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Private Sorrow – Part 5 “Day By Day”

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Part 5

Day by Day


Mocking birds awaken me. The smells of breakfast float down the hall inviting me. I clean up and dress. As I walk past Daddy’s room, I see he’s standing alone. His body looks uncomfortable all hunched over. He’s trying to use an electric razor.

The music is playing loud in his room. The voices are singing, “We’re Nearing The Shore.” It all sounds too real for me. I hurry down the hall.

After breakfast Dad sits by me on the couch. He finds my hand and clutches it firmly. He says in a faltering speech pattern, “You’ve been a good boy. Thank you for being faithful to God. You’ve stayed true to the message, and you’ve loved the truth.” I cried and thanked him. We hugged.

Daddy’s moments of lucidity became treasured memories. He always seemed lucid when He prayed.

Mom and I eat supper alone. Later she says tearfully, “I have no future. I have nothing to look forward to without him. Except heaven, of course. You know what I mean?” her glass come off and tears run freely. “It’s a valley we all must face,” [sniff] “but He’s faithful that promised.” The phone rang.

Mom wants me to go with her to find a funeral home, grave site and look for a church that would be able to hold a large crowd.

We sit around the table. Mom says, “If I let it, it would overwhelm me.” I play Sis Nona Freeman’s tape, ‘I Am My Beloved’s And He Is Mine.’ How precious and beautiful. We both cry, Mom sobs. When the tape is over, Mom is lost in praise and we talk in tongues for the longest. She says, “That’s exactly what I needed.”

I needed the message too, especially the part about dread. That was for me. We went to bed, it was midnight.


Nurse Cheryl visited Dad today. She checked his vitals and listed his condition as poor. Mom said he weighed 142. He’d lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks. I’d thought it was a slower process than that.

Nurse Kim comes, a portly lady with a cheery disposition. She comes three times a week to bathe Daddy and wash his hair, shave him and change the bed.

Mama says that the doctor told her that malnutrition and respiratory problems were the two biggest fears for someone in Daddy’s condition. While we are talking, Bro. Even’s calls back. Bro. Paul Jordan, one of Dad’s dearest friends, has died today. We can’t tell Daddy. We also decide that today is not a good day to shop for funeral homes and graveyards.

We eat lunch. Mom’s meals are mini-banquets for me. I’m staying stuffed. Malnutrition is not a personal fear for me today.


I arise about 6 am. Dad tries to open my door and come in. I open it for him and say, “Good morning Daddy.” He doesn’t respond to me. Mom rescues him and takes him to the restroom.

Mom called me into the front room. Both Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch side by side. His eyes were closed. Mom had just told him about Bro. Jordan.

I thought, “Oh no Mom, how could you?” (Old habits of confiding in your mate must be hard to break.) Tears streamed down both sides of Dad’s face.

The call from Indiana had said Bro. Jordan in his final moments had said he saw Jesus. And he saw Bro. Cavaness beside. Him. Mother relayed the message. Daddy screwed up his face and wept, leaning his head on her shoulder. “Tell them I’m only one or two steps behind them,” he said. Mama looked at me and mouthed the words. “Daddy knows he’s dying.”

At 1:30 we went to the doctor in Riverside. Weight loss was of major concern. The prostate cancer was not life threatening at this time. We are told to keep him hydrated. Mom is given a form for a Handicap parking sticker.

Driving home Dad said something I hadn’t been able to hear him say in a long time. “I love you Jesus.” It was said with such feeling and sincerity. It brought back many memories.

After supper, Dad wandered off into the office. Mom followed to lead him back out. She tried to take him in her arms in a romantic moment while enjoying the music of “Let me call you sweetheart.” She sang a few bars then all went silent. She left the room trying bravely to control the tears. Later, as she sat at the piano and played the song again, Daddy came out of the room smiling and unaware that Mom had been shattered by his unresponsiveness.

She asked him if he recalled the song. He said, “Yes. ‘Let Me Call You…’

“Call you what?” Mom prompted.

“Funny Face,” Daddy said.

During Mom’s piano playing, Dad got up a time or two and attempted to wander off. Mom said, “Carl don’t wander off.”

“I’m not wandering off, “ he responded.

“I’m playing these songs for you,” Mother continued.

Dad came back to the couch and sat down. I guess guilt still works on him. Mom continues playing and singing and asks Dad to sing. He weakly tries a few bars. (Mom told the doctor today that Dad never complains about anything.)

We haven’t made it to the funeral home yet.


At 9:30 am, Bro. Ted Molander came over to see dad. We visited with Dad while he lay in his bed.

The three of us prayed and talked in tongues for a while. Dad even prayed in Spanish for several minutes. Although it was his second language, I’d never heard him pray in Spanish. It was a special treat for me.

We tried to get a handicap permit at the DMV. We needed Dad’s signature. He signed it. Not too bad. Dad seems stronger and more aware today. Thank the Lord.

