My Dad reached life’s sunset on Thursday evening, 10 March, at 8.10pm. He was exactly midway between 80 and 81 - not a bad age at all.
Towards the end, his vascular dementia had taken its toll and he lost his appetite and his thirst, linked presumably with the fact that he couldn’t swallow anymore. His weight inevitably declined as the last few weeks passed, and as my step mother remarked at one point, he began to resemble the men you see in history book photos of concentration camp survivors, a very distressing thing to see.
In the last few days I couldn’t take any photographs showing his face - it felt disrespectful and too painful, as that was definitely not how I wanted to remember him. But I did take a couple of pictures showing the one thing that seemed to bring him comfort in those final days - a polar bear cuddly toy - with his arms resting on it. I began to prepare one to use with this story, but found that I couldn’t. Again it just didn’t feel right. It is too personal, too private. So I opted for the sunset picture above. Actually taken a little while ago as I came away from the hospital where he had been for 3 months at the end of 2015, it seems on reflection to be a more appropriate picture. A kinder way to signify his passing, even if not so poignant.
Inevitably there is sadness and pain as this loss sinks in. With Easter looming it is likely that the funeral may not take place for another two and a half weeks at least, which doesn’t exactly help. But there is also a deep sense of relief, and yes, joy even, in knowing that the confusion and weakness caused by the dementia are now a thing of the past for him. And Easter is perhaps the most appropriate time for these events to have occurred, as it is at this time that Christians celebrate the wonderful truth of Jesus’ resurrection and his victory over death. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthian 15:54-57 - ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
My father had a strong Christian faith and believed, as I do, that in Jesus we have a hope of eternal life. I rejoice, even in the midst of my sadness, that my Dad is in a better place - with his God and Saviour. At the moment my Dad died, my brother was reading to him Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John’s Gospel chapter 17 and had reached verse 24: ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.’ What an appropriate moment to be called home!
My Dad is now seeing something of that glory, and that is a very comforting truth indeed.