Tonight, I watched my father die
Sitting in the corridor of the hospital so the nurse could turn and clean up my father, I returned text messages of concern for his health. My dad had for the most part been asleep for the last week. Doris his wife, was at the hospital all day. Denise, my wife and son, Noah were also at the hospital most of the day. Victor, my step-brother had been there almost all day. Baby brother, Steve was also there for a good while during the day. I had been up sense 4 AM, baking a pound cake for the church “Taste Fest,” and putting the finishing touch on two different sermons based on some of the last words my dad had uttered, “Lord, Change My Circumstance” and “Why Me”? I went to church without eating breakfast. After church, Noah sent me a text saying I should come to the hospital right away. I went immediately to see my dad. After an hour or so, I announced that I was going home to take a nap and I would return at 7 PM. When I returned, Doris, Victor and Denise were still there.
Earlier that afternoon, I brought a copy of my book of prayers and photographs to the nurse who first attended to my dad in that unit. I showed her and another nurse some of the prayers and photographs and talked about prayer. They seemed genuinly interested and pleased to receive a copy of the book and for a brief moment the three of us talked about prayer and heaven. She told me that one day as she came in to check on him he had folded his hands, shut his eyes, and was praying. When she came near to him, she said he prayed a prayer for her. It really moved her that her patient was praying for her. We reminded each other that almost until the end that he would try to pray the “Lord’s Prayer” out loud. He was a man of faith. In his half-sleep state, he would mouth the words to the songs of our faith.
Around 9 PM, Doris stepped out to allow the nurse to work on my dad. Denise, Steve, Victor and Noah had returned home, and I was out in the hall so the nurse could turn my father and do some procedure that I did not want to see. Suddenly, the door burst open and the nurse came out with wide eyes saying something to the effect of, “You should come in right now because I think he is about to leave us.”
It was stunning on a lot of levels. I did not think today was the day he would die. No matter how sick a person is, death is like a punch to the gut. He was so peaceful, quiet, and calm, it seemed incredible that this was the end. I asked the nurse how come she knew he was dying. She told me that he was only taking one breath a minute and even that was slowing down. I could not believe it. Earlier that day, his doctor told me on the phone that she was one of the best of the nurses in that unit. In those moments I saw why the doctor was so impressed with her. Within seconds, four other nurses appeared and then two doctors. Like the morning dew, the breath of life was leaving his body. In the end, I just stood there thinking about the circle of life. Here I was, his first born, alone with him in death.
Yes, it was a sad moment, but it brought back a lot of memories, going all the way back to New Orleans, working as his assistant minister at Plymouth UCC in Detroit, thinking about Fullerton Street in Detroit and a whole lot of other thoughts. I kept reminding myself that he had lived a good life for 92 years and had accomplished much more than most of us could in four life times: elected and served on the Detroit City Council for 28 years; developed over forty acres of housing in the “Black Bottom” of Detroit; constructed a 1.6 million dollar church; established a mental health ministry; .laid the ground work for the first church sponsored charter school in Michigan; an original signer for the SCLC in New Orleans; encouraged Andrew Young to go into the Ministry and preached the ordination sermon for Andrew Young, forced the City of New Orleans to pave the streets around his church and so much more. Thinking of his accomplishments helped to take away the sting of his death.
His death was so easy, gentle and smooth, I had to ask the nurse was he really dead. She assured me he was dead. The doctors came in and ran a test to confirm the death, but he was already gone. I was stunned looking at him lying there in a peaceful repose. The nurse said something to remind me that he had gone on to reap the rewards of his faith. As I listened to her I began to think about the assurance of the Apostle Paul that death is not the end of life. Tonight, I watched my father die, but the good news is that he lives eternally with Jesus Christ!
I Corinthians 15: 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Nicholas Hood III
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Co 15:51–58). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.