As you will remember from the last edition, Dad was taken to hospital at the end of April with a badly fractured femur, and what turned out to be major secondary renal cancer. We are taking up the story from the morning of May 26th when Ros and Dad were waiting for the transport to bring Dad back home from Worcester hospital.
He was given a lovely send off by a whole line of nurses, plus one of the chaplains, all of whose lives had been touched by his witness during the month he had been in the Trauma and Orthopaedic ward.
The discharge team (which, amazingly was led by a lovely woman whom Ros and I both know very well and who I had been praying for only the week before and wondering if I would ever see again,) had organised a care team to make four brief visits each day to Dad, as well as to cover us for three nights a week. Dad arrived back home at lunchtime (although he has not been wanting to eat much at all for the past week) and was transferred into the hospital bed we had set up in his living room.
As things turned out there was time for one visit from the Neighbourhood care Team before Dad surprised us all by passing into His Father’s presence, with Ros with him and peaceful right up the last few minutes.
Only Ruth, ever the most discerning one amongst us, was not taken by surprise. She had heard two whistles from steam locomotives that day (being a Bank Holiday which is the only time they pass this way I think). Knowing his passion for steam, she felt that this was significant, especially as he had testified only that day to Carol that he had now reached his last junction.
When Ruth heard the whistle again on the locomotives’ return trip later on in the day the whistle was blowing much faster, and she had a sense that things were going to accelerate.
A few weeks ago, Linda had prophesied that this was going to be an extremely intense, but ultimately brief, roller coaster ride for us. It certainly has been! The ‘ride’ started when Ros was summoned from her bed at 2 am just over a month ago to find that Dad had broken his femur very badly. It turned out that this was because secondaries from the renal cancer he had three years ago had grown as a tumour in his bone – and, as we finally discovered a fortnight later, had spread to many other parts of his body as well.
On one evening, Dad had a minor heart attack in hospital, which, to Ros at his side, looked like anything but a minor attack!). This actually served for him as a catalyst for a really deep time of prayer. It marked a significant milestone in helping Dad to prepare for his call home. We are so grateful to God for this; it is not always possible for people to have such a ‘phased’ opportunity to get ready.
Despite umpteen delays and challenges in hospital, Dad preserved his cheer and continued in something close to full flow, and had numerous opportunities to share his faith with staff and visitors and to pour himself out for them in prayer.
He was delighted be able to pray with an enthusiastic nurse believer in the recovery ward following surgery, as well as in tongues with the senior Palliative Care Nurse on the ward, and members of the chaplaincy team as well as with other visitors.
Thoughtful cards from friends and loved ones meant a great deal to him, especially those which contained precious reminiscences from people as they shared how much he has done and meant to them. We will share some of these at the funeral service, which is going to be at St James, Welland, on 20th June, at 11 am.
These were lovely endorsements that helped him to reconnect with people and ministries from years past, and greatly added to the joy he has had more recently in the company of the Bible study group he has been leading in his home until just a few weeks ago, and which means a great deal to all the members.
Dad and I had also exchanged the ‘Mizpah’ blessing while he was in hospital that we have often prayed together in the past: “May the Lord watch over us (between us) while we are apart from each other.”(Gen. 31:49)
It was perfect timing and a great joy that Tim, Martine and family, as well as Ruth, were all staying with us this Bank Holiday weekend. They were able to visit Dad in hospital on Saturday, and then again on Sunday afternoon at home.
With more space available at home, they were able to take Dad’s three great grandchildren too, a visit he really loved, as one after another produced great treasures from the garden to give to him: a feather, a green leaf, some buttercups and daisies and so on.
Another lovely touch was that Carol Sampson, whose songs you will all be familiar with, also popped by, and they started to sing Laurie Klein’s song together: ‘I love You Lord and I lift my voice.’ Dad had been thinking a lot about this song during the past month, and Laurie herself has been praying for him.
Ros has spent a very great deal of time helping at Dad’s side in hospital this month, (as opposed to just ‘visiting!’) not least in doing an essential job of ‘joining the dots’ with regard to his care, then settled down to begin a ‘night shift’ with him. She turned the lights down low and positioned his bed to enable him to look out over the garden, at which point he said, ‘That’s nice.’
These turned out, very fittingly, to be his final words. Once again, Ros has been an end-of-life midwife to help ‘birth’ a dying person into the Kingdom of Heaven, just as she was so recently with her own Mum.
There is great mercy in the Lord ‘taking him up and out’ with his head still held high, and his mind and awareness still alert. So, although all of us felt as though his passing came rather sooner than we had been expecting, he remained to the end the man we have all known and honour for his faith and vitality.
Tim and his family had had to leave before this happened, but Ruth and Ros bathed, dressed and prepared Dad together, and then the three of us sat praying around his bed, starting with the liturgy of the Northumbria Community for evening prayer for May 26th, and blessing him on his way into the Father’s presence.
We had another of the lovely God-touches this morning that have characterised the whole experience of Dad’s homecoming. When we went to the funeral directors, the usual person was away and a manager had come over from HQ; he turned out to be a lovely Christian, who knew a number of pastors and friends who we know really well from all over the country. It was lovely to pray together as well as to plan the funeral.
Just a reminder that the funeral will be at St James, Welland, where we celebrated Mum’s passing six years ago, and where Dad will be buried alongside Mum, on Thursday June 20th at 11 am. You are most welcome to join us, but please let us know if you would like to stay for a sandwich lunch.
We are so grateful to you all for praying for for us all during this intense period. It has been extremely challenging, but also interspersed with moments of the Lord’s clear leading and interventions. Thank you so much.
In His love,
Robert, Ros, Ruth, Tim and Martine and family and Dominic
PS It seems particularly fitting to post this lovely piece by Francis Cummings, who knew him well, which he called Homecoming.