Surgery was scheduled for 8:00am on Monday, August 24 at Hershey with Dr. Susan B. Merrill and Team. The Sunday prior, I decided to host a small cookout with some of Dads closest friends. Not that it was a farewell, although maybe it did feel like that last supper Dad talked about. I wanted a nice relaxing afternoon of good food and friends. Community. Prayer. Uplifting smiles and laughter. I was really feeling the weight of what was to come. That afternoon helped me to smile when the group came together.
The team was expecting 12 hours of surgery, 2 weeks in the hospital, followed with many days of care at home. It felt as if that was a huge undertaking, but decided it was worth it and manageable.
Since Dad had to be at the hospital extra early for such a big surgery, we decided to leave around 4am and take the 55 minute drive up 897, to 419 through Lebanon, and connected to 322. He wanted to not only be on time, but early for his 6am check in. Lydia and I loaded up, tucked Dad’s beloved green carry on into the trunk and off the three of us went.
I was expecting a quiet car ride. I did not think I had too many words to say with what the day had ahead, let alone how early in the morning it was. Then there is Dad. He was struggling to breathe with the monster squeezing precious parts of his insides, but he didn’t let up until we pulled into the parking lot. He started to do this more and more when we traveled, and I can still hear his exact voice, quiet in tone at this point in life after a changed soul.
“You know, Rachel, if things don’t go as planned, I know you and Samantha will be able to figure it all out. The farm sale, my equipment… I want you both to be fair and no fighting. Settle all my affairs as I wrote out and make good investments. We have talked about some of those big things. I know you both can do it well. Donate my Buick and sell the rest.”
Yes, Dad. I agree. However you would like it.
“Let’s talk about my funeral. We didn’t really get to discuss that yet, so I want to share a few things. I would like a nice formal service. Sheldon is to give the message. Call and ask but I’m sure he would do it. My plot is already paid for up next to my Dad. Use Roseboro Home in town to prepare the services. I would also like everyone to get together afterwards for a nice meal and a beer. A celebration of life. I want a hot piece of chicken, maybe some baked beans and a potato.”
I looked at him and said “DAD – You want a nice hot piece of chicken?? You won’t even be there!” We both laughed for a good minute. However, he was serious. He went on.
“Here’s how I want to be dressed. Do a nice pair of my jeans, you know, a button down like I always wear and my golden toe socks. I don’t want my feet to get cold. But no shoes, because shoes are uncomfortable when your sleeping” He. Was. Serious.
If you have been following along, this is not the first time he said something that threw me for a huge loop, made me slightly queasy or laugh! He seemed to throw something funny in now and then. However, despite me being queasy at moments, God told Scott that Dad was going to be fine for his surgery. Scott was very confident of that. I honestly was not sure. I really was not. I don’t want to admit this, for it feels like a weakness in my faith. I didn’t have the words to pray, either. I felt numb and silent.
Once we arrived, I decided to park and walk Lydia and Dad inside to check in. They did some simple paperwork for him and took down my information. There was a specific point person on the surgery team who would call me every hour with an update. That felt very comforting. Once we were done, the nurses were eager to walk him back. I gave him a hug, a kiss and told him “see you later”. I didn’t know what else to say. That was both of our hope deep down. That was Sam’s hope. Would that be the outcome?
I walked out the rather again, cold hospital, into the very warm August morning. God, what did I just do? Was that it?
I started my 55 minute trek home where I got on 322, connected to 419 through Lebanon, to 897.
August 24 was by far, the absolute longest day of my life. I had no words. I felt dead myself. “12 hours? How will I ever handle the anticipation? What if she doesn’t call me on the hour? If she doesn’t call me on the hour he is most definitely gone. She is just trying to figure out how to tell this newly postpartum, 26 year old that her very young father didn’t make it.”
I couldn’t get out of my head that morning. My thoughts raced on and on. I called Marie to make plans. I said get me out of my house because I cannot be here. She said “Meet me at ‘Moms’! We are canning and making lunch. We are here for you and will do a good part of this day together.”
So we did! We drank coffee and sat in lawn chairs. We watched children play while many sweet dear hands made salsa. I am so thankful, and appreciative of my people.
As the hospital made their first call, then second, and third – I continued to feel numb. “He is doing well so far, and we are progressing” . . . is all they would tell me. Every hour. . .
. . . To Be Continued
August 2020, right before Dad's surgery. Thank you for these incredible photos, Samantha. I can't wait to hang them in my coffee shop.