By Hope on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 4:44am
I wanted to share a few things with you that I learned during and after my father’s passing. When my father was first diagnosed with metastatic melanoma stage 4 cancer three years ago I began to pray hard for his healing. My dad was given 6 months to live.
I often wondered who I was praying to… I grew up in a Baptist church, knew about the faith and the bible but did I really believe it all? I wanted to, especially now since I needed my prayers to be heard… “save” my father’s life that the cancer was threatening to take away.
My prayer for my father was to find the best treatment and be cured of course, knowing also you can’t stop God’s timing for someone’s life so if that were the case I prayed for a quick painless death – not from the cancer.
Fast forward two and a half years later… my father was cancer free after a new IL2 treatment and surgery to his lung that removed the last remaining tumor.
I was so thankful to the Lord for this miraculous healing of my father I began to search for a church where I could learn more about Him – after all, I still had doubts and often prayed for the faith I witnessed others having. Why didn’t I fully believe like the others? “Why” in so many ways was a word I pondered with often. Surely if someone asked the Lord for faith to believe he would give it right?
September 2010 - I was serious about getting to know GOD, it was a feeling I couldn’t shake. I started to research the word faith and grace in Charlotte, NC looking for a church… moments later Westmoreland Baptist Church appeared on my screen. I listened to a sermon and felt I needed to be there… the following Sunday I made it and the sermon was about faith! Better yet, there was a whole series about faith being taught called the Hall of Faith series, Hebrews chapter 11. I was so excited I told my family about this and wanted them to “jump ship” and come experience where God is. I am happy to say they agreed to share in my excitement and were even more pleased when I told them I accepted the Lord in this church.
December 2010 - My father started this month out being sick “flu like” and it was something he couldn’t shake. During this time he still managed on occasion to attend church and or Wednesday night study. After one Wednesday study we went out to eat and that’s when I noticed something wasn’t right with my father…. he was sluggish, “off” and not eating right. Come to find out a few days later the melanoma has returned and settled in the brain with a large tumor.
January 2011- My father spent the first week and a half in the hospital... he had massive swelling around the brain and was put on steroids to decrease the swelling. They also decided a round of radiation would be beneficial to attack the tumor – he was released from the hospital and started treatment immediately. After about a week of treatment my dad developed a severe sore throat that lead down to the stomach, he lost weight rapidly – 23 pounds in one week.
Sunday Jan 30th - We dropped by the house after church with a pot of chili. My mother informed me my father wasn’t walking very well so their friends brought him a walker. Staring at my father laying on the couch I noticed his eyes – drifting and sad. I knew then that my father was dying. He had four treatments left and everybody was hopeful except me and I just know my father – he knew too. My father would never say anything about how he felt… never complained, never questioned “why me?” He was the nicest, funniest and most trustworthy and faithful man I knew. So I began to question “why him?” Seeing him that Sunday was very upsetting to me… once a vibrant man struggled to even swallow water.
Early Monday morning my mother phoned me to tell me my father was taken by ambulance to the hospital. We arrived that evening and he was sleeping. We sat with my mother while she told us he requested an ambulance. She said she awoke to find him staring at the ceiling, praying and then wondering (as he told her) if he was going to make his 72nd birthday. Of course she told him not to even think that way but I knew he was preparing himself and I knew the Lord was also preparing me to deal with this. I always said I could never imagine my father dying… I could never imagine attending his funeral, etc… There was no way!
Tuesday with my father was very hard for me. He had to wet sponges and suck on them to keep his mouth from being dry. His throat hurt so badly and the antibiotic was not working very well. I heard him for the first time express pain. He said “this is just so miserable” he looked as if he wanted to cry but didn’t. I began to get frustrated with the Lord… all my “whys” started to come back and haunt me. Why wasn’t God answering my prayer? Why did my father have to suffer? Why is his cancer back? He was supposed to die a different way!
Thursday Feb 3rd - I had a surprise for my dad. I was bringing his brother from Alabama to visit him. It was 10:30 and we were on our way to the hospital when I got the call my dad had some sort of attack and stopped breathing. He was out for 16 minutes and brought back. When I arrived we went straight to his room to find it empty – I thought he died and I missed seeing him! The staff informed me he was on the seventh floor. Upon arriving I noticed my family, pastors and doctors all around my mother – it didn’t look good and she was told to prepare for the worst.
Ok, this is it, my father’s dying! I was so sad and mad at the same time. I went to the room where he was and the door was shut, blinds closed but I could still see in the cracks of the blinds. There lay my father, unconscious with tubes down his throat – his sore throat! God couldn’t exist and if he did he did not hear and or answer my prayers. Again - why?
