The decision had been made. Cancer was present in his body and he wanted no chemo or radiation. Period. There was a massive amount of respect that was granted to him from my being in him making that decision. He wanted to live. He wanted to be himself. He wanted to not focus on being sick. And ONE of the top five reasons I respected this and him so much is because he spent SO much time, SO many years, of my life being sick. Cancer was not the enemy during those times and years…his mind was. “Manic Depression” was the title of his sickness then and that evolved into a condition given the name “Bi-Polarism.” Believe me when I tell you…cancer was a much better sickness. Because what I witnessed with my eyes and absorbed in my soul was the selfless decisions my dad was making in “dealing” with cancer that I never saw him make during my child/young adulthood with bi-polarism.
I was realistic. I am a realist. Things just “are what they are.” I knew the day/time was coming that my dad would be in so much pain that he would need to be medicated ~~HIGHLY~~ to not just be miserably dying. So, a couple of attempts had been made to ease his pain (which he never ever ever complained about mind you) because Extra Strength Tylenol just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Yes, a full body infested cancer patient was managing pain with Tylenol. He did not want to be highly medicated and talk out of his head and not know my mother or mistreat her in any way or be a lifeless burden she would have to take care of every minute. He chose to rely on God and the power of prayer to deal with this tissue destroying disease…he sacrificed comfort for his own body in order to make life “easier” for my mother. He was choosing to think of her and not his own needs. But the pain began to increase. And intensify. And wasn’t easily subsided anymore. A pain patch was administered and after hours of feeling anxious, restless, and agitated…my dad ripped it off his body. He began to feel similarly to how he felt when he was mentally unstable. Aggressive. Ugly. Mean. And he DID NOT want to treat my mother in a disrespectful way. He realized he had done that for too many years as it was. (THAT is called sacrifice people). So, I asked my mom and dad “do you want my opinion?” because I have grown and matured to understand that my parents are adults and are completely capable of making grown up decisions without me telling them what to do. How that happened… hand of God!! Straight up. And upon asking that question, while standing at the bedside of my dads hospice provided hospital bed for their home, my sweet dad replies “yes baby, I do.” Humbly. Honestly. And here is what I offered…
I crawled onto this bed, at his feet and sat facing him as he laid there. I began to rub his arm and speak in a very mild and tender way that a daughter should speak to her daddy.
(And these opportunities ~~THANKFULLY~~ were afforded to me and him several several times during his last year of life on this side of heaven. Thank you God…mean it.)
“Dad, what I want you to understand is this…we KNOW you do not want to ‘not be yourself’ or ‘mistreat mom in any way’ or behave in such a way that is NOT who you really are. We know that you do NOT want to be a burden for mom. So let me inform you a bit about the morphine options. It can be administered to you in high enough doses to not talk out of your head but to just basically put you to sleep. So that you are not in pain. But also know that once this is done, there is likely no chance of you ‘waking back up.’ So. When the pain is just too much dad, just know that we do not want you to be in pain…you deserve better than that from us. This is your life and you have done a brave thing in living like this and we are all very proud that you have handled this like you have.” to which, with tears in his eyes, he replies…
“that’s the best thing I’ve heard today. I think I will just wait a few more days.”
“that’s fine dad. You do what you want. This is about you knowing that we are in 100% support of you and your decisions in this. And you know dad, I spent SOOOOOOO much time as a child/young adult asking the question ‘why’…why was I the child left to witness the sickness of you? why did I have to endure that? why was my time as your baby girl such crap? why did you have to be sick? why was I chosen to be grow up with a dad who was like a freaking roller coaster? why were you so mean? why. why. why?? From the age of 8 and hearing that my dad did not want a wife and 3 kids to the first heart attack that almost took you from this life -which I was praying for at that time- I asked WHY. Well you know dad…it may have taken 31 years BUT the Lord did allow me the understanding of why. I was chosen because the result of that sickness would be a daughter who experienced a full circle life with her dad. You, unknowingly by either of us, built me into a God-fearing, strong, capable, forgiving, and compassionate woman. I now know why. I can handle this (meaning his death) in a way that mom, brother, and sister wont be able to…because I am real, and rational, and understand your purpose. And dad, you nailed it. I’ve told you before you weren’t the perfect dad. And yet that is not entirely true. You were the perfect dad because you were chosen by God to be my dad. And what I learned from your sickness then was strength and overcoming and survival. What I learned from your recovery was forgiveness and humility and compassion. Now, dad, what I am learning every day of life with you here is I am prepared for your death. You have completed your purpose in my life. And I am a better person because of you.”
