I Pray the Lord His Soul to Keep

His hospital bed was angled in a small room, framed by oxygen tanks, folded linens, and medical tubes. With tears freely flowing and arms reached out toward their patriarch, his four children and devoted wife laid their hands upon him and cried out in prayer. They never questioned the reason for his suffering; they never spoke out angrily toward God. Instead they voiced words of thanksgiving and confident praises. The prayer was continuous. Unearthly words flowed from the tongues of children to mother, all the while he labored for every heartbeat and every breath.  His body was worn.

The oldest twin was first to speak out in prayer. The steadiness of her voice was breached by the conflicting emotions of sadness and joy. Her many similarities with her dad historically produced the perfect storm in the heat of an argument. Never accepting the damages as done and valuing the importance of reconciliation, he wouldn’t allow anger to harbor. As he neared his end, she couldn’t remember the cause of these conflicts from their past, but she remembered the way in which he lovingly treated her to lunch in order to mend what was hurt and communicate respect in the midst of disagreement.

Following her twin sister’s prayer the youngest twin gazed at her dad, seeing his weakness but remembering his strength. She trusted him implicitly. Whether in need of directions or in need of an honest opinion, she turned to him. Even when lost in thickness of the north woods at Lake LaFave, she put her trust in her dad- the driver of the antiquated jeep, the explorer of unexplored woods, the “man who could fix anything.”
He relished his time with his dad as the only son. Praying by his side, he spoke of Biblical truths and testified his assurance in God’s timing. He desired to emulate so much of what his dad represented. Growing up, time was often cut short when his dad had to leave for work days at a time.  Despite the limitations of the conventional 24 hours, his dad used every Sunday to show his son that his son was uniquely molded in his likeness. Halftimes in the backyard was their chance to live out dreams of throwing that touchdown pass in the shadow of Title Town’s greats.
As the oldest child, she had the privilege of paving the way for her siblings and the privilege of calling him “dad” for the greatest stretch of time.  She desperately prayed prayers of reassurance next to his bed. She remembered the value he placed on her individuality. When it came to trends, like ear piercings or contact lenses, he insisted she made lists detailing the valid, or perhaps invalid, reasons for joining in on the trend. He refused to let her get lost in the trivial things of this world.
The tears had slowed and the voices that once faltered in the midst of sadness regained their strength.   Apart from his body’s fierce determination to stay alive, he appeared at peace. His wife, the woman he made his intentions clear to after only their second date, remained faithfully at his side. She thought back to his claim that he could “get stuck on [her],” and expressed her gratitude to the God that gifted her 38 years of marriage. Then with immense courage, his bride, with her dewy cheeks and reddened eyes, bent over and whispered in his ear, “It’s okay to go home.” 

Brave and fearlessly, he held on for a few more hours. In his life and especially in his death, he demonstrated how earthly fathers only make their children more eager to see their heavenly father one day.  He did not “pass away” because he is not gone; he is simply waiting for his children and his best friend to join him in paradise.