Publication Information: Putnam, C. L. (2007, Jan / Feb). Faithful Love. Christian Woman, 23(1), 59.
“I wonder if I’m ever gonna die,” Keith mused one day. Then, after a moment’s reflection, he answered himself: “Probably not.”
It had been just over a year since Dad died. Before him death had seemed pretty remote to me too. Friends, yes, extended family, surely. But our immediate family had remained untouched.
Dad had been losing ground for years. A stroke suffered at the age of 25 had left one side of his body permanently weak. Then there were the heart attacks, mini-strokes, and diabetes. He fell sometimes, became disoriented, and grew increasingly dependent on Mom. The cane was first, then the walker, and finally the wheelchair.
He had never been easy to live with. Any of us kids could have told you that. Relationships were not his strong suit, and we depended on Mom to soften and buffer our interactions. But we had all eventually made our peace with him, for better or worse. This was something different though, and it was tough to witness. He wasn’t the invincible larger-than-life family patriarch anymore. His body wouldn’t cooperate. Now he needed Mom to trim his hair, cut his nails, bathe him, shave him, brush his teeth, help him up and down, and changes his bedclothes (often several times a night). Thanks to Mom, his room was always fresh and bright, and he slept between crisp white sheets on the hospital bed set up for him. We begged Mom to get some rest, sleep in another room occasionally, but she said she couldn’t rest there. She slept with one eye open the last three years of his life, always alert to his next breath, always watchful.
Christmas was the last time I saw him. He was still getting up for a while every day. On Christmas day he always wore his red shirt. And as usual Mom had washed and ironed it. I remember Mom pushing him in his wheelchair up the hall, after what must have been an ordeal of bathing and dressing. He was sitting straight up, smiling proudly, as though he had managed all of it by himself. Hair carefully combed and shining snow white, eyes clear and glowing, And Mom, smiling behind him. As a child, I had secretly thought she was the prettiest mom of all my friends, but she was infinitely more beautiful now.
Fifty-five years of marriage. Then, on a February night, under the watchful gaze of the hospice nurse and his family, his old body just stopped working, and he was gone. Mom cried as she held him in her arms, “You have always been my sweetheart.”
Yes, Keith, we will all die. But God loves us, like my Mom loved my Dad, only more so. He does not rest; he watches over our every breath. He is faithful. And he has said that we are his sweethearts.
Every time I sing “Faithful Love”, I am reminded of that bright shirt, those brave faces, and the fiercely loyal love of our heavenly Father.
“…Faithful love calms each fear, reaches down, dries each tear, holds my hand when I can’t stand on my own. Faithful love is a friend just when hope seems to end, welcome face, sweet embrace, tender touch filled with grace…and I’ll never be the same, for I’ve seen faithful love face to face…”