Being the humble soul my dad was…tears are no longer being held back. They are flowing from his beautiful brown eyes and he musters up the strength to whisper “why are you so good baby?” and immediately…without hesitation…I answer back “Jesus dad. I am only good because of Him. what kind of child of God would I be if I couldn’t forgive you dad for your wrongs in my life? This is so much bigger than us dad. This is about BEING who we are supposed to be because of WHO JESUS is to us. And you deserve forgiveness and love simply because you seek it. You are a good man dad. Your past does not define you. What you leave us does. And you are leaving us an example of humility, and rebuilding, and overcoming, and trust, and simplicity of being a mess up and being made perfect all in one little 67 year span.”
“I love you baby.”
“I love you too dad”
This was the Tuesday before the following Tuesday which brought about my dad’s last heart beat and breath. But I want to involve you in what all my dad lived and was a part of in this short 7 day period…
He went to mid week bible study Wednesday night.
He confessed sin and asked for forgiveness to the Christians at Srygley, where he was an elder for the Lord’s people who congregate there.
He hung out with a host of his family. Smiling, waving, and talking sweetly to each one.
Hosted a spend the night party for me and my kids on Friday night. He was so much fun.
Woke up Saturday morning and made the decision to go to Peach Park. A 3.5ish hour drive. Because he loves peaches. and I had told him back in June that I would take him on some Saturday soon. So, we loaded him and his oxygen and his wheelchair and his wife, his Weasel, his only daughter in law, and 4 of his grands and set sail on the Peach Park journey. Was a pure joy to be around the whole day. Even is EXTREME pain…and factor in running out of gas only 12 miles from home…and 100 degree heat…he never complained. He laughed. he made jokes. And he uttered probably the most funny thing ever…
Mom asks “you alright babe?”
Dad replies “what do you consider to be alright now-a-days?” He was just the best.
Hosted yet another spend the night party for me and my babies on Saturday night.
Attended worship service on the Lords Day morning
And then begin the last 48 hours of his physical life. I visited with them Monday afternoon and shelled peas for them. I sat on the hearth, as I had done SO many times, and just talked with him and mom. He was so easy to talk with…he would listen. Never had a great deal to say. But never had to. The last private conversation he and I shared would be the most beautiful gift he ever gave me. It wasn’t physical. It wasn’t a pretty shiny pony or a brand new car or anything that can be seen or touched. That gift was his undivided attention to me. His expressed assurance of my souls condition because “I know you baby” and he sees the fruit in my life that I listen to and obey the voice of my Maker. He gave me the gift of his love. His last act of selflessness came at the desire he expressed for me to “just spend the night again Weasel” -which he knew I would in a heartbeat- and then immediately followed that with “no, go home to TJ. I don’t like when you leave him by himself for me.”
“I love you too Tressa.” would be the last words I would hear my dad say to me with a full conscious mind. The following day brought about the time that the pain was just too much for him. And in the crazy way that God answers prayer sometimes…dad’s heart would just stop beating BEFORE he was ever administered one ounce of morphine. I mean, it is just impossible for a human being to convince me that God doesn’t hear and answer prayers of His faithful. I seriously, even with as much as I love to write and love to express feelings and love to capture moments down on paper could NOT have written a better “ending” to the story of “a dad and his weasel.” He lived a life…and for 31 of my 39 years was not one of the typical “daddy hung the moon”…and that life prepared me for his death. I know the spiritual applications to make. I know the peace that passes understanding. I know the love my dad had for me. I know my dad was truly heart broken over “that” part of our story. But “that” part…that part my dear sweet friends…is what made the WHOLE part so beautiful.
I pray to have the humor, the humility, and the great hair that was Gary Carl Hovater. My dad. My sweet imperfect perfectly redeemed dad.