I haven’t blogged since June this year when my last blogpost rodsemple.wordpress.com fell over. This one is far from perfect but I have to start somewhere.
One Last Chance was first written as part of the My 500 Words Challenge (Day 269, Saturday 27th September), under the title ‘Goodbyes’.
No photo’s today, that’s for next time after all the blog and I are a Work In Progress!
If you like what you read, please share it . . . and leave a comment.
If you don’t . . . let me know.
Either way . . . I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, fond regards,
The last few days have flown past in a blur. Dad died on Wednesday 16th and yesterday, Friday 26th was his memorial and committal service.
We could have done it differently, like mum’s eleven years ago, but that wasn’t dad’s wishes. Dad wanted a simple funeral with only the family attending, ‘… but if you boys and Loris want to open it up to others that’s OK too.’ We chose the latter.
Dad wasn’t an easy man, we had drifted apart over the past fifty odd years so telling him I loved him was difficult.
I’m very much like my father, I don’t suffer fools gladly and I don’t lie well. Rather than say, I love you and not mean it I didn’t say it at all. Dad would offer to hug when we said goodbye, but I made excuses and acted in a way that we didn’t have to embrace.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried, I just got tired or trying. The reality of Harry Chapin’s ‘Cats In The Cradle.’
To complicate matters, as a Christian I knew that Jesus demanded that I forgive dad and move on.
You’ll notice I didn’t say forget. Forgiveness I have control of but forgetting is something I believe that only God can take care of.
My brothers and sister all had a similar relationship, or should I say a lack of relationship with dad, but I seemed to be the one that had the greatest difficulty in offering forgiveness and rebuilding communications.
God in his ultimate generosity offered me one last chance to mend the bridge broken between dad and me. God used the circumstances following a drastic and ultimately fatal brain bleed which insidiously impacted dad’s last three months of life.
It was a week to the day of dad’s death that he had a secondary brain bleed which ultimately took his life. It was inoperable, so all the hospital staff could do was to make dad comfortable, and when necessary offer medication to minimise any pain dad may have experienced.
Dad slipped into a coma that Wednesday afternoon and never woke up. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought that he was sleeping deeply. He even snored.
The family knew dad’s wishes should a medical situation like this occur. He did not wish to be resuscitated.
Dad was no longer having any fluids or food intake, so we recognised that his death was imminent, probably within the week. No one could say for sure.
Until he passed into eternity one or more of us took every opportunity to visit. Ironically I saw more of dad in the last weeks of his life than I did over the past years.
Even in good health I never enjoyed visiting my father. Conversation was limited and stilted. I used to time my arrival around ten am and left just on noon. I refused to stay for lunch, using the excuse, ‘I have things to do a home.’
I’d learned prior to mum’s death that though in a coma and unresponsive, the very last sense to cease functioning is hearing. We chatted with mum and we did it again for dad.
We were alone when I had a heart to heart with dad. I held his hand and began, falteringly to speak of things I never felt comfortable sharing before.
Dad’s hands were strong and well-formed. His fingers were long with well manicured nails. My father was dying and I was checking out fingernails. How bizarre!
Despite the embarrassment, words began to flow. I shared my hurts and frustrations. I thanked him for the values he had implanted deep in my heart. I thanked him for his faith.
I stroked his head. Dad still had a good head of hair, though it had receded quite a bit. He hadn’t had a hair cut for months so it was long and unruly. Next week we had planned to have it cut but now that would never happen.
I hadn’t touched my father’s hair in fifty-five or more years. It was fine and silky. Not what I expected. Dad hadn’t had a shave for several days and stubble covered his face.
‘You’re looking a bit ratty dad, let me give you a shave you and get you looking handsome again.’
As I began to carry out these simple and mundane services something began to change inside. My calloused heart began to soften. Instead of the hard, rigid, self-righteous and distant man I used to fear, here was a small, fragile man edging towards eternity and God had given me the privilege of walking with him, hold his hand, say, ‘I love you one more time,’ and mean it.
