God Beyond My Periphery | The Guest

Several months later, beyond the season of my grace event of seismic proportion, there was a day that happened upon me and it will never be forgotten.   Why would I phrase it like that, as a day that happened upon me?  Well, because I am still trying to figure out if I saw it coming or not.  The particular event that branded the day unforgettable was an event that was certain, as it is for all of us.  But whether I assumed it would be eventual or imminent, I am not sure.  It just…happened upon me, like a surprise guest coming for a visit.  And not surprise in the sense of unexpected.  Rather, like a guest you expect and work hard to prepare for; vacuuming and tidying up, but in the preparation you forget to keep an eye on the clock, lose track of time, and are startled or surprised when the door bell chimes.  The guest has happened upon you and whatever your plans for final preparation may have been, they immediately submit to the actual purpose of the moment:  The arrival of the guest.

It was Saturday, April 26th, 1997, and I wish for the life of me I can remember what I had planned that day.  Best as I can recall, the morning was fairly usual.  I awoke early as usual.  I wandered downstairs as usual.  I showered as usual.  My day had begun.  Nothing necessarily unfamiliar occurred that may have colored the day a different shade than usual…until I left the bathroom.

The bathroom was at the center of a short hall just off the living room, and perhaps hall is even too generous of a term.  Perhaps vestibule is better since it was barely longer than it was wide.  No matter though.  At one end of the hall was my Mom’s sewing room; which was a name that meant more years before.  By this time in life, though her sewing machine was still present, the room was less of a sewing room and more so simply a personal space for my Mom.  At the other end of the hall was my Dad and Mom’s bedroom.  It was blue and, being in the northeast corner of the house in the shadow of our wooded backyard, it always seemed dark and often cold; a fact both Dad and Mom mutually admitted but did not mutually appreciate.

My Mom was up when I got up.  She was sitting in the family room reading her One Year Bible and sipping coffee.  My Dad was still sleeping.  He had been doing more and more of that lately.  By the time I was done in the bathroom, however, he was no longer sleeping…though I wouldn’t say he was necessarily awake either.  As I turned off the bathroom light and fan I could hear his voice in the bedroom mumbling something, a faltering low-toned utterance that seemed unintelligible.

The bedroom door was about six inches ajar.  I could feel the cold damp air falling through the opening onto my bare feet.  I peaked in.  The curtains were pulled closed, muting any morning light.  I saw my Dad.  He was lying in the hospital bed that had been moved in by Hospice the day before; standard hospital position, on his back with his head raised slightly higher than his feet.  His eyes were closed and his lips were moving.  I wish I would have listened more carefully to what he was saying.  I guess I could have asked if he needed anything, but I figured he was talking to God the way he always had; which is precisely why I wish I would have listened more closely.  But I quietly closed the door and went upstairs for some devotion time.

I was reading in Proverbs, my Dad’s favorite book of the Bible…  “Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (19:21)  I stopped when I heard my Mom call from the bottom of the stairs.  Her voice was pretending to be strong.  “Would you come down here, Andy.  Dad is gone.”  Her strength evaporated with that last statement.

Like the chime of a door bell in slow motion, it happened upon me.  The guest at the door…  “I knew you were coming, but I wasn’t watching the clock.  I must have lost track of time.  I didn’t hear you drive up.  I’m in the middle of…my plans.”

My heart felt something like peace as I placed my plans in proper submission to the actual purpose of the moment; a higher purpose, God’s purpose even.  I rose from my chair and headed downstairs.  He was in fact gone.  His eyes were rolled back with the slightest bit of drool near the corner of his mouth.  His chest was sunken and his muscles still.  He was no longer in there.  I closed his old eyes; old as opposed to new, for I suppose he would not have called the ones I closed his anymore.  I dabbed up the drool.  I took his old hands, frail to the bone and folded them across his stomach.  He was more than gone.  He was free.

My Dad was filled with that joy and enthusiasm that I had known from my remembrance of Grandmother; that joy and enthusiasm which I have been able neither to duplicate nor locate since.  He was presently careening toward his Savior with jovial abandon, although a time-trapped word like “presently” barely does justice to the eternality of his new life.  And though I wept uncontrollably both there in the bedroom that Saturday morning and at the funeral (and since then in places strangely removed from such setting altogether), and though I miss him deeply and would love to have him back for even a day, I have yet to experience the kind of emotion that would wish for things to have been different.  I can’t tell you just why that is.  However, it probably has something to do with that fact that I have so many plans and desires and hopes and goals and dreams, as I am sure you do too.  But greater than them all, even in circumstances of death, is God’s prevailing purpose; the guest if you will, that submits to none of these plans of my own…so that it may be said as I say here and now, “All glory to God.”

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  1. Quite poignant Andy. You write well and have a compelling style. Keep it up! what you wrote kind of reminds me of the passing of my father-in-law. we had the privilege of being by his side and he passed from this world to the next. It was a solemn and holy moment.


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