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April 13, 2012 / dcwisdom

The Art of Dying Well – One

Back in the days of one-room school houses, teachers taught beautiful, slanted, cursive writing.  My dad, Jack (a lefty), went on to win certificates in handwriting in the 1930s.  That was back in the days when the 3-Rs were the foundation for learning, before all the politically correct crap surfaced and, ever so slowly, slid its way into classroom curricula smothering real education.  Those were the days when children memorized multiplication and division tables, diagrammed complex sentences, and spelled “exacerbate” in sixth grade.

Jack was smart.  He graduated at 16 years old, having changed schools in three states – Texas, Louisiana, and California.  Each time the family moved, Dad bumped up a grade.  He was the only child in his family who earned his Bachelors, Masters, and completed all but the dissertation and residency of his doctorate.  He worked on his doctorate while I was in high school and was also my high school principal.  Now, that was a trip!

I was proud of Jack.  He L.O.V.E.D. people and loved any sport with a ball.  Whenever Dad was in the nursing home, so many times I wanted to say, “Let me tell you who he is!  He’s one of the world’s greatest men!”  Because of Jack’s experience in a long-term care facility, I learned this lesson:  I began to see other residents for who they were, not just old, useless people in a nursing home.  I discovered the people there were homemakers, quilters, businessmen, military, pastors and ministers, farmers, school teachers, nurses…and they want to tell their stories.

Dad walked with a pep in his step.  The last time I remember that he actually ran somewhere, I ran with him.  No, we weren’t joggers or runners, but for a while Dad and I walked two miles in the mornings together.  We were chased by dogs once, but we didn’t run.  We learned to carry big sticks, though. 

One day, Dad was in his workshop.  The shop sits on the back of a hill where the terrain drops at a fairly steep angle down into a grove of trees and woods.  The two younger children (about 5 and 3) and I returned from somewhere, and I drove to Dad’s shop.  Silly me.  The kids were in their car seats, so I threw the gear shift in park without turning the key off and entered Dad’s shop.  Just for a minute.

Apparently, Sam (5) unbuckled the car seats.  Mary (3) climbed into the driver’s seat and pulled the gear shift into neutral.  When the van started moving, Sam jumped out of the sliding door and ran into the shop, hysterical.  When I finally understood what he was saying, I ran out.  The van was heading down the hill toward the woods with three-year-old Mary in the driver’s seat. 

Dad and I ran as fast as we could down the hill chasing the van.  I remember thinking that I had not seen Dad run like that in years, and in fact, neither had I.  As the van gathered speed, I prayed for the van to miss the trees in the woods.  I knew a car wreck with a three-year-old at the wheel in the middle of the woods would not be pretty.  When the van finally stopped, it missed a huge oak tree by inches.  I just about cried.  Mary stood in the driver’s seat bouncing up and down.  When Dad and I arrived at the van completely out of breath, we found that Mary locked the automatic door locks on the arm rest and finally coaxed her to unlock the doors.  She and Dad were fine.  I was traumatized and wet my pants, and I didn’t know where Sam was.

Dad’s first symptoms of Parkinson’s appeared in the late 1990s, only a short while after the high speed chase incident.  He finished 35 rounds of radiation for cancer which had spread into other areas prior to exhibiting Parkinson’s symptoms.  I always believed the radiation brought on the other diseases – Parkinson’s, dementia, and peripheral neuropathy.

Jack began to shuffle his feet like a penguin.  Mom would say, “Jack, pick up your feet and walk.”  When he thought about it, he did it, but when he didn’t think about walking uprightly, he stooped and shuffled.  Soon, his beautiful handwriting suffered, and he wrote in teensy-weensy letters. Then, he began to forget who he was talking to on the phone and couldn’t follow a conversation.  Although these memories are sad, yet there were many hilarious moments interspersed into the disease process.

As I posted earlier, Dad passed almost three years ago.  In Hebrews 9:27, the Holy Scripture says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  Many people are given a time frame for death, and many choose to die well.  Dad had a ten-year frame, although no one’s ever given a date, except those on death row.  Dad died well, and he knew his eternal destination.

So, if we know we will die, what about the judgment?

Peace and love.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  God bless Israel.  God help America.




  1. debsladybugtexas / Apr 13 2012 6:36 AM

    Your Dad sounds like a great man thank you for sharing him with us

    • dcwisdom / Apr 13 2012 10:06 AM

      You’re welcome, Deb. Have a wonderful weekend in Big D!

  2. jmgoyder / Apr 13 2012 1:43 AM

    Wonderful post in every way!

    • dcwisdom / Apr 13 2012 10:05 AM

      Reliving bittersweet memories. Thanks. I hope you are doing well today.

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