In about seven hours, we'll pass the five year anniversary of Dad's death. In the early morning hours of April 15, 2008, Roger Wayne Hawley went home to be with the Lord. The last five days of his life were unlike anything I've ever experienced. We gathered in St. Louis, told him how we much we loved him, and planned the funeral. Through the magic of the Internet, I was able to send out constant updates on his condition. Here is the last one before he died:
Dad is hanging on. His speaking and moments of awareness are becoming fewer and fewer. The St. Luke's staff remains caring and empathetic. As pain and agitation increases, we can increase his dosage of morphine. The doctors told Dave that it is incredible how Dad has even survived this long, considering the litany of debilitating traumas he has faced in the past nine months. A hospital is a microcosm of the world. As Dave and I entered an elevator, a couple got on as well. They were about to become great grandparents as their grand daughter was about to give birth to a baby named McKenna. Scott and I also passed a room several down from Dad's where a very elderly man lay in his bed with no one there to comfort him. (We made a vow to visit him tomorrow if we see he is still without company.) Hospitals mirror the joy and pain of our daily lives. So many have e-mailed and we greatly appreciate it! Thanks for your unceasing prayers for Dad. Please pray his suffering will go away.
Dad hung on about five more hours or so. As I read that above update, I thought that there is a little girl named McKenna who should be celebrating her fifth birthday tomorrow, unaware of who we are or how our paths crossed. I was filled with sadness as I re-read about the old man, dying alone and question what I do to help the lonely. I pondered what pictures to use as well. All came from our Grandpa Hawley, the picture taker in our family. I picked none of Dad by himself because Dad, the best people person I've known, was rarely by himself. In the lower shot, Dad has just baptized an unnamed young man at Nebraska Youth Camp. Dad was always the evangelist up until his death. He and Mom always held Bible studies in their home no matter where they were living and Dad preached the Gospel all over the world. (Any of you NYC alums know who the new brother in Christ is?) The other three photos had to be with Mom. Without Mom, there was no Dad but that is simplistic. I never knew a couple who while being very different fit together more perfectly. When Mom's world caved in around her with Alzheimer's, Dad's collapsed as well but taking care of his beloved might have been the best sermon he ever preached. His complete dedication to her probably hastened his death but what a way to go.
I wonder how long you keep making notes of anniversaries like these. I never heard my mother mention the anniversary of the death of her mother who died very suddenly when Mom was pregnant with me. We watched as Dad took care of his dad in the months leading up to my Grandfather Hawley's death and it once again hits me how life is a cycle, a circle. We all have little memories towards the end. Mine is the saddest question I've ever had to answer. On one of my trips to St. Louis shortly before the end, I visited Mom in the nursing home and then went to St. Luke's to see Dad. When I told him about seeing Mom, in a wavering, hopeful voice, he asked, "Does she ever ask about me?" I had to tell him no but that she always loved him and he loved her more than words can ever tell. And so on the almost fifth anniversary of his death, I'm going to dedicate one of the greatest love songs ever to my father in his memory and his bride of fifty-nine years, The Statler Brothers' I'll Go To My Grave Loving You. Thanks for everything , Dad. You were the best father we could have asked for. God blessed us with you.
Applicable quote of the day:
"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
Clarence Budington Kelland
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org