I am infrequently knocked off my pins, but I was yesterday. Late morning brought a text that sent me to my knees: “My dad died today.”
I met the sender of that text the same day I met her father. I was struggling. I had cancer that had been ignored and allowed to percolate. I was facing a full-course treatment of radiation, chemo, and multiple surgeries, with no guarantees of survival. Her dad—a cancer survivor himself—took me aside and said:
“If you need it, you let me know, and I’ll figure out a way to get you to Sloan-Kettering.” Later, I learned that he meant every word.
We ended up being friends. He and I were both conservatives feeling bereft in a church that had left us behind. He nominated me for vestry to be a voice for conservatism, something I never completely forgave him for. I could do nothing to stem the tide of social relevancy and ultimately left the church. So did many others. But he never did. He’ll be buried out of it this weekend.
He and his wife stopped by to visit us around Thanksgiving. Hoping to take away the sting of our moving, I said, “You need to come to Maine to do some fishing.”
“Carol, my traveling days are over,” he said. It nearly slayed me.
We stopped to see him right before we left Rochester. He was in rough shape. It was a tender and sad visit.
My friend described her father as “the world’s best dad,” and she’ll get no argument from me. He loved his kids with ferocity. I remember him showing me wine he’d bought when his daughter was born. He was saving it for her wedding. When she was on her honeymoon, he went to her house and put her doll on her bed. He lit up when he bragged about his son. He was that kind of guy.
My son-in-law’s grandmother died on Saturday. Diagnosed with MRSA and congestive heart failure, she had spent some quiet time in prayer and announced to her family that she wanted to go home to Jesus. She discontinued treatment.
This was not a confused old woman; this was a very bright person in complete control of her faculties. It took her a week to die.
In the middle of that week I got a text from my daughter telling me that she and some of her cousins-in-law were singing worship songs around their grandmother’s bed. They were stepping up to her example. Even in death, she was teaching and leading her family, as she had done for so many years.
I can’t fault David Bowie for dying yesterday; I’m sure it wasn’t his first choice. But the saints are those who labor in the vineyards. God’s economy turns fame and fortune upside down. Neither Dean nor Carmella were superstars. They were far more than that.