It was such a long, long ride, but it really wasn’t very far. The house and yard had gotten to be too much for my Dad to take care of. He had just had his 90th birthday, and I didn’t blame him. Mother had been gone eight years. Being alone in a house can be a difficult thing for a man.
Sometimes I would call in the morning and after hearing his raspy voice, I’d ask, “Daddy, are you catching a cold?”
“No,” he’d answer. “I just haven’t spoken to anyone yet, today.”
So I understood.
One time I got a call from one of my uncles asking how Daddy was after a slight stroke he had had. My uncle cautioned that he really shouldn’t be living alone. When I told my dad what his twin brother had said, he quickly responded, “Well, I can’t find anyone to marry me!”
So I really understood.
When he would go to visit his brothers who lived in the same retirement center, he’d come home and say he was going to move down with Kenny and Francis. Then a few days later he’d recant and say how much he liked it where he was. He was such an independent sort. But then it takes a lot of independence to be a pioneer missionary on the banks of the Amazon River. His Brazilian missionary career had lasted over 25 years.
Recently, cooking had become a chore for him. He’d comment about what an insult it was to have to buy the food, cook the food, eat the food all alone, THEN clean it up all alone! A few years ago, he even grew his food in a wonderful vegetable garden in his back yard. You know what they say about taking the boy off the farm but never being able to take the farm out of the boy. His Colorado upbringing was still coming through.
Having two older brothers 20 miles away was a very strong pull. Daddy loved to tell people about his “older” brothers. One was 3 years older, and the other was 3 minutes older. They had each moved to Santa Ana while their wives were still alive. They did not have much family close by, however, and my dad’s clan seemed like it was growing each year. He loved the little ones, and used to tell my mother that he hoped we never ran out of babies, while my eight grandchildren were being born. I could always entice him to come over when he lived only a mile away by telling him some of my Grands were going to be here.
Still, it was a long, long ride. The house had sold in record time and for a very good price. My sister and her daughter had come to help make decisions and sort things out. How do you sort, wrap up, and give away a lifetime of memories? My brother and his wife had come to help us by organizing a garage sale. Now it was time to call the movers and actually make the move. It’s not as if moving was a new thing for him. My parents moved more in their lives than anyone I know. It’s just that this would probably be the last move. From his new dwelling place (he doesn’t call it a home, yet) we would place him in the arms of God.
Oh, we’ll all adjust. We’re very adaptable people. It’s that it was such a long, long ride – but it wasn’t very far.
A few years later, the time came for him to meet his Savior face to face. If he said it once, he said it a hundred times: “Pneumonia is the old man’s friend!” meaning it would be the means through which he would leave this life.
Both my husband and I, my sister, and two of our daughters had been to see him the day before when he looked longingly at me and asked, “Am I going to die tomorrow?”
“Is that what you want to do, Daddy?” I responded.
“No,” came the feeble reply, “Today!”
By the next day, he could no longer speak, and was lying in his bed, eyes open, with a fixed gaze upward. Even though we urged him to tell us if he saw anything, there was no response. A nurse came by to tell us it would not be long now, as she explained the process of dying.
And so, it was on yesterday’s tomorrow, that the oxygen machine was turned off as we noticed his breathing had stopped. I closed his eyes knowing that he had just taken a short, short ride into all eternity as he went to be with his Lord whom he loved to serve. — by Jean Hedrick
Jean Hedrick grew up in the home of Grace Brethren missionaries, Keith and Vivian Altig, who opened the field of Brazil for the Brethren Foreign Missionary Society in 1949. She lives in Southern California.