I called Marcia, she said the Bro. Fletcher had called my sisters and told them that the nurse told him that Dad’s heart was racing and his blood pressure dropping. The nurse said he wouldn’t last long like that.

As bedtime drew near, Mom asked Dad if he was ready to go to bed. He said yes. They slowly shuffle down the hall towards Dad’s room and his hospital bed.  Mother attempted to help him change into his pajamas. When she touched his belt, he grabbed her wrists firmly and said, “Woman, I’ll have you know I’m a Holiness preacher!”

He didn’t recognize her, but he’d never forgotten that he was a preacher.

Mother said, “Carl, let’s pray.”

They prayed. Somehow prayer always seemed to bring things closer back to “normal” for Dad.

Mom tearfully came back down the hall after Dad was in bed. She shed tears telling me what had just happened. She was in pain because he didn’t know her, yet she was happy that he knew he was a Holiness preacher.

We reassured each other, that while it was painful, it was kind of funny too. We hugged and laughed.


I have been up an hour or so and have been in bed writing. Daddy comes into my room and sits on the end of the bed.

He says, “Who can I talk too?”

I said, “Well, you can talk to me Dad, what do you want to talk about?”

Dad said, “My wife is crazy.”

I said, “Crazy?”

He said, “Yeah, she’s crazy.”

I said, “No Dad, she’s not crazy, she just doing everything she can to make your life comfortable and take care of you.”

He said, “All she’s after is my money.”

I said, “Daddy, you don’t have hardly any money. All she has, she spends it on you.”

“God bless that good woman,” Dad said as he left the room.

Dad seemed more belligerent today. Several times when Mom tried to help his he’d say, “Woman I rebuke you in Jesus Name.” Mom came into my room upset and I tried to comfort her.

Later we smelt something burning. Dad had turned the top burner of the stove on. A cookie sheet was on the burner, it was red hot. Dad will have to be watched.


I sit in the living room enjoying morning coffee while I talk with Mom. Dad enters the room behind her and gently swatted her on the backside. Mom jumped, her eyes widened as she gave a half-embarrassed smile. She gave Daddy a good morning hug.

My sister Ramona and her son Clint arrive. It is so good to see them. She is always a pillar of strength.

Mom prepares a world-class breakfast for us all. At the table, we held hands as usual and all kind of looked around to see who would be the one to pray. Dad began without prompting. He did a very good job. Well, except where he asked God’s help with the song we were about to sing. None of us smiled. We keep the chatter light while we catch up on each other’s lives.


Mom hurries down the hall. “If you want to hear Daddy praying, come quick.” I do. He’s praying the sweetest prayer. His voice is pretty strong and that is unusual. He also makes very good sense in his prayer. He’s saying very sweet and precious things to Jesus.

When done he opens his eyes and sees Ramona. He takes her hand and starts praying for her. I go get the tape recorder. His prayer makes us all tear up. Him too. Mom comes in and he takes her hand. He prays for Mom and talks in tongues often. His voice tires and becomes less clear.

Mom later tried to leave the room. He said he didn’t want Mom to leave because he was in the presence of angels. Ramona asked him what they looked like. His answer was unclear and mumbled.

Today as I sit in the living room looking at Dad and Ramona on the couch, I know our days of meaningful communication are over. How sad! It makes me think of all my precious children.

When I think of all the times I’ve been a lousy father, (even unintentionally) and made their lives unpleasant, I hurt. I want their memories of me to be treasured like the ones I have of my Dad.

Today I feel like a failure as a father. Life is getting away too fast and I’m doing too little. There are things I want to say to my children. I need to take time and do it  and say it now.

I’ve always told Daddy I loved him and have been affectionate with him. I have no regret there. I just hope that all my children can somehow see through my coarse ways and know that I love them. I need help in knowing how to correct and guide them with love. How did my Dad do all that with me? I try to remember. I want, under God, to be the best dad that I can be.

I’d come here to see my Dad. I didn’t expect this visit to make me look inward. I guess God knows what tools to use to open our eyes and our hearts.


It’s time to go. I am going to drive Ramona’s car back to Indiana. Carlene is buying it. When I am done packing, Mom awakens Daddy from his nap. He comes into the room.

Mom say, “Daddy our boy is leaving. He has to go home”

I hug his neck and kiss him on both cheeks. He holds me in a long embrace while he prays for me. He asks God to make me a “keystone” in the salvation of others.

I tell him I love him and that he’s been the best Daddy in the world. Dad, Mom and I hug in a threesome. Then Mom and I kiss and say goodbye. By much unsaid, it’s said.

Mom and Dad come outside on the porch to see me off. I stand by the car door ready to leave. Mom and Dad wave at me. Dad’s last words to me were: “I want to see you in the rapture!”

I teared up and Mom started to cry.

“I want to see you in the rapture too,” I said!

Leaving was too painful for words.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

Posted in Family, Grief, Life

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