Do you remember where you were on this day nine years ago? I do.
I was sitting in my basement bedroom wasting time on my computer and watching some TV. Nothing special about that night. Nothing special about that day either.
I got home from work at the usual 3:30pm and went down to my room to relax for a while. At the time, I was working as a counselor at Northside Middle School. Anyone who works in a school setting knows that it can be a draining job. That day was no exception. But, overall, it was unexceptional.
Dad made dinner for me, as he usually did. I was spoiled living with him. Sure, I cooked for myself occasionally, but those occasions were few and far between. He knew his way around a kitchen, so if that’s what part of my rent was going for, then I was gonna let it keep on happening.
He made dinner a little early that day. See, he had been working at North Roanoke Baptist Church (volunteering) during their Judgment House program. He was running sound in the sanctuary, which had been transformed to look like Heaven. Or, at least, an approximation of what people believe Heaven could look like. Since he had to go to the dress rehearsal that evening, dinner was early.
Around 7:00, he called me from the church to remind me to give my mother a call. She had her gall bladder removed two days earlier. It wasn’t that I had forgotten about that, I had just neglected to call and see how she was feeling. If I had known that it would be the last time we spoke, I would have thought of something more to say than, “Yeah, I’ll call her. See you when you get home.” But I didn’t. It was just a regular conversation. There was nothing wrong. He was just calling out of courtesy, making sure that I would make a call out of courtesy.
Around 10:00, I was starting to get tired, but I didn’t want to go to bed until Dad got home. And I started realizing that he should have been back by now. Then, at 10:45, just as I was about to call him, my phone rang. I was suddenly very relieved to see “Dad” on the caller ID. But it wasn’t Dad. It was Darryl, his pastor. He called to let me know that Dad had an episode and passed out. He called to let me know that I should meet them at the hospital. And I knew.
I don’t know how I knew. I just had an awful feeling that, this time, things weren’t going to be okay. He passed out several times in the three years that I had lived with him. Each time we got him to the hospital and he was fine as soon as we got there. But in the back of my mind, I wondered which trip to the hospital would be his last. It was always a thought… but never one that came to the forefront until that night, nine years ago.
Jake, Dad’s friend and music minister, met me at the house and followed me to the emergency room. We beat the ambulance there. But even when they got there, they wouldn’t let me see him. They were too busy trying to revive him. But I didn’t know that. Darryl, Jake, and I went to the chapel adjacent to the ER. They sat with me. They knew what I only assumed. Before the doctor came to deliver the news, Darryl prepared me for the worst. And even though I thought I was ready to hear it, you’re never really ready to hear the worst news you’ve ever received.
He had been in good spirits that Friday afternoon. He had gone to church to serve in a way that he was able. He was his normal self on the phone with me that evening. And then, just after 10pm, God called him home. EMS worked with him for 45 minutes, but he was already gone. A friend who was with him believes he was gone before his body hit the floor. I pray that’s how it was for him. That he didn’t suffer.
I believe that he was here for the time that God needed him here. I believe that he is in a much better place now. A place where he isn’t in any pain, he isn’t tethered to the house by an oxygen machine and he doesn’t have to worry about his blood pressure dropping suddenly.
I miss him. Every day. Every minute. Toward the end, he wasn’t just my Dad, he was my best friend. He was the one person I went to with everything. That’s what I miss the most. I miss being able to talk to him about how my day was. I miss asking for his advice when things are bothering me. I miss bouncing ideas off of him and getting his opinion. I miss his sense of humor. I miss the stories that he would tell over and over again like it was the first time he told them. I miss watching SportsCenter with him. I miss watching Star Trek with him. I miss making fun of him for watching Judge Judy. I miss kicking his butt at Jeopardy! Okay, really, I miss him kicking my butt at Jeopardy!
It’s hard to believe that nine years have come and gone since the last time I saw him. It’s gotten easier over time. I thank God that I can take comfort in the fact that it won’t be the last time I saw him. I’ll see him again. The in between times may feel bad sometimes, but it hasn’t been and won’t be all bad. Until that time, I only pray that I can become a man that he will be proud of.