When the family could enter the room we circled his bed, holding his hands and began talking to him. His eyes were closed and he did not talk, he only moved his fingers on his left hand. His brother got to see him and tell him things he never would have otherwise… my dad acknowledged his presents with his hand. We stayed with him, talking to him, reading his favorite passages from the bible, etc... During the night he opened his eyes. His eyes were glassy, sleepy but still full of the joy he always carried. He smiled at us, tried to talk but could not from the tubes. Throughout the next day he slowly declined in “awareness” and by the next morning we all agreed to take the life support away… it was in his living will he not be on life support.
Saturday Feb 5th - My dad was breathing on his own without support. He still could not talk and was in and out of consciousness. We all got our own personal time with him. I told my father when he gets to heaven to ask God to tell me why he did this because I was mad and did not understand. The day was long and the entire family was there crowded in his little room. We shared memories, laughs, tears and thoughts throughout the day. By nightfall my father’s condition declined. His breathing was rapid and loud. His stare blank. I remember looking at my mother often wondering how she is taking this so well -especially without sleep for two days. My Aunt Joyce told me that was the grace of God. You see, they had the best marriage, so much love and respect for one another. I often wondered how one could live without the other.
Sunday Feb 6th - After midnight we were all still in the room. We circled his bed singing hymns. How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, It Is Well With My Soul and many others. Around 2:30 am I asked my husband to lead a prayer asking God to take my father home – I couldn’t stand much more of this. We all joined in prayer asking the Lord to come take him. I remember “begging” inside. By 3:00 am exactly he was gone.
Minutes before his death I witnessed my mother whispering in his ear and crying. When his heart stopped and he took his last breath my mother’s tears of sadness turned to pure joy… she was cheering him on saying he made it, that she was so happy for him! My father went from a pinkish tone to white... I stared at him and said it didn’t even look like my father anymore, my mom said it wasn’t, it was just a shell and my father is now in Heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. My father died on his favorite day of the week and on his favorite day of the year – Super Bowl Sunday.
Now what? I still have all of these questions. Why did my dad have to die so suddenly? Why did he endure discomfort during his last weeks? Why wasn’t his death quick and painless… etc… During a quiet time of pondering such questions I felt these words - Get yourself right and clean before me and I will answer your questions. So I did… I prayed and confessed my sins including my doubt and lack of faith and here is what the Lord laid before me:
1. Your dad was not taken suddenly; he had three healthy years of a six month sentence.
2. During those three years you were able to have your best relationship with your father, cherishing everyday with him, getting to know him better, expressing your love and admiration to him.
3. Your father got to see your desire for me, knowing his prayers for you were answered.
4. He was an example for many, never wavering in faith, experiencing joy and peace throughout.
5. I trusted your father to handle such a load. He restored relationships, faith and compassion in others throughout his trials.
6. Your dad was ready.
7. His suffering only drew him nearer to me and for that he will receive the crown of life.
8. I answered your prayers, he did not die from the melanoma, his death was quick and without pain.
9. The two additional days with support was a gift for you and your family, this gift will reveal itself in time and in many ways.
10. He trusted in me to be there for your mother, he trusted your mother to always trust in me.
11. He was your earthly father but I am his Heavenly Father and it was time for me to call my son home... His job was done and done well. Take from his life and learn.
12. He still lives.
After that experience I was no longer sad. I attended his funeral with the thought and expectation of sadness; upon arrival I was not sad for I knew he was home, happy and alive. Sure I will miss him, I may even cry from the void here on earth but that is fleeting.
I thank God for my extra time, I thank God for the example my father was, I thank God I am at peace and I thank Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins so I can see my father again someday.
Suffering is fleeting, life is eternal. What God allows us to witness is not meant to be discouraging but for our own good. He allowed his son to suffer in front of many to show and teach us mercy, compassion, grace and life after death. God chooses those he trusts to lead the rest of us to be more like him. He trusted his son and he trusted my father – an example I will strive to be like myself.
Life is passing and short. We must think beyond ourselves…. We have a guide to live by called the Bible. This very life here on earth will determine our eternal lives. As I watched my father die I noticed two things; he had family around and he was wearing a hospital gown. Lesson – family is most important and material things don’t mean a thing but your character will forever be remembered by those you leave behind.
Make it good, practice the fruits of the spirit and forgive one another just as Christ forgave you.
In honor of my father Michael Allen Nicoll ~ thanks for your time.