My father lay sick in a hospital bed recovering from a collapsed lung, when just a few weeks before he had been the picture of health. Daddy had acquired the unthinkable while in the hospital to have the lung repaired—a staph infection. As I traveled from Texas to Mississippi to visit him, the diagnosis had not yet been made, but we did know something was terribly wrong.
My beloved father was a man of integrity, loved by all who knew him. Every night I would see him kneeling beside his bed in prayer, but he never talked openly about his faith. It always bothered me that he would ask if I had been to the dentist or if I had seen the eye doctor, but he never inquired about my relationship with the Lord. Not knowing if my dad would live another 20 years or if he would be gone in an instant, I prayed God would give me a sign so I could be assured of Daddy’s eternal destination while visiting him.
My memory is foggy regarding the visit to the hospital, but there is one thing I will never forget. My mother, sister and I were gathered in the small, cold room when one of the pastors from my parent’s church came to check on his friend. The kind old minister asked my father if he could pray for him and he replied yes. I don’t recall what was verbalized in the prayer that day, but the words out of my father’s mouth when it was over were obviously God’s answer to my prayer. He stated, “Pastor, all I can do is trust in Jesus.” Wow! There was no doubt where Daddy would spend eternity; he would be with Jesus forever. Those were the last words I ever heard my daddy speak. I still get tears in my eyes thinking about God’s gracious gift to three women who heard those reassuring words.
Several weeks later, on a Sunday morning, the entire family was summoned to the hospital, knowing this would be “the morning.” Daddy had not stirred for days. No eyes opened. No words from his mouth. No gestures of love. But as his family encircled his bed, we could tell he just didn’t want to leave this world. He loved life and family and wanted to be able to participate in graduations and weddings and births, but we all knew it was not to be.
Since I had heard the expression of his faith weeks earlier, I was able to encourage my father to leave his failing body by saying, “Daddy, go to Jesus. He is waiting for you and wants you to come to Him.” At that moment, my father’s beautiful clear blue eyes opened and rested on each person in the room. Then he closed them and smiled.
Daddy was gone from this earth, but we could celebrate because we knew why he was smiling—heaven and earth had touched.