Grip Strongly ’til the End

Recently spent the last days and nights alongside my dads’ deathbed cheering him to the finish line.  A solemn privilege.  At 91, having lived a courageous and giving life, “it was a good day to die!”

One rich memory flooded back from when I was about 4.  We’d often go horseback riding, a favorite pastime of his, and a blast for a kid who liked the adventure and thrill of the cowboy life he invited me into.  On this occasion, I remember him singing the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”  He didn’t sing often, but this seemed to come from his heart.  Twenty years ago, he suffered a stroke that cost him his voice and paralyzed his right side.  Let me tell you, you don’t have to have a voice to “Tell the Old Old Story.”  His eyes and his left hand became his tongue.

Anyway, during those last nights at his bedside, I sang some rousing renditions of “I Love to Tell the Story,” back to him knowing it encapsulated his life story.  “Twill be my theme in glory” seemed so fitting.  We sang it at his funeral.  I melted into a puddle of joy knowing his Father was inviting him into a life of adventure and thrill that I can only continue holding as “unseen things above.”  Somehow, that’s enough!

At bedside, I was amazed at the strength of the grip in his one good hand.  I have the hands of a cow milker, but I didn’t stack up well against the hand of a man who communicates everything you need to know at a time like that, through his hand.  Our grip was truly a way of giving and receiving the ineffable.

Back home, I was thinking about this while feeding cows and a poem came to me.  I wrote it out on a salt bag.  He was the dad you want to be like.

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