Easter Sunday morning took on new significance for my family this weekend. My husband’s dad, Phil, became paralyzed during a routine back surgery eight years ago and had lived in a nursing home ever since. Two months ago he was placed in hospice care. Since then we’ve experienced some false alarms and were summoned to the home to say our goodbyes, only for him to somehow bounce back. Following one of his miraculous recoveries, he was likely to ask to be picked up for a grandson’s baseball game. So though we were expecting the call, we weren’t expecting it.
It came shortly before midnight Saturday evening.
A person lives on until someone tells you that they’re gone, so for me, my father-in-law didn’t pass away until early Easter morning. As you can imagine, this changed the face of my holiday, but probably not in the way you’d think.
I’ve shed few tears for Phil over the last few days, and the ones I have shed have been for those he left behind. The reason for this is that more than mourning his death, I want to celebrate his life. And what a great life it was! If you ask anyone what Phil was most passionate about, few would hesitate to say, “His family.”
My father-in-law was eighty-two and probably had little else in common with recording artist Toby Mac, but these lyrics written by the latter describe what a young Phil must have set out to do as a family man:
Like I’m gonna be a daddy
Who’s in mix
And I’m gonna be a husband
Who stays legit
Grandpa Phil was in the mix with his kids and grandkids. He went to those ball games when he was feeling better because he’d seldom missed them when he was healthy and spry. There was little he enjoyed more than spending time with the ones he loved – like his only son. They spent countless hours just talking. My heart hurts for my husband because he lost his best friend, but the knowledge that they were best friends is so comforting. I’m certain this very special father and son have none of those “Cat’s in the Cradle” regrets.
And Phil stayed legit. He was widowed nearly twenty years ago but remained a one-woman man until the day he died. The image of him walking around on his new legs with his precious wife by his side is the one thing that does cause me to cry – tears of joy!
Phil left a legacy. He will be remembered most for loving people, especially his family, over things. Which made me think, What legacy do I want to leave for my children?
Well, I want them to remember me as always having time for them. Time to talk and time to listen. That I always extended mercy and grace. That I was gentle and kind. All the things I value. The list could go on forever…
Then last night my husband told me, “I’m devastated that Dad is no longer here because he always was.”
I responded, “He’ll always be here. All that was good about him lives on in you.”
Now that’s the legacy I hope to leave my children.
What will yours be?