16. My Dad’s Last Day – A Remarkable Story of Answered Prayer

 

My Dad’s Last Day

I got a call from my sister Jeanette on my dad’s last day.  She called on a Wednesday night to tell me Dad is in the hospital in Jasper experiencing heart pain.  I was not surprised due to his history with heart issues.

The drive to Jasper took just under two hours and on the way I envision myself giving his eulogy.  I committed it to memory because I knew.  He died that night, but not till after we looked in each other’s eyes.  There was a download that took place in that moment and it seemed to satisfy us both.  I could never ascribe a value to that transactional moment, for in his eyes I understood my own value as never before.

Eulogy for Gene Mize

The following came to me almost word for word as I traveled the winding country road between Florence and Jasper.  I would deliver it at his funeral three days later…

First of all, I know Dad would appreciate the fact that his funeral didn’t interfere with the Alabama – LSU game.  And I also know, that he would be the first to crack a joke here today.  To have Gene Mize with us for 84 years was a blessing.

The Lord has been good to all of us for letting us know him.

He married my sweet mother and they were together forty years.  They raised us and got us out of college before we lost her.

The Lord has been good to us.

A few years after losing her, two wonderful women came into our family. Merita Howell and her daughter Sue Phillips.  We quickly grew to love Nana during their years together, but then suddenly, it was her time to leave us too.

The Lord has been good to us.

After a few more years another sweet lady came into our family.  At first, we worried it might not happen.  A few months after Anna Stockton lost her husband, dad decided he would call Anna and invite her to lunch. She said, “Thank you for the invitation, but I had a husband and I am not interested in another one.”

A couple of weeks later, my brother Elwyn came to visit.  He said, “I am worried about Dad.  He is depressed because Anna turned down his lunch invitation.”  Elwyn knew I kept a prayer journal, and God answers my prayers, so he asked me to pray that Anna would change her mind.  I prayed and wrote it down in my journal.

Two weeks after the Prayer for Dad and Anna she called and said she had changed her mind about going to lunch.  A day didn’t pass after that without the two of them talking or being together.  A few weeks after their first dinner date  Dad said to me, “I was just hoping for someone to talk to, but this woman loves me.  I told her about my dubious health and she said, If we get nine days or nine years, I want us to spend them together.”

June of next year they would be married nine years.  But if you count their courtship they had nine years together.

The Lord has been good to us.

A couple of years later in the same prayer journal I prayed the Lord would allow Dad to keep teaching his Bible class till the day he died.  When I told him about the prayer he laughed at me, but I knew he appreciated the prayer and the sentiment.

Three weeks ago my brother Joel visited from Colorado and spent four quality days with Dad and Anna.  They scoured the country side talking about family and the old days.

The Lord has been good to us.

Two and a half weeks ago, Dad and I went to visit the family around our old home place.  We visited the Harp Place farm he bought with his Dad Albert after coming home from WWII.  When he moved to Double Springs, Alabama after marrying Anna he sold the place to his brother Wilburn.  After a visit with Wilburn, he expressed how proud he felt with the improvements Wilburn made to the place.

That same morning we spent several hours with his sister Footsie (Virginia) and brother-in-law J.D., before heading back to Double Springs.  I started toward Hwy 278 back to Double Springs and dad said no, I want to go through Haleyville.  He said, “Haleyville is my town and it always will be, and I like to see it.”

The Lord has been good to us.

The next day he calls me to say he has won four tickets to the Alabama vs. Mississippi State game at his Lions Club luncheon.  He asked if I would take he and Anna to the game. I was pleasantly surprised since he had shown no interest in going to a game in years.  It was not a good game, but just like he liked them…Bama won big.

The Lord has been good to us.

The following Wednesday, on November 12 dad had his 84th birthday.  Jeanette and Jim came home early from Ireland to celebrate his birthday.  He got many birthday well wishes from kids, grand kids, family and friends.  I called to sing happy birthday and he bragged about finishing two homemade fried peach pies Anna made.

The Lord has been good to us.