Dad passed peacefully from this world on Wednesday 17th September at 12:48pm
I didn’t want an active part in his funeral. Both my brothers are pastors and fine speakers. They offered to officiate at this special occasion. I was offered an opportunity to speak, but I didn’t feel the need to do so. It was different at mum’s memorial service. I spoke then, but not at dad’s funeral. His was different.
It was intimate. Only eighty people attended. As I looked around I realised that these were very special people. Strong friends and family from way back. People who had known mum and dad for many years. Then there was those who had only known dad.
The family had spoken about giving a balanced perspective on dad’s life. The positives and negatives. It had to be authentic.
Many of us had roles to play. My brother Graeme spoke with friends and family about their memories of dad. He had done a fine job collating the stories. His wife Joanne was working on a Powerpoint type montage of pictures from dad’s past. Jo was good at this.
Craig and Rosie prepared the order of service. Graeme and Craig officiated. Joshua and Shannon videos the service.
I had been liaising with dad’s executor, the funeral home and making sure that bills were being paid. When asked whether I would be a pall bearer along with Bobby, Tristan, Shannon, Joshua and William I agreed.
The three or four evening prior to the commemoration service were spent reflecting on how my relationship with dad had changed. Forgiveness that had been offered and accepted. Healing had begun. For those of us who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, death is the start of a brand new adventure.
‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’ was a phrase often repeated. This made me smile. Dad wasn’t lost, I knew exactly where he was and I wasn’t referring to a coffin or the State Coroner’s mortuary. He was alive and well and living in Heaven.
On the day of the service, the order’s of service looked and read great. One of dad’s favourite hymns was sung and Graeme spoke for almost ten minutes. He described dad to a tee. He highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of dad. People laughed, heads nodded. I sat there and listened. Graeme read so well, so much better than I could ever have done.
We watched Joanne’s DVD presentation. It was beautifully and tastefully prepared. Some of the photographs I hadn’t seen in years. Some I had never seen before.
Dad’s granddaughter, Amanda, shared a different perspective.
William, Craig’s son gave yet another viewpoint. Like dad, Will loved history so he and dad always got along.
Craig finished by speaking about the dad he knew.
As I sat and listened I recognised how much dad had impacted us. . . both negatively and positively. I recognised the rich heritage we had inherited from him and mum. Our family wasn’t that much different to many of the Old Testament Patriarchs.
I was grateful that Graeme and Craig had spoken, they did it so well. I suppose being pastors they’ve had plenty of practice. That’s my forte.
Dad’s coffin was wheeled to the hearse to the soaring yet haunting strains of The Londonderry Air, a song of special significance and beloved by our family.
‘Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling from glen to glen, and down the mountain side. The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling…’
Salt water welled and overflowed. What strange emotions,
Sadness, sorrow, joy, hope. All at the same time.
‘It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.’
‘The boys spoke really well didn’t they.’ It was a statement not a question.
‘Yes they did. It was a very special service. Thank you so much for coming.’
‘Graeme summed up the Alec we all remember so well ’
‘Thank you, I think he did too.’
‘I noticed you didn’t have anything to say during the service. That was a pity.’
‘Actually I did, it’s just that you never noticed.’
despite his quizzical expression we parted ways with no explanation asked for and none given.
What he didn’t know was that Graeme had done the research, and the outline, but he had allowed me to flesh out the story, to edit, to polish.
The final draft was emailed the night before dad’s funeral with a note, ‘Use what you want and make any changes you want to.’
‘What did you decide to use?’ I asked as we walked into the chapel.
‘All of it,’ was his reply.
Though I never wanted to speak at dad’s funeral, Graeme graciously gave me an opportunity to have a voice in the memorial.
Thank you Jesus for rebuilding the broken relationship between a son and his dad
Your turn now: Is God offering you one last chance to rebuild bridges and mend relationships that you have thought were irreparable? If so do not waste the opportunity. Life is too short and eternity is a very long time!
In loving memory of Alec Semple
13 December 1923 – 17 September 2014
‘Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.’