I sat straight up in bed, jolted awake by the images I had just seen in a dream. I looked over at the clock and saw that it was 4 am, the morning of May 8, 2006. I had just seen Papa Ost, my grandfather, putting on his suit jacket and hat and hurrying off, on his way to a meeting. Immediately after that image, I watched Uncle Roy and Aunt Louise, also moving quickly out a door. I heard Aunt Louise say, “He’s coming, Roy; let’s go!” Then I awoke. I knew immediately that Dad was going home to heaven that day. The tears began to flow down my face as I got out of bed and went downstairs to get a glass of water. God had allowed me to see some of the faces that would be welcoming him on the other side.
At 9 am, I sent text messages to everybody in my cell phone. It was a simple message: “We are losing Dad today.” I told only the family about my dream, and each time I related what I had seen, I wept. “It’s today, guys; I know it is.”
THE END OF THE ROAD
Several weeks earlier we were still scrambling to attack Dad’s tumor by any means necessary. The local oncologist who had been prescribing chemo was out of answers, and I had been leaving messages for the “quarterback” of Dad’s case at Houston’s MD Anderson Hospital, a brain surgeon. Finally, I got a call from the Doctor’s asistant. “What can we do?,” I asked. “Do you want us to bring him up again for another look?” She quietly said, “Jim, I’m going to give it to you straight. When your father came to us, the Doctor said that this was a long shot case, like a long bomb at the end of regulation in football.” “What are you saying?”, I asked. “Jim, this is the end of the road; I’m afraid you will lose your father. This tumor is too far gone, and, short of a miracle, it is out of our hands.” “Oh no, don’t say that. Please don’t say that.” I began to cry, and then all the despair and agony came out in weeping and wailing. “We tried so hard,” I said, gasping, “and that’s it? How am I going to tell my Mom?” “Jim, I lost my dad to cancer too, and I know what you are feeling. He is in God’s hands now,” she said.
She stayed on the phone for a long time until I was able to pull myself together. “Are you a Christian?” I asked. “Yes”, she responded, and I would be glad to pray for you. I sat slumped over in my desk chair, tears pouring down my face, as this wonderful Christian woman prayed in a quiet voice for Jesus Christ to bring me peace and be with our family. When she finished, I said, “You will never know the difference you have made in my life today.”
After hanging up the phone, I talked to Jesus for about an hour, pouring out my disappointment and despair, letting Him know how helpless I felt. Then I asked Him for strength and peace for the coming days. “Listen to me now, Jesus. I need you. Please don’t leave me alone. Please stand with our family.”
THANKS MAN, FOR ALL THE YEARS
We gathered at the rehabilitation center where Dad had spent the last weeks, deteriorating in his ability to communicate and function. Steve came by with Aunt Grace, who was headed for the airport. For many weeks, Aunt Grace had been an angel sent from God to our family, caring for Dad and staying with Mom, but now she was headed back to Arkansas.
After Aunt Grace said goodbye, Steve took Dad’s hand and wept. “Thanks, Man, for all the years, all the friendship, for believing in me. Goodbye, John. Say hi to my Mom and Dad.”
This pattern repeated itself throughout the day, as over 100 people came to say goodbye and to thank Dad for his friendship and love.
ARE YOU COMING, JESUS?
As I sat by the foot of Dad’s bed, I kept looking up at the ceiling, wondering when Jesus would come and get Dad. We sang hymn after hymn, and prayed together every time a new visitor came into the room.
I remembered Dad telling about the night he knelt by his bed at Taylor University, more than 50 years earlier, with his roommate, and prayed the words of the hymn, “Living for Jesus”:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to thee;
For thou, in thy atonement,
Didst give thyself for me;
I own no other master,
My heart shall be thy throne,
My life I give, henceforth to live,
O Christ for thee alone.
With that prayer, Dad had repented of his sins and accepted Christ as his Savior, and he had never regretted it. All of his life he had loved and served the One Who had died for him and saved him that night as a college student.
I looked again above the bed. “Are you coming, Jesus? Are you taking Dad home today?”
YOU ARE MY GREATEST TREASURE
Through the weeks, Dad had been talking about his desire to return to the Ukraine, and minister to those who had never heard the Gospel. He had been planning trips to Mexico to encourage the pastors and workers, and had asked for the book, “Operation World”, to pray for the nations in the 10/40 window.
But just a day earlier, Dad told mom that he was ready to go to Heaven. He was realizing that it was time to say “goodbye” was close at hand, but how do you say goodbye to your sweetheart, the one you have loved for 46 years? Mom told us that, at one point during the day, he gripped her hand and said, “You are my greatest treasure.”
I’LL BE SOMEWHERE LISTENING FOR MY NAME
At nine pm, the charge nurse told the dozens of church family that were lining the hallway and filling the lounge to leave the rehabilitation center.
Now it was just the immediate family in the room again. We gathered around the bed and began to sing the song we had been singing throughout the day, “When He Calls Me”
When He calls me, I will answer
I’ll be somewhere listening for my name
Dad’s breath became more and more shallow, and then he was gone. Jesus had come and taken him to the reunion planned for him in heaven. Steve quietly prayed and committed his body to God.
WE MISS YOU, DAD
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Dad and wish he were still here. Dad was the most Godly, pious man I have ever known, and an outstanding son, husband, brother and father. I miss our long talks together, our Bible studies, our fun times as a family, watching him laugh at my stories, seeing him play with our baby, Rachel, and, most of all, hearing him pray.
When he would see me down and discouraged, Dad would say, “Jim, something tells me you need a ribeye at the Mesquite Grill,” and off we would go for lunch. The Mesquite Grill was closed for a long time, but they recently re-opened on Jackson and Trenton Road. Maybe they have one in Heaven, too.
I remember that at one of the lowest points in my life, Dad was there for me. I had just been “dumped” by my fiancé and girlfriend of 4 years, after moving across the country to California. When the engagement ring arrived in the mail, I knew it was over. I called Dad with the diamond in my hand. He asked me, “You got the ring back, huh?” “Yeah,” I said. Then we just stayed on the phone, without saying a word, for 10 minutes. Dad was just there, sharing my deep pain with me, and I will never forget that. Finally he said, “Jim, you will feel better, and man, I wish I could take this pain away, but it’s just gonna hurt for a while. Please let me pray for you.” And then Dad prayed. I’d give anything to hear him pray for me again.
I visited his grave out on Taylor Road on resurrection Sunday. I read those beautiful words from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul tells us
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
We miss you, Dad. It’s been a year and it still hurts that you’re gone. May God help us to “run our race” with the same passion and commitment that you did.
I’m so proud of you.