It seems so surreal. There was a battle going on for his soul right in front of our eyes. The enemy fought hard and this side of eternity, we will never know the true results. Yes, we can speculate. Maybe the sunlight that washed over his face after he took his final breath was a sign from God above. Be it a signal of his salvation, or a sign that the enemy within was defeated by the mighty power of God…one day we will know.
The battle for his soul was waged long ago. Nearly 80 years ago a baby boy was born, and the battle for his soul began between our almighty God and the enemy. The enemy fought hard in the battle of circumstances that unfolded in his life…Dad’s life. Yet one way or another God would be victorious. He always will.
Dad, who is by birth my step-father but in life the only father I ever knew, faced his share of difficulties in life. Abandoned by his father at a young age, and left to survive the depression era, life was not easy as a young boy. Granny remarried a sweet man who faced a battle of his own in his lifetime. Grandpa had polio. For my entire life I recall him always walking with crutches. His poor body had been crippled from the disease. I remember him to be a kind, old, white-haired man; they called him “The Great White Father.” Grandpa stepped in with Granny and raised the kids as his own; Dad and his two sisters. Before long, a new little brother joined the family. Life was all that life could be for a family with four children 70 years ago. That is a story for another time.
Dad’s life wasn’t tragic at this point, rather just more confusing for a young boy. Why had his father left? I believe he always somehow blamed himself. Even up until nearly two short years ago, Dad still wondered why his father had left; even greater was his wonder of how he died. Some things will never be known.
Dad married young, and had a little boy. By this time in life, his need for control and apparent addictive and abusive personality was already showing itself. The battle was raging within. His marriage ended, and along the way Dad and his son Jeffery moved on. I remember the stories of how he used to beat Jeffery with a belt. How most certainly he would have been charged with abuse in this day and age. Then something changed.
Along the way Dad met a woman, Susie. I really can’t tell you what she was truly like, for he had put her upon a pedestal speaking rarely of her unless it was a Memorial Day or Christmas. It was then that we set out to adorn her grave with flowers. Never in his life could he ever truly get beyond her passing. She became ill with cancer and she too left his life. In the midst more tragedy, Jeffery became ill with leukemia and passed away at the age of 6. I’m not sure which came first, the passing of Jeffery or that of Susie, but the reality is this; The battle for his soul raged on. The enemy striking deeply at his heart…and Dad began to press the door to Christ closed…more and more tightly. His father, his first marriage, his son and his wife. Blow after strategically positioned blow the enemy pounded at the door to Dad’s heart. More and more tightly Dad pounded it closed. Would he open it for Jesus?
Lost, angry and hurting he continued to seek the life he so desperately desired. Happily ever after seemed forever elusive, as an apparent alcohol addiction and explosive temper was taking hold of his life. Maybe one day happy would be found. One day it was, or so it appeared. In some time he met a woman who herself had come from a difficult background, one shrouded in fear, tragedy, and brokenness. This story is one on which I can most accurately narrate. For this woman is my mother, and soon the man would become my step father.
The only father I knew fought with anger, addiction, and an overwhelming desire to control every possible thing in his life. Yes, the story is dark and the story is long. Too long for this time, but one day you may desire to hear it. It is filled with war. Spiritual war that was waged by our mighty and loving God; against a powerful, evil and deceitful enemy. A war that Mom and I watched through 42 years. A war that in the final weeks became so very apparent.
Today, just 53 days before his 80th birthday, Dad’s war finally ended as he took his final breath on this earth. The journey has been tumultuous and dark, sprinkled with cracked rays of light shining through some of the darkest days. Today as his shriveled and ever so fragile body finally succumbed to several months of battle between mind, body and soul…the mind desperate to control its destiny finally would be defeated by the beast the cancer had become.
The sun washed beautifully over the trees as the warmth of the day reflected in the accumulation from the recent snowstorm. It shone strikingly through the windows, casting a warm glow to a body soon to be returned to the state in which it began. As his breathing labored loudly, he struggled for his final breath. The sun disappeared; perhaps behind the clouds or perhaps taking a breath before the final blow in the battle. The room suddenly turned so cold that the nurse adorned her jacket. And then it came. Calm. Stillness. Quiet. At last the journey was finally done. The battle had come to an end.
Moments ticked away as the nurse watched and waited; checking to see if the time truly had finally come. As she confirmed it was in fact his final breath, sun broke through the skylight above. A sunbeam gently washing his face. Did it mean that he had surrendered to God in his final hours, or was God promising us that the battle was won; His mighty strength, power and mercy will always win. For He alone is God.
As I close my eyes tonight filled heartache and a flurry of emotions, I remember God’s promise found in His word. “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plan, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). Today is in fact a time to mourn, but even in the tears I find laughter and in the mourning there too is a time to dance. For God, “He has made everything beautiful in its time…”(Ecclesiastes 3:11a).