Archive for the ‘Stories, thoughts, family’ Category

The Tear

“If you want to be sure he hears you, talk to him when you see his brow furrow. At that time he will be in a lot of pain but will also be more alert. At this time you will want to give him a couple of drops of morphine to make him comfortable.”

These instructions came from the caring hospice nurse as my mom, my brothers, our spouses, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, cousins, and my dad’s closest friends as we gathered around his bed on April 19, 1999.

Daddy was coming to the end of his life here on earth. He was getting ready to step into eternal life . . . a life away from the pain of cancer. How could we ask him to stay? To continue fighting his battle? To hold out a little longer? We couldn’t. Once the hospice nurse explained to us the pain he was experiencing and told us his organs were shutting down we knew it was time to let him go.

So, around the bed we waited with him, for there was no other place we would rather be. It had been early in the morning when we heard his last words as he called out to my mother. The rest of the day he was still and quiet as he moved closer to his new home. All day we waited with him. Family and friends came to tell him good-bye and stayed. How do you say good-bye to a loved one? Minute by minute until they take their last breath. And that’s what we did. We sat and talked around his bed so he would know he wasn’t alone. And that is when the nurse gave the medicine dropper to one of my brothers.  The nurse told John to watch daddy’s face and if he seemed to be moving or his brows beginning to furrow, then he was in pain and John needed to give daddy three drops of morphine. She went on to say at this point there was no reason to make him suffer, however this was also the time he would be most alert.

At first I don’t think we realized what she was saying, but as her words begin to sink into our grief-striken hearts we began to understand that at this point he may be able to hear us. For the next couple of hours we would watch for any sign of him being in pain. At that moment John would carefully give him a few drops of morphine as we all took turns talking to him. We took those moments to tell him we loved him, to tell him good-bye, and to assure him we would all be together again some day.

A painful look, three drops of morphine, words of love proclaimed. We didn’t know if he heard us, but we continued doing this all afternoon. As the sun was setting on this, his last day, we began to wonder if he actually could hear us. Once again a painful look, three drops of morphine, words of love proclaimed. But there was one particular time we knew he heard us because as we took turns talking to him we noticed rolling down his ashen face . . . the tear.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; . . . ”  (Psa. 56:8 NKJV)

John Leland King, Sr.

Dec. 11, 1934 – April 19, 1999

The Ultimate Victory

The sun was casting a slight glare on the hardwood floors as I reached for the ringing phone that broke through the silence of my quiet morning. My mother’s voice seemed strained and I soon knew why. “Daddy went to the doctor today and they have found a spot on his lung.” Total silence—I felt an awful weight come upon me and the room seemed to spin. Everything around me felt different to the point I wondered if the earth just missed a rotation of its very axis.

My 63-year-old, 6’ 3”, seemingly healthy dad was scheduled for a biopsy at the end of the week. In waiting room chairs that had held as many fragile hopes and dreams as people, our entire family sat waiting for the results.  To fill the silence, encouraging words were whispered as we held on to our own hopes that things would turn out well.

With each set of footsteps we raised our heads in unison waiting for the doctor. We knew the news would bring a sigh of relief or a gut wrenching pain and we thought we were prepared for either. However when the footsteps stopped and the door opened we could see from the doctor’s expression there would be no sigh of relief.

The tears fell as we asked, “How bad is it?”

“What’s our next step?”

“Are you sure?”

“Is it only in one place?”

“Does he know?” That was the most difficult question to ask. No, he did not know. We braced ourselves to enter his room where the nurses were preparing him to leave.

We walked in and there he was, the leader of our family, joking and telling stories of his travels to the nurses. When they looked at him they smiled. When they looked at us, we could see the sadness in their eyes. They knew, we knew, Daddy did not.

Driving to a nearby restaurant, I watched my parents as they drove alone in front of us. My heart was crying out for the Lord to give them the strength they needed as one spoke and the other listened to what would change their lives.

That was the beginning of an 11-month battle as my dad tried to beat the vicious cancer that weakened his body. With shadows growing longer as we sat around his bed at home, he labored for his last breath. The sun set that night and his life ended. However his life didn’t end there, for he had a new home—heaven—and he had the ultimate victory.

