I looked into his big blue eyes, “Hi Dad, would you like me read a book for you?”
He has been wanting to read The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. In March, I began sending him voice memo’s of reading it to him when I couldn’t be next to him. On this visit to my hometown, Ravenna, Ohio, I didn’t have the book with me to read.
His eyes got bigger, which usually meant yes. The slurring of speech began before his diagnosis of ALS, in May 2013. Within months the disease took his voice and use of arms, so he couldn’t ask or hold a book to turn its pages.
Family and friends ask yes or no questions, usually knowing big eyes mean yes, and everything else is hard to tell. Everyone loves him so well, but I reflect on all the hours he sat in his music room recording everyone’s favorite music upon request, or hours painting and cleaning the church, recording childhood family videos and giving them as gifts, volunteering at Camp Carl, and deejaying nights and weekends on top of his full time job. Everything about him is lovable and admirable.
He loved reading The Bible and always wanted to teach it. He seldom stood in front of a class to teach, but the lifestyle he lives is a full of teachable moments. Lives are impacted one at a time. Even not being able to speak for months, more and more are impacted. When life gets really hard and presses down, that’s when you see what you are really made of.
“It’s all goodness.” my younger brother of 357 days said. Truly as dad has been pressed more than any human I have ever known, he still only shares goodness.
“Would you like me to read a book in your music room?” I saw him looking but his eyes weren’t as big so I gave more options to give him time to respond. “Bible?” I asked with a smile.
Bingo. His eyes widened and brought my heart joy.
I went to his desk that he can no longer sit, and see his thousands of cd’s and vinyl records that he has collected over his nearly 30 years of deejaying. 1,210 wedding receptions, not counting private parties, dances, reunions, and car shows. His Bible waited to be reunited with its reader.
Sitting in front of him, I thought that this may be a challenge to find which book to read.
“Would you like me to read something from the Old Testament?”
He looked at me, seemingly waiting for another option.
“How about the New Testament?”
His big blue eyes gave me the clue. Now to read through the names of 27 books and read what he is craving to hear.
I function a little backwards, so I started at Revelations and worked my way towards the Old Testament.
“Ok Dad, I’m gonna name off the books, and you let me know which one you want to read, ok?”
I looked at him. No blinking so I continued.
“Jude, 3 John, 2 John, 1 John?” Still nothing.
I made my way to the beginning of the New Testament and Dad let a little grunt-like sound to notify me to stop at the Book of John.
“Ok, John it is. What chapter? One…. Two… Three…. Four….”
A little grunt for John 4.
I read the chapter about the woman at the well whom Jesus spoke with, the spiritual harvest, how people started believing Jesus not because what others said, but because of what they heard for themselves by simply spending time with him.
As I read the chapter and stories I have read many times and in many ways my spirit stirred to pray. I continued to read aloud, but my inner thoughts warred with crying yet again. Our family has gotten more comfortable and accepting of crying as we grieve and walk through this, but I didn’t want to get all red eyed and puffy faced right before our family portraits. I chose an easy way out, when my spirit wanted to pray. (Example of Spiritual Warfare between body, mind, and spirit).
As I read, I thought how perfect God’s timing is. The chapter mostly talked about living water and spiritual food, at the same time that Dad can only eat super soft foods. And minutes before choked on his first bite of scrambled eggs to show one more food option to be eliminated.
I tried mustering up the strength to pray, even though I was still reading the chapters, but that frog in my throat was ready to jump if I started.
Thankful for God’s grace, that I didn’t miss the opportunity to pray for him, because another door came to write him a letter.
That opportunity is now.
It isn’t a letter necessarily to him, but a letter to God, in which I intend for Dad to have a copy of. So Dad can hear the war that went on within me, and to know God uses him yet again in a sensitive teachable moment, and he never had to say a word.
I could have loved dad beyond myself and cry through my prayer anyways when I read. But I didn’t. I was selfish and making excuses to avoid more tears.
Dad would have never known the Spiritual War going on as I read, and could have remained silent after closing that book. He would have never known. It’s beautiful how many opportunities we are given to love someone beyond ourselves.
But the fact that this is still an opportunity to love him beyond myself, as Christ has taught me.
Thank you Jesus, for your grace astounds me. I know you have forgiven me for not praying over dad as we read, and the fact that nobody was even hurt from me not listening or obeying at that moment. That’s not the point.
The point being, it was an opportunity to listen to you to love dad beyond my own strength, and I chickened out. You smile and encourage me anyways, you are always so gentle in your ways. You give opportunity after opportunity to express love beyond ourselves.
Oftentimes we miss, focused in our own little world and insecurities, that the biggest chances are overlooked. Thank you for stirring my spirit to pray for Dad. Although, I didn’t listen then, but listened to my insecurities instead, your love and faithfulness remains. Your grace extended another chance to pray in the form of a letter.
My letter to God, that I meant to pray while reading John 4:
Father God, your spirit empowers more than anything this world could ever offer. You speak life, you are life, even in days of uncertainty. The days are painful, but you are there to restore our spirits and souls. That even though our flesh may fall away, your spirit endures through us forever.
(John 4:13) When Jesus was at the well with the Samaritan woman, she asked how he expected to draw water from the well when he nothing to draw with. His response, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Oh Lord! How you stir my spirit for my father! For he has nothing to draw water or food with, for he can barely swallow to be nourished physically. But it’s your Living Water he draws from. It’s the food so many souls do not know exists that nourishes his spirit (John 4:32).
Your eternal life is beyond heaven. But your eternal life is here now because of you, through your Living Water, through the life and death and resurrection of your Son. Through your Spirit. You ARE eternal life.
Lord, give him the strength for the days to come. That you meet with him each day as his body grows weaker, but through it all your Spirit has made his stronger. As it’s difficult to eat, meet him there, at Your Well, and draw your water for him. Nurture him.
True strength is not found physically, but from the well within from your spirit. May that well overflow from within him. All that is good, lovely, pure, and peaceful shines through his spirit and his big blue eyes.
And with those big blue eyes, for him to deep down say, “Yes, Lord.”