Keeping Vigil

Remembering Dad


My father died in March of 2007. I wrote this shortly before he passed through . . .

The hours drag but the days pass too quickly, the hours remaining we shall have our dear one near us. We keep vigil as a family and friends. It was thus in my father’s passing. The staff was attentive, caring, wonderful really.

Near the end, Dad was sent home for palliative care, to be kept comfortable only with no further ‘heroic’ interventions to be giveo. We knew that his remaining with us even for those days, was sheer gift.

The next day, he managed to swallow soup and chocolate pudding and lots of jello. He ‘surfaced’ for long moments, sometimes for an hour or so at a time, though he was mostly ‘in and out’ – groggy because of morphine and other relaxant medications received at four hour intervals.

Sometimes we played old, favorite Gospel songs and hymns on the CD player by his bedside. We heard again the old, familiar sentiments, now more compelling in this awe-full context. Our family had known, sung, remembered and resonated with the words for decades now, most of the hymns no longer sung in contemporary and supposedly cutting-edge worship services; they belong to another time it's thought, seemingly trite and even banal to many now. Yet, I was amazed how precious seemed the words to us as we gathered in those hours by Dad’s bedside.

Then came his eighty-sixth birthday.

I am carried back, say, to when I was eight or nine years old age, and Dad is leading the Gospel song-time prior to the evening service at the Gospel Tabernacle, Freeman (now part of Burlington, Ontario). The strong and virile man waves his hands and urges the congregation to note well the words of the song. Depending on the sentiment or teaching of each song, we sing with gusto or deep feeling; we sing with full assurance and hope, and sometimes with sheer wonder and praise for God’s love and care . . .

In shady, cool pastures so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along . . .
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright . . .
God leads His dear children along;

Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the Blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song
In the night season and all the day long.

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