Thursday, January 15, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part IV

My Beautiful Parents: Lovely and Refined as Always
After spending over a month watching my parents' health quickly decline, I have spent many hours sitting by their bedside, talking with my Mom and Dad and visiting with the many family members and friends that have visited them. 

One more thing I did a lot of -- think. 

And talk with the Lord.

Now that I'm back in Arkansas with my husband and kids, I find myself still thinking quite a bit. And feeling a lot. 

So this blog series is the baby birthed out of all that thinking. And praying. And feeling. 

There's so much I could share...

About the way my father's hand felt as I held it after his second surgery.

How it felt to tuck my mother in at night before I left the hospital, placing her sheets and blankets snuggly around her shoulders. How it felt nurturing and loving, and made me wonder when exactly I had reversed roles with the woman who had tucked me in bed every night as a child.

How I watched my father enter a confused state, and reminisced on conversations we'd had in the past. How he used to call me often, never using his mobile phone's contact list. Always dialing from memory. And how he would call several times while my family and I traveled by minivan from Maryland back to Arkansas. 

I'd look at the phone and say, "Wow... It's Dad again." And I'd chuckle before I answered.

What I wouldn't give for one of those calls today...

I could share so much. Instead I've felt compelled to share the wisdom my parents have imparted, even during their illnesses. It's been a blessing to share my mother's powerful words, "It's all birthday. Every day." And to share the power of "The Gift of Presence" in the lives of hurting people around us.

Today, I want to share a lesson my Dad has taught me. Anyone who knows my Dad well has heard him say, "In life, you have to remember what's most important. God first, then your family." My father has lived life with this mantra, and his life-theme was most evident during this last month since he's been in the hospital.

God First... 

If I've ever seen the activity of God, I must say, this past five weeks have revealed God and His power like never before. 

I remember asking friends and family members to pray for my Mom's failed kidneys. She'd begun having dialysis three times a week, and my sisters and I had begun to consider this being another life change for her. We prayed that her kidneys would begin working again, but we'd resigned ourselves to the huge possibility that she'd have dialysis for the rest of her life.

I'll never forget the day I walked into my mother's hospital room, said hey to my sisters who'd already been sitting with her, and stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at a container on the floor at the foot of my Mom's bed, and the recognition of what the container held hit me. 

"Is that urine?" I nearly yelled.

My Mom's nursing tech shot me a look that said, Who is this idiot and where did she come from? She actually said, with irritation in her voice, "Uh, yes..."

At the time her annoyance was lost on me, as I was overjoyed at this miraculous sign of the functioning of my Mom's kidneys. "Her kidneys haven't worked in weeks," I explained. "This is an answer to prayer. We've been praying that her kidneys would start working again."

So far those kidneys are still kicking it and doing their job. Who said God doesn't answer prayers?

My Dad's exhortation of "God first" has served him well for 80 years. 

He's the One who decides what today and tomorrow will bring. He's the giver and sustainer of life. He's the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. He knows every hair on our head. He knew the day we'd be born and He knows the day we'll depart.

He's got it all figured out. Our job is to stay connected to Him. To trust Him with our whole hearts.

Then Your Family... 

My father is the epitome of a family man. He adores my Mom. (I'll share more about that tomorrow.) He loves his three daughters. When people joked him for many years about never getting that son he must have wanted, he never, ever played into the joke. He's always been clear that he's loved having three daughters and wouldn't change that for the world.

And he loves his extended family - the whole lot of them. Talking with one of his cousins after my Dad's first surgery, I laughed when he mentioned my Dad calling him every few hours when he took a road trip. That is his way. He didn't just call and check up on his daughters, he'd call many of his family members every single day.

This past month has given his family the opportunity to return that love. His brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews have visited and called often. Not to mention all those friends-like-family. It's been amazing to see the love.

But then again, my Dad's been nurturing this kind of love for decades.

His love for God.

His love for his family.

What a testimony.

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