I went to a funeral for a little girl who battled sickness in a wheelchair most of her life, and she finally “ran to the arms of Jesus” at age 11. At the funeral, someone said “To be born is a blessing and to die is a must”. While we all mourned her death for being so young, that statement rang so true to me for my dad as well. My dad has been battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since spring of 2019, although the doctors didn’t know that’s what it was until June 2020. While 2020 was a crappy year in so many ways, the shutdown of Uganda in regards to Adalyn’s school and our ministry allowed us to be able to travel to the U.S. at the end of July 2020 and spend 5 months in America, and about 3 of those months of quality time with my parents.
I wouldn’t take away that time for anything. It was a hard and beautiful time together. Not only did we get to care for my dad, give my mom some relief, and do several projects for them, we also had wonderfully deep and difficult conversations; we got to laugh a lot and we cried a lot. We shared life and the struggle together. Adalyn got to ride her bike alongside my dad in his motorized wheelchair through the neighborhood. She got to go to the zoo and aquarium with him. Leland took them on countless donut and ice cream trips together. We got to take him to Galveston so he could show Adalyn several of his favorite fishing spots. We were blessed with this time together and we knew it was precious because a goodbye would be coming. And not just the usual “goodbye” of living across the ocean but the goodbye until we see each other again in heaven. And that was hard!
But my dad was a good dad. We danced to the song “Daddy’s Hands” at my wedding because that encompasses my relationship with my dad. My dad was there to discipline me when I got into trouble. My dad was there when I got lost and needed directions. My dad was there when I chose a college. My dad was there to guide me when I made mistakes. My dad was there when I decided to marry Leland. My dad was there to celebrate when we had Adalyn. My dad was there in support when we decided to move to Uganda. It wasn’t always easy, and he definitely was there to drive me crazy sometimes and push all my buttons. But man, he was a good dad! And he was an even better Grumps to Adalyn. Maybe that was because he started on her level as a toddler and they slowly grew up together. 😉
I will always have all these precious memories stored in my heart, both from my childhood and from our time with my parents in 2020. I will remember helping my dad get in and out of bed with a machine. I will remember having tough conversations about life with ALS and what the future holds. I will remember having the needed but tearful conversation about my dad’s faith and being able to let go when it was time. I will miss him terribly. My mom will miss him terribly. My siblings will miss him terribly. Leland and Adalyn will miss him terribly. But I can hold firm to the knowledge that he lived a good life and I will see him again one day. He loved fishing and woodworking, so I can just see him and Jesus hanging out a lot together.
Thank you for all your prayers, words of encouragement and comfort. Thank you for loving my family well.