Today is the 12th year of Daddy’s home-going and I can’t help but be reminded of God’s faithfulness. He was faithful through the battle, through the death, and through the grief. There was never any reason to fear, for God walked with us and He still does. Each of our journeys on earth will end one day. I’m so thankful that I too will one day share my dad’s home, a new home—heaven—and I too will have the ultimate victory.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” (Psa. 23:4).

John Leland King, Sr.

Dec. 11, 1934 – April 19, 1999

A New Man

The azaleas my Dad planted around the yard with such care were finally blooming. So were the hyacinths, tulips, and dogwoods. In earlier years Daddy would spend hours outside either working in his yard or just standing and surveying the work he had done as he turned steaks on the grill. I would watch him from the kitchen window and wonder what he was looking at with such interest. Now, with my own yard I know – He was admiring the work that had been done while at the same time planning what he wanted to do next.

This particular year was quite different, the azaleas, hyacinths, tulips, and dogwoods were blooming, however Daddy was unable to enjoy the works of his many years of labor. The hospital bed that had been delivered only a few weeks earlier and the bedroom he and my mom had shared since they were a young couple with three small children had become his only world.

This didn’t stop my brother who had recently bought a camcorder to capture the first days of his new baby girl from going outside and making a video of Daddy’s beautiful yard.  Bob was so excited about doing this for our Dad that he immediately hooked the camcorder up to the television that was in his room.  The rest of the family that was visiting that day gathered around as Bob brought the beauty of the spring day inside. This time as I watched my Dad, not from the kitchen window but from a chair beside his hospital bed, I noticed a completely different look on his face. No longer was he admiring the work he had done and he was no longer planning what he wanted to do next.

The sadness that moved across my heart was almost more than I could handle. The hospice nurse had already given us “THE BLUE BOOK” and it was very straightforward in explaining the mental process of someone with a terminal illness. The word used was “detachment.” Yes, I had noticed that Daddy no longer cared about the newspaper or the 6:00 News, however this was different. His yard was personal. And from the look in his eyes, I knew he was removing himself, preparing himself for what was ahead. The yard was not important even though it had been one of his greatest pleasures. His greatest pleasure now was the people around his bed.

These memories and so many more flood into my heart throughout the year. Then the calendar turns to April 19 and the world continues on as if it is another day. Perhaps it is to most, but to the family and friends of Leland King, it is a day in which we reflect not only on the loss of a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, co-worker, and friend, but what we gained by him being in our lives.

As I write with tear stained cheeks I hold on to the promise that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away . . . behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:4, 5). He made Daddy a new man – whole and healthy – so when the memories begin, this is what I try to remember the most!

John Leland King, Sr.

Dec. 11, 1934 – April 19, 1999

Grandmother’s Love

My grandmother is no longer living however if she lived in these days you would see her riding down the country roads of her community in a mini-van with eight stenciled decals on the back windshield, five boys and 3 girls, with the caption “I love my Grandchildren.” The vanity license plate would read LV8GKDS and her front license plate would daringly say, “Let me tell you about my Grandchildren.” Her email address would proudly be grandmaof8@aol.com and her Facebook profile picture would show all eight of us giving her a big hug. No matter what we did, she loved us even though we gave her plenty of reasons to quote scripture verses about “grace” and “patience.”

Sunday afternoons were spent in the country at the home of our grandparents. We had acres and acres to roam with games to play, battles to win, hunting expeditions to complete, and new territory to discover and claim in the name of our family. Before my Dad pulled the car to a stop under the hundred-year-old walnut tree, my brothers and I were twisting and turning to see if we were the first to arrive. We would bolt from the car, run get our hug from grandmother – how did she always know when we were coming? Did she stand there and wait all morning? – then take off towards the freedom and fun that lay before us. Woods to hike, ponds to skip rocks, fields to run, creeks to jump, old barns to explore, broken down tractors to pretend to drive, trees to climb – more than enough to keep us busy for an afternoon.

