On Wednesday the 22nd, I posted about my Dad’s rapidly deteriorating condition and what we were both thinking about as we faced the prospect of his death within the next few months. I asked you for prayer that his passing would be a peaceful and painless transition from this life to the next. That prayer was answered unexpectedly just two days later when the Lord responded with a magnificent divine orchestration of events that leaves me praising God for his lovingkindness. I feel that I must share his goodness so that you can praise him too.
The perfect last minutes of life
Two days later on Friday night (the 24th) I suddenly had an overwhelming Spirit-inspired sense of urgency to see him as fast as I could. When my wife came home from grocery shopping, she found me pacing on the sidewalk in front of our house. I said, “Just drop the cold stuff in the fridge and forget the rest. We’ve got to see Dad as fast as possible.” I did not know that he would die that night, but I’ve learned to pay attention to feelings like this! I took some things with me to show Dad what I had found while cleaning out his house. We arrived at 7:30 and he died at 8:15. But what happened in that 45 minutes is unforgettable, and it gave me the peace that is sustaining me in my grief. From 7:30 to 8:00, as he lay in bed, I
- read two letters written to Dad by his parents in 1950 and a love letter from Mom;
- showed Dad the program from a music recital in 1905 in which his father sang a solo; and
- looked at some pictures he took of Mom while they were dating and a few other pictures he took of his mom, dad and grandmother.
Dad smiled and chuckled as he listened and looked at all these items, and I heard many “My, my, mys” and other approving comments from him. He lingered over the pictures, held the letters to see his parents’ signatures, and gazed at his father’s name (“Master Alfred Pellowe”) in the program. Then my daughter Jessica called at 8:00 from Bangkok, where she is serving in a Christian school for two years. She told Dad she loves him. Dad was so touched that she had called all the way from Thailand.
Next I assured Dad that his wishes would be carried out after he was gone. I reminded him of the “No heroic measures” provision of his Power of Attorney for Personal Care, and his wishes as far as his funeral and burial are concerned. He said they were all still what he wanted. I mentioned a person whom Dad had said years ago he wanted to officiate at the memorial service, and he said he still wanted him.
Then I was suddenly inspired to pray for him, and I asked if that would be okay. He said “Yes, John, I’d like that” and folded his hands. I don’t think I have ever prayed for Dad out loud in front of Dad before. He’s heard me pray a lot, but not like this. I prayed that Jesus would be his comfort, give him peace, help him feel the fullness of Christ’s love for him, and that Jesus would take care of him. Dad said “Amen,” and that turned out to be his last word.
Dad started to cough and according to the doctor, ruptured a tumor in his chest that poured blood into his lungs. I used the phone to call for help right away, and then held Dad up from his pillow, thinking this might help him. He was gone very quickly. I could not have scripted a better 45 minutes as Dad’s last 45 minutes.
I am completely at peace about Dad because of how this last visit went, and because I know (as described in my previous post) how satisfied Dad was with his own life and the lives of his children and grandchildren. All praise to God who loves us all.
Dying without regrets
If your relationship with your parent or your child is not what you wish it would be, take heart that it is never too late to make a change. In my family, as I suspect it probably was in most families of that era, the family revolved around my Mom. And I could write a huge tribute to her too, she was a great mother. Dad was part of the family, and he came to recitals and other things that involved the kids. He did interesting things. But I have to say that he was sort of peripheral to family life. He was there, but it was Mom to whom we would go. It wasn’t until Mom’s stroke in 1989 that I began to really appreciate Dad. He did double duty to care for Mom in the last year of her life. He did everything for her. He stepped up to it and did an outstanding job of standing by his wife in her time of need.
When Mom died in September 1990, Dad suddenly came into the spotlight as a parent. And it is only in the last twenty years of his life that I came to really love him deeply, and care for him, and appreciate him. A very warm and loving relationship blossomed that I never expected. My three siblings have all said their experience was exactly the same as mine. We all feel the same way about Dad. So, you can’t undo the past, but you can change the future. All it takes is to make a decision and start now.
Dr. Raymond Douglas Pellowe
July 22, 1922 – September 24, 2010
Finally, here’s how Dad would like to be remembered – surrounded by his family!!!
I love you Dad!