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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Friday, March 4, 2011

I traveled to California to see my dad this week.
He's almost ninety-six and is in a nice nursing home.
My mother and siblings have been giving me frequent updates on his health and awareness and they all said it was time for me to see him before he no longer recognized me.
I must confess, I struggled with many emotions when the time came to see him. I would prefer to keep younger images of my father in the forefront of my mind, not the old, shrunken, non-communicative man that he has become.
But then I reasoned that that was cowardly. Even if my father no longer recognizes me (or maybe it only appears so), shouldn't I possess the whole range of images that comprise my father?
Shouldn't I squarely face the knowledge of my own father's human frailty, the brevity of his life, that even brilliant, capable, wonderful people, such as he, eventually wear down and go the way of all flesh?
So I went into the nursing home and found my father sitting up in a wheelchair. He was clean, well dressed, obviously well-cared for. He kept his head down, continually rubbed his forehead and didn't acknowledge my presence. We had brought a strawberry milkshake and he sucked that up like a hungry baby to the bottle.
I notice that his hands had been manicured and his nails were clean.
The place smelled nice. Not even a hint of, well you know what these places can smell like.
The other patients also looked well-cared for. In the other room, someone limped along on the piano playing, God Bless America, and another tried to croak the tune. My sister and mother and I joined in. We all have good voices and I noticed that the pianist tried harder when he heard us singing.
Finally it was time to say goodbye. I gave my father a long hug and said, "Goodbye, Daddy. I love you. . . I love you so much." Daddy made some affectionate noises in his throat, but used no words.
One of the CNAs rolled Daddy away to his dining table and I noticed that his dinner plate held some
tasty and nutrious food. The three of us went down the hall and into Daddy's bedroom. We sat on his nicely made up bed and I remarked at how lovely his room looked, so peaceful, light-filled, clean and organized. Images of my dad flowed in succession through my mind as I tried to come to terms with the fact that Daddy will not survive much longer.
He's left his stamp on each of his children, though. Our DNA follows the pattern set by Daddy. Our morals, our ability to tell a good story, our love for learning and for reading great literature come from him. Our fascination with history, with the natural world, with medical mysteries, and our appreciation for our Nordic heritage are all attributable to Daddy.
I love you, Daddy.
I appreciate how you worked two, sometimes three jobs to assure that all of us five children were fed and clothed and kept a nice roof over our heads.
I respect your wonderful mind, now cloaked in senility.
I love you for bringing us into the world, for cherishing us, for playing with us, listening to us, bragging about us, protecting us.
You've had a very hard life and have seen war-time things I can only shudder at, in imagining.
You were a quiet man, except in front of a classful of high school students.
You loved to listen to us sing and play our musical instruments.
You put in plumbing, knocked down old walls in the house and put new rooms in to accomodate our big family, you fixed the car, constructed a brick staircase, carpentered bookshelves and windows and doorways. You could do anything, Daddy.
Now you can't do anything and someone else is feeding and clothing you and deciding when you will get up and when you will go to bed.
But Daddy, layered with my recent mental snapshot of you in the wheelchair in the nursing home, are hundreds of additional images of you, laid out in my memory like a giant collage, that will forever engender my admiration and love for you.
I hope and pray that you have made peace with God through Jesus Christ. I don't know if you have. In the past, you have spoken about God and have prayed to Him. But who's god is that: your own or the God of the Bible? I pray that the Lord reveals Himself to you in your final hours and grants you a clarity of mind to respond to His one more invitation to everlasting life.
May God bless you, Daddy.
I love you so much.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad, Dena, and just another example of what a fine writer you are. God bless.

  2. Dena,
    What an exquisite reflection of a great man and beloved Father. Thank you so much for sharing your heart--and we're praying the Lord draws him to His heart of love. Grace and peace to you, Bobbe

  3. Yes, I agree. Your tribute definitely brought tears to my eyes. My father passed away here in Longmont in a nursing home at the age of 94. He had gradually begun to think I was one of his sisters, but still called me by the right name. I have recalled many of the same type memories as you about my hard he worked to keep a roof over our heads and food on our plates. I have some bad and some good memories of our past together, but I know I will see him again someday at our 'family reunion' in heaven. I pray you will be able to do the same with your Dad, Dena.

  4. A lovely tribute to a broken man who manages to have dignity, value and your love and affection. My father passed away at 72. His long life friend told me that "I don't know any man that didn't like your father." That has resonated in my consciousness for many years and I am sure will continue till I am no longer on this beautiful and amazing planet. Thanks for sharing, Dena. You have a special gift.

  5. Thanks you so much, Nancy, Bobbe, Sharon and Clark. My heart is still recovering from seeing my beloved father as he was. You all know what I'm feeling; it hurts.

  6. Dena,
    Beautiful, honest and right. An inspiration to those of us who must choose to "see or not to see". I hear your pain and I am grateful that you are so transparent.

  7. Dear Dena,

    I know this is an extremely hard time for you. You are blessed to have had such a wonderful father. I know it hurts terribly to say goodbye, and I pray you will have that wonderful reunion someday. I also pray that you feel God's presence, comfort and grace as you go through a difficult time. I love you!

  8. Thanks, Monica. It does take some courage to look the hard things of this life squarely in the face.Even when it's your own dad's face.

  9. Thanks, Margaret. You know what you're talking about. I guess one is never entirely prepared to see one's parent pass on.

  10. Dena,
    This brought tears to my eyes, and a lump to my throat, as it reflected my own feelings so well: my own father passed away 21 years ago, suddenly, and I never knew for sure where he stood with the Lord. My mom is now 89 and an incredible, witty, lovely woman, who is weakening, and becoming more fragile before my eyes. Still sharp in mind, I pray she listens and responds to the Savior's calling before it's too late--I am praying.
    I will pray for your dad, too.

  11. I appreciate your prayers, Wendy. It's hard to see our parents grow old and fragile. One day we will be there, too, and I hope that we can look back over a long, productive and significant life, lived for the Lord.