Yes, Grandmother loved us dearly, however our triumphs and plans did not always get the positive responses we imagined from her.  You see, the adventures we enjoyed were a constant interruption to her plans. She would have granddaddy sow grass seed, only to have the yard torn up with our mini-bikes and hours of kick the can. She would pick up sticks and clean her front yard for it to be destroyed by eight children having the apple fight of all apple fights. Antique furniture passed down through the family, with nicks and scratches that added character, were always being tumbled over and hid behind during great games of hide and seek.  Beautiful Christmas table centerpieces were destroyed at Christmas dinners. There was something about the little lit candles, shaped like angels and children in choir robes, beckoning us to try and cook our turkey or see who could hold their fingers in the flame the longest. Large mountains of leaves racked by grandmother during the week and waiting for granddaddy to pick up on the weekend were too tempting not to run through and throw up in the air to be swept away by the wind.

No matter what we did, or didn’t do, she loved us. Grass was re-sow, apple pies were baked, furniture was polished, Christmas centerpieces, including candle angels and children in choir robes re-appeared and leaves – well there was always time to rake leaves.

Back then technology wasn’t available for her to twitter, blog, or comment and post pictures on Facebook but we knew her heart was full of love for each one of us. No matter what had happened during the visit, we knew we would get the same warm hug we received when we arrived. And as she hugged us and told us good-bye, she actually asked when we were coming back. And we would come back, usually the next Sunday afternoon or on a Saturday to spend the night. We always wanted to go back. Not only for the fun, but because each one of us knew we had a very special place – not just a place where the adventures never stopped but most of all, a place where grandmother’s loved never changed!

Daddy’s Shoes

My dad’s side of the closet was filled with shoes that reflected his love of life. He had his polished wingtips in which he had walked the pavement of many cities, office buildings, and textile plants at home and around the world. The golf shoes came out on weekends or any other day he could sneak to the course. If a Saturday came and he was not playing golf, he could be found wearing his mud-caked brogans and working in the showy flowerbeds that were the envy of the neighborhood. Dock siders were worn when the weather was good for fishing, and hunting boots were always dug out from under the pile when the hunting season began. In his earlier years, he also had his basketball high-tops, cleats for baseball then softball, and boating shoes for our many trips to the lake for a day of picnicking, skiing, and tubing.

But then the call came.  “Daddy went to the doctor today and they have found a spot on his lung.” I felt an awful weight come upon me and then the room began to spin. Everything around me felt different to the point I wondered if the earth just missed a rotation of its very axis.

In the months that followed, his side of the closet stayed full and disheveled with all different pairs of shoes, but some of them began to collect dust. The hunting boots were the first because after a June diagnosis the effects of chemo in the fall kept him from going on the once anticipated hunting trip with his buddies. He kept wearing his wingtips as he continued to work, however they no longer walked pavements around the world. As he grew weaker, they even covered less area of the parking lot pavement because a new sign was added outside the entrance that read “Mr. King’s Parking Spot.” Oh, he was forever the optimist—he tried to wear his brogans and keep the weeds out of his once pristine flowerbeds and he even carried his golf shoes to the course in an effort to play. Soon, those too began to collect dust from being placed aside.

We eventually bought him a new pair of slippers because his pair didn’t have enough traction and we were afraid he would fall as he shuffled down the hall where he once chased us as children to our bedrooms for a quick good night. This once healthy 6’3’’ man, who had traveled the world and enjoyed life to the fullest, was now wearing only his slippers.

It was a non-descript day in March when the van drove through our circular drive to deliver the hospital bed. He no longer wore any of the shoes that were his companions through the years. Now there were no shoes, only thick socks that kept his feet warm as they were gently placed on small white pillows the Hospice nurse brought to the house for his comfort.

The week before his death, I sat at the foot of his hospital bed and cradled his feet and thought of the scripture that reads “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach good news.” I knew that his feet were beautiful because through his pain and suffering he continued to share his testimony and the good news of Jesus Christ to his family and friends.

No shoes were needed as he passed from this life to eternal life. No shoes were needed as he slipped away from our whispers of “Daddy, we love you” to Jesus saying “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” No shoes were needed as his feeble cancer-ridden body was replaced with his new glorified body. His feet no longer needed the dust-collecting array of shoes in the closet by his hospital bed in his bedroom that spring night he died. I thought he was living life to the fullest considering all the shoes he collected, but now I realize that Daddy’s shoes were just a covering for his journey here on earth, for he had reached his final destination – heaven. Streets of gold, no shoes required.