My daddy is no longer suffering. He went Home peacefully Tuesday morning, two weeks exactly from that awful day when we were told he had two weeks to live. Even though I was selfishly thankful to have that extra time with him, each day for those two weeks I would sit at his bedside and question why God was making him continue to hold on and suffer. It was so painful for me (and all of us) to watch him deteriorate daily, lying there confused or asleep for much of the time and never really comfortable. Even though I didn't want him to be gone from my life, I would beg for God to have mercy and end his suffering.
I was grateful to have time to say all the things I needed to say to him and he was able to tell me he was proud of me and that he loved me over and over. But, through the fog of all his pain medication, we were never sure he completely understood what was happening to him and this really bothered me. I wanted to be able to ask him if there was anything he wanted us to do for him before he was gone and for him to be able to leave us with some parting words -- some kind of reassurance to hold onto and repeat to myself when I miss him in the years to come, but this did not happen.
Even though I have felt so at peace for the last couple of days out of gratefulness that his suffering is over (and as a direct result of all of your prayers for my family --thank you!), I still felt a nagging need for some type of closure. In desperation yesterday, I asked my mom if he had left us a letter or anything like that but, not ever imagining he would die so relatively suddenly, he didn't. When I think about it, that wouldn't have been like my dad anyway -- he was a man of few words. But the words he chose always got your attention, made you laugh, or made an impact in some way. That's why, when I received a copy of this email tonight from one of my dad's former colleagues at the Jackson Police Department and a good friend for many years, I broke down in happy tears and knew that this was the closure I was looking for.
"Last night I was thinking hard again about Rhea. With a heavy heart, I had to smile as I recalled the many fun times we had. Many of my memories are of things we experienced as officers with the Jackson Police Department, the crazy along with the humorous. We spent hundreds of hours riding in the patrol car talking about sports, politics, and where we were going to eat next. Rhea and I shared an interest in words, riddles, and trivia. Mix that with his sense of humor and tendency to pull a good practical joke, and well, he kept me pretty entertained.
Then it hit me. It could simply be coincidence. But then again, this would be just like Rhea. A tidbit of his mischievous nature. Something he and God contrived as he was sleeping over the past few weeks. Something, when discovered, would lift a heavy heart.
My good friend Rhea passed away on October 4th. 10-4. I heard him say it a thousand times as we rode together in the patrol car. 10-4. It means that everything is OK. Maybe he wanted us to know that."
10-4. Always a policeman at heart (even though he quit the force when I was born), I heard him say it thousands of times throughout my life. He would sometimes say it before we hung up the phone or in any other situation that he felt warranted an acknowledgment. Where anyone else would say "OK" he would say "10-4." That was just my dad -- a character, an individual, like no other. And I don't believe for a second that the date of his death was a coincidence at all. God knew what he was doing in letting him stick around for those two weeks, even though I questioned him and called him merciless. He knew we would need a sign, a reassurance, and he allowed my dad to give it to us in a way that was so undeniably "him."
I will miss my daddy every day for the rest of my life. I would give anything for him to still be here saying all his funny quips or doing the impressions that used to embarrass the hell out of me. But I have to take comfort in the memories of him, the precious time I was able to spend with him the last few weeks, and my belief that I'll see him again someday. He was my constant protector my whole life, so what better guardian angel could I have looking out for me now? It's going to be hard, but we're going to make it. We're going to be OK. 10-4, Daddy.
At William and Lauren's wedding in May --
The only photo there is of all seven of us together.