“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither;
and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
–Psalm 1: 1-3
Sunday afternoon. Sun sank on my father’s earthly life. Something told me, if ever I was to do it, that day should be the day.
Nearing the end of his battle with Alzheimer’s disease, essentially unable to speak, walk, or care for himself, Dad resided in our local VA nursing home, a place of compassion and peace. Mother sat faithfully at his bedside, feeding his body and soul, singing, reminiscing, showing him snapshots of himself.
It was Sunday afternoon. The Psalmist was speaking. I was listening.
Giving Mother some respite, I shut the door and sat down in front of Dad, close enough to touch his face, to see the vessels in his eyes. I wanted to hear them speaking to my soul as I shared what was on my heart. I knew the end was nearing, and I wanted him to know how grateful I was for his life. For his fatherhood.
Not sure if he would understand everything I was about to say, I started with silence, with touch; holding his hand, looking long into his eyes. I quieted my mind and tried to listen. Sensing the holiness of the moment, I humbled myself, thinking of the Psalm. After a while, I spoke, as tenderly and honestly as I could.
“Papa, there are some things I need to say to you, some things I want you to know.”
The cold, blank stare somehow warmed.
“I’ve never told you this. You are the best man I have ever known. I look up to you and try to be like you. You are the best father I could ever hope to have. I thank God for you, for your love, and for all you have done for me. I will try to follow the example you have set. You have always done what you thought was right, and your faithfulness to God, to your family, neighbors, community and country inspire me.”
He cried. I knew he understood. I knew. His body and mind were so broken. Yet “his leaf also shall not wither…”
“Papa, I know you are tired. You have fought the fight and run the race courageously, cared for your family, and your legacy is one of love and faithfulness. It is all right to let go, Papa. It is all right. We love you, pray for you, and are with you. God will care for us, as He cares for you. We love you, Papa.”
A few weeks later, kneeling in a hospice prayer room beside a lit candle commemorating his life, I breathed a prayer of gratitude for having been given the opportunity to say these things while he was still living. I come back to them every Father’s Day.
“Blessed is the man…”
“Beyond the Sunset,” watercolor art by Lester E. Potts, Jr., an artist who had Alzheimer’s