Sunday, September 09, 2007

Some Thoughts On Passing

from Joshua

If you know my family or have been following this blog, you are no doubt aware that my father died of cancer on Sunday, August 26, 2007 - two weeks ago today. Had he lived only one more day, he would have celebrated his 75th birthday.

It came as a shock to us all. Dad was no stranger to health problems, but he had not been chronically ill at all. A routine abdominal CT scan for something unrelated found the first signs of cancer in Dad's liver, but more tests to follow told a darker story of metastatic lung cancer that had already spread to his brain, throat, chest cavity, lymph nodes, and other places. From the time he was first diagnosed with cancer until his passing, only 13 days elapsed.

God was incredibly gracious to us during those 13 days. Although Dad had lost much of his physical strength, he remained consistently mentally aware and lucid right up until his last 36 hours or so. Family and friends were able to support, love on, and care for him right up until the end. And the quickness with which the Lord called Dad home spared him the discouragement and frustration of an extended period of debilitating pain or illness. Family and friends now all have holes in their lives where once there was a husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, cousin, or friend, but we are all grateful that this much loved man was able to go Home in peace and dignity. Furthermore, we can praise God for the assurance we have of Dad's eternal peace, based on the faith he placed in Jesus Christ.

How am I doing? Well, first of all, I'm incredibly blessed just to have friends who care enough to ask. I wish the answer were as simple as the question!

The most truthful answer is: I'm profoundly affected, in ways that may not be clear even to me for years to come. Perhaps because I've never lost anyone all that close to me, or perhaps just because this was Dad, I've had quite a shift in the way I look at death and eternity. As an only child who is now also the eldest man on my little twig of the family tree, I feel both an increased and a changed sense of responsibility. Because Dad is no longer here to offer help or advice, I feel uniquely "on my own" in a way that is both freeing and frightening. All these things and more, added to the simple fact of Dad's absence, are swirling in my mind like storm clouds on the horizon. I know they're there, but I don't yet know how they'll affect me in the days to come. I suppose I feel a little like a first mate might on a ship whose captain has fallen. Looking out from the bridge, knowing that rough days and beautiful days will continue to come as surely as the sea rolls and the sun rises - but also knowing that each adventure from here on out will be different in a significant way from all those that came before.

Although I'm not done grieving, I can honestly say that I'm at peace. I knew I'd face this one day, and I knew as a late-born child that it would come earlier in life for me than for many of my peers. I was blessed to have a good father with whom I had a good relationship, so I find myself with no guilt over things said or unsaid, and no resentment over old wounds unhealed. I always knew I was loved, knew I was wanted, and knew Dad would drop everything to help me whenever I needed it. We worked together, we played together, we made many good memories together. Most of the practical "stuff" I know came from Dad in one form or another. Dad told me his life's stories, and Dad taught me to love the old songs. I miss Dad, but the memories mostly bring a grin with only a hint of wistfulness. I'm thankful he was my Dad, and I'm proud to keep on as his son. And I'm confident that the grace of my heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ, which has been here all along, will continue to be sufficient even as He has promised.

Dad and I on the lake - one of our favorite places.

Me and Dad crashing together, early 1980s.

It's 2004 and Dad has a new Freeman boy (Thomas) to nap with.

Three generations of Freeman men.

Love you, Dad. I'll see you later.


Anonymous said...

An amazing tribute--Joe would be proud and humbled by it.


Anonymous said...

What a tribute! With tears in my eyes as I type, I'm amazed at your writing. How blessed he was for you and Aubrey to bless him with 3 beautiful grandchildren! "Heaven is wonderful place, filled with glory and grace"

Your tribute to him by playing at the funeral was amazing also!

I loved what you said about standing by his casket during visitation - "I was so proud!"

Sandra Gossett