Major Dad

Hey, Precious Ones. It feels like I’ve been out of the loop and almost on another planet for weeks. I am so grateful to Amanda for keeping you posted on all that has transpired around here recently. I have been astonished by so many shows of sympathy and affection in the homegoing of my Dad, the Major. You would think that we would have known that it probably wouldn’t be long until Dad passed away since he was 86 years old. (I have a large family and I fall toward the end of the birth order which helps to explain why my parents were ten years older than Keith’s.) It’s just that Dad was so dang active. So hard to pin down. Impossible to keep off the highway. (He drove amazingly well for a person who insisted on using both feet, one on the accelerator and one on the brake. Let’s just say there was a fair amount of whiplash to be had when you took a spin with him. You didn’t nap much with Dad at the wheel.) He and his beloved wife (my step-mom), Maddy, had just driven to Pasadena, Texas for fried catfish the day before. Their Scrabble board was still out in the breakfast room with all the words on it. (Reader that I am, I had to stare at the words and see if I could discern any kind of deep message in them. I couldn’t.) We went through such a long and arduous journey toward my mom’s death nine years ago. Something of our family slowly died with her, one difficult day at a time. That was our only experience with death in our immediate family, I’m thankful to say, so I think we were expecting something like that. That’s not what happened.

Last Friday morning, I was getting ready for the day. Amanda, Curt, and Jackson were in town and I was going to get to take Jacks to lunch at Living Proof with my staff while AJ and Curt grabbed lunch with some of their best buddies. I was looking so forward to it. Then I got a call from Maddy. “Beth, Honey.” (Always calls me those two words.) “Your Daddy is really sick. I wonder if you’d help me figure out what I should do.” She told me his symptoms and, honestly, I thought an old ulcer that had left a lot of scar tissue had acted up again. We decided she should call 911 then I soon headed out the door to drive across town to the hospital where we anticipated they’d take him. I called most of my brothers and sisters (who live all over the country) and told them what had happened but that I didn’t expect it to be life threatening. Boy, was I wrong.

I reached the hospital soon after Maddy arrived. She and I were tightly huddled in the waiting room when a young physician came out and told us that a helicopter was on it’s way to get him. That he needed to be at the Texas Medical Center so they could open his skull. He was bleeding pretty profusely in the brain and they needed to relieve the pressure. We were floored but prepared to head wherever they told us to go. The fewest moments later, the same doctor came back out and told us that the bleeding had been too severe and that it was too late for surgery. In the same breath, he took me to the side and said that Dad would never wake up. He explained that his life was ending and asked if we knew any instructions Dad had concerning life support. I could not believe my ears. It all happened so fast my brain couldn’t catch up. Thankfully, Dad had been hauntingly clear about not wanting to be kept alive on any kind of machines and had placed it in writing. At the same time, I’m not sure I’ve ever been through many things more immediately traumatizing than holding his warm but lifeless hand while they removed that breathing tube. I could sob about it even now.

A few minutes later, my man arrived. Moments after that, one of my sisters. She proved utterly indispensable through the ordeal and I’m not sure I’ve ever loved her more. Dad was moved to a room and his blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate remained stable and strong for the next hours. (Actually, they continued that way until they simply and suddenly ceased.) I tried so hard to get Maddy to let me spend the night with Dad so she could go home but she wouldn’t budge. Nor would I if it were, God forbid, my life partner. My sister insisted since Amanda, Curt, and Jackson were at my house that I go home while she took the night shift and I could take the day shift. I crawled in my bed and tried my hardest to rest but couldn’t. Not many hours later, I wrote my family a note, got back in the car while it was still night, and headed forty minutes back across town to the hospital. Dad’s breathing was very labored but the nurses said he could go on like that even for days. I looked at the tiny little woman he loved so much and could hardly stand the thought of her enduring a long ordeal. After all, she knew her man was gone and would never be back. I asked my sister and Maddy if they wanted to join me around Dad’s bed and ask God to receive His faithful servant speedily, hastening his reward. Neither hesitated. So with tears and firm conviction, three women who loved the same old man in such different – and complicated – ways got on our knees around the three corners of that bed, draped our hands across his feet and asked God to make a merciful visitation to that room at the earliest point His perfect will would allow.

My beloved Jackson had been so upset the night before because he sensed something amiss with the family. The little guy had wanted me to hold him in the waiting room but I had my hands so full with Dad that I couldn’t tend to him. With Maddy and Gay’s insistence, I decided to run back to my side of town early that morning so that I could be there when Jacks awakened, hold him tight, and give him his morning bottle. I’d then head straight back up to the hospital. I never got that chance. God answered the prayers of those three women on their knees around that hospital bed before we knew what hit us. God was so gracious to allow my sister to be right there with our Dad when he was ushered from that cold, sterile hospital room into the warmth of the glorious Sun of Righteousness. Although I wish I had been there, too, I am so touched by Christ’s healing agenda in the way He ordained those circumstances that I can do little more than bow to His wise and graceful plan.

Within an hour, my sister, Gay, and I were with Maddy at the sweet house she shared with my Dad. All three of us were in a state of shock and suddenly in the throes of making countless decisions. Someone needed to make a move and I decided it better be me. Gay hadn’t had a wink of sleep and my step mother was stunned. “Maddy, I know this is so hard right now but I need to get into Dad’s files and get out his burial policy. Could you please show me where I should start looking?” She got me by the hand, walked me in their little home office, and opened a drawer full of well organized files. A few moments later I pulled out a brown folder clearly labeled “Burial.” Not only was his policy right there for easy access, he’d written fourteen implicit instructions for his funeral. (Yes, they were numbered. I have nearly all of them memorized in order at this point.) Some of them were so “him” – so completely HIM – like how to cut corners on the spending (Lord have mercy, he was cheap) that Gay and I lapsed into a pool of hysteria. We laughed until we cried and the writer of Proverbs was right. It was good medicine. Soon, all of my brothers and sisters, all the grandkids, nephews, and nieces, converged on Houston, Texas. And every time they asked me a question about “how” we should do “what,” I got to say, “Number 6 – or number 9, or number 12 out of 14 – states clearly that…”

Major Dad was gone. But his list was still with us. Number 14 provided the perfect wrap up: “It is my hope there will be more laughter than tears.” How perfect that God would use the man himself to provide so much of it. With great affection and respect, I’d like to suggest that my Dad was never funnier than when he didn’t mean to be. Ask any of us. He was a handful.

My Dad poured out the last many years of his life to feed the homeless. He was a constant fixture at the area grocery stores where he gathered day-old perishables to take to shelters. I have no idea how many day-old pastries all of us who loved him have eaten with him. Mary, Dad’s pastor’s secretary, told me that Dad was personally responsible for the ten extra pounds on her hips. You see, as if the donuts were not fattening enough, since they tended to be a bit stale, the staff would cut them in half, toast them and butter them in order to make them taste good enough to eat.

Though I trust God has a provision, I don’t know exactly what those homeless shelters will do without Major Dad. I’m not sure you can get that level of dedication and service out of a person who hasn’t served in a couple of wars and who never learned the word “quit.” He’d taken a bullet in the face, for crying out loud. Nobody but nobody was going to get between him and Kroger day-olds. If Dad could have his last wish, nobody would ever be homeless. Nobody would ever go hungry. Major Albert B. Green is Home now. Home in a zip code anybody can share. “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all people, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)


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