Tell her the doctors said it’s cancer,” I heard Dad coaching Mom from the background, but instead of repeating the news, Mom simply handed him the phone.
“It’s cancer that’s spread to my bones,” he announced. After a brief pause I managed to say: “I’ll be right over.”
When I was in my twenties and Dad was in his forties he told me, “Ruth, when I die, I want you to tell people that I lived a good, full life. Tell them not to mourn for me because I will be with the Lord.” He was not ill at the time.
“Stop talking like that,” my mother scolded. “Can’t you see you’re upsetting her?”
I’ll never forget the look of surprised hurt on my father’s face. “But I need her to understand,” he said. “It’s no tragedy.”
As I looked at him that nineteen-seventy-something day, I thought I saw something beyond hurt in his eyes. It looked like fear—not of death, but that I would not understand when it was his time to go. It was quite startling.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” I quickly reassured him. “I will pass on your message when the time comes.”
He looked relieved. It was one of the few times I remember feeling that my father needed something from me. He needed me to face his death well.
Which brings us to February 12, 2007. Dad reminded us that he had dedicated his life to telling others that Jesus was the way to be reconciled with God, giving them the hope of heaven—a hope that he believed for himself. “The worst thing that could happen would be for my family to turn my death into a tragedy,” he said, giving voice to that same concern he’d expressed some three decades earlier.
I hugged him. “We need to take one day at a time. Let’s wait and see. No one has to say goodbye to anyone today.” He nodded his agreement.
* We have progressed from reviewing the offer from an excellent publisher to negotiating a contract. We look forward to naming the publisher once the contract is approved and everyone has signed on the dotted line!