Monday, October 19, 2015

Dad's No Longer Confused

Dad and me at Autumn Leaves, his Alzheimer facility, this past June.

One week ago today, my dear Dad passed into the presence of his Savior forevermore.  Thanks be to our gracious and merciful God.  Dad is no longer confused, and he's in his right mind.  His memorial service was this past Friday here in Arlington, Texas.  Following is the remembrance I gave of Dad at his service:

As you can imagine, considering the agony of his eight-year battle with dementia, it is difficult to remember Dad in his other, healthy life.  Dementia truly is “the long good-bye.”  But while dementia robbed Dad of his memory, let’s not let it rob ours as well when thinking of him.

Dad was a proud native of Brooklyn, New York, and held a particular fondness for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Coney Island.  He tinkered with photography and roamed Manhattan’s fabled Radio Row back before it was razed for the original World Trade Center.  Once, he drove out to California and back, just to see the rest of this America that New Yorkers often forget exists west of the Husdon River.

During the Korean War, he served as an Army medic in post-World-War-Two Germany.  When he took two severe falls this past year, and was taken to the ER, he made a point of telling everybody who came into his room - every time they came into his room! - that he’d been an Army medic, so he’d know if they bandaged him up properly or not.

It took him 13 years of night school to graduate from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  During that time, he helped lead the youth ministry of his childhood church in Sunset Park.  He also worked for a company called Richmond Screw Anchor that developed new ways to hold concrete construction components together.  It would be Richmond Screw Anchor that first sent our young family to Upstate New York from Brooklyn, and then here to Arlington, Texas, where Dad would complete a 42-year career.

He and Mom met as leaders at one of the summer youth camps in Massachusetts to which he’d take teenagers from his church.  They married in 1965 and this past summer, during a fleeting moment of lucidity, Dad told Mom that he didn’t ever regret one day of their life together.

He was a loving father to my brother and me.  He led me to the Lord when I was a child, and he’s prayed for all of us - my sister-in-law and his five grandchildren included - multiple times every day, up until the last year or so.  That’s when he began his most severe decline.  Several times every day, Mom would tell him he had five grandchildren and each time, Dad would gasp in amazement.

At Autumn Leaves, the dementia-care facility where he lived for his final nine months, we’d show Dad photos of his grandchildren, and he’d rave about how good-looking they are, even if he couldn’t match names with faces.

I can’t tell you how appreciative we are of the care Dad received during these past months.  Head nurse Jackie Lomosi and the dedicated staff at Autumn Leaves became like family.  In his fits of paranoia, Dad fired each of them countless times, yet they kept coming to work and tending to his needs.  I’ve seen what they do, day in and day out, and if anybody is underpaid, it’s they.

And there are others I want to recognize publicly at this time.  I’d like to thank Reverend Wes O’Neill and the members of Arlington Presbyterian Church for their care of Mom and Dad.  In particular, we’re grateful for Ron Stockton, an elder at this church, who spent a considerable amount of time in our home last December while we grappled with Dad’s extreme paranoia.

I’d like to thank my pastor, Reverend Mark Davis, and the benevolence committee at Park Cities Presbyterian Church for their extraordinary generosity.  Then there are our family members in Maine and Finland, and friends both here in attendance today and others around the world, who have prayed for us and walked with us during what has been a painful and arduous journey.

It has been through this journey of Dad’s dementia that his one and only wife has personified the virtues of God’s marriage covenant, and it has been through watching Mom’s utter devotion to Dad and his well-being that I have witnessed selflessness and faith in Christ’s promises.  For better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live, Mom jeopardized her own retirement to make sure Dad received the best care possible.  She was and remains convinced that God will supply her needs, even as He supplied Dad’s.

Dad was not a singer, but he was proud of having sung in the mass choir during Billy Graham’s historic 1957 crusade at Manhattan’s original Madison Square Garden.  And of that event, one of Dad’s fondest recollections was of famed blues singer Ethel Waters and her rendition of the 1905 Gospel song, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” written by Civilla Martin and Charles Gabriel.

Would that all of us claim these lyrics as our own:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches WE.