I asked him what he was doing on his birthday.  He said, ” I am teaching the Wednesday night bible class at Thornhill on Isaiah 46-49.”  This was his first time to teach the class since aneurysm surgery the previous November.

Teaching his class was his last official act on this earth.  Do you remember my prayer?

The Lord has been good to us.

During his last few hours, in addition to Anna and I, my brother Gary and Linda were the last to be by his side.

The Lord has been good to us.

When sharing these God-incidences with my friend Mark Bates, he commented, “Sounds to me like he was taking a victory lap.

I think he was too.

Thank you.

Epilogue:

I prayed he would teach his class till the day he died, because I had seen the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s.  I couldn’t bear the thought of my father succumbing to this disease.  So I covered my fear and dread with prayer.

So, I prayed and journaled,  “God, please allow my father to keep his right mind till the day of his death.  And even more specifically Lord, please allow him to teach his Bible class till the end.  He taught a class at church for at least thirty years and I knew he loved that.

Time marched on and at age eighty-two a doctor diagnosed an aneurysm in each leg.  They explained he needed surgery immediately.  The surgery was treacherous and recovery for a man of his age would be tough.

He survived the operation, but surviving the recovery became doubtful.  Then a strange and upsetting thing happened.  My dad lost his mind.  He didn’t know us and asked for things that didn’t exist.  He would grasp in the air for invisible objects of his imagination.  It was a world of his own. His actions reminded me of others I knew suffering with dementia.

I was heartbroken and thinking about my prayer.  It was discouraging, but then a really good thing happened. Suddenly, my father came to himself.  I was astonished.  The doctors explained that when a person experiences a lot of pain they can display symptoms of dementia.  It would have been nice to know that in the midst of the fight.

It is about a year later when I make the drive to the Cardiac ER in Jasper.   Dad’s wife Anna, Gary my brother and his wife Linda allowed me to take their spot in the ICU.  Dad had the covers up to his neck and his eyes closed.  I couldn’t tell if he was sleeping or sedated. I went to the foot of the bed and put my hands on his feet.  That is when our eyes met for the magical moment.  His eyes said so much, but for sure they said, “I think this is it…I am glad you are here…good bye…l love you…take care…make me proud…It’s ok…I will live on in you”  And when he finished he closed his eyes again.

Within five minutes the big one hit him.  He writhed, stretched and stiffened as if his body were hit by a jolt of electricity.  He grunted like a man trying to lift a heavy weight.  They asked us to leave the room, and I knew he wasn’t going to survive this.

Within a few minutes the doctor asked to see a family member and I volunteered.   He said my father was still alive, but that his heart had essentially exploded.  “The machines are keeping him alive,” he said. “It is up to the family how long we keep him on the machines.”  I asked if he had any chance of recovery.  He said there was none.  “Turn em off.”  I said.

I would never had imagined making that decision regarding the life of my father.  It was sobering to tell Anna, Gary and Linda he was gone.

Then I thought of God.  How he had honored me and my prayer.  How he had allowed dad to keep his right mind through eighty-four years.  And how on his eighty-fourth birthday and the day of his death he taught his last Bible lesson.

My brother Gary was in my dad’s last class.  It has been ten years since my father’s death.  I asked Gary if he remembered the lesson from that night.  He said he determined to always remember that last lesson.  He said, It came from the book of Isaiah chapter 46-49.  Ironically, the last verse he ever quoted was Isaiah 49:26.  It reads, All flesh shall know that I, The Lord, am your savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Only God could write an ending like that.

 

Discussion:

  1. Have you ever kept a prayer journal?  Would you consider starting one?
  2. Are there requests you would like to make of the Lord for family members or friends?
  3. Do you have requests you would like to make of the Lord for yourself?
  4. Have you ever had a time when the right words seemed to flow to you effortlessly?
  5. Have you ever had a time when things seem to work out as if the Lord were orchestrating?
  • Dennis G Brooks

    Hi Clay, sounds like your dad was a great man. I know you miss him. I lost my dad 2 years ago this past May. He passed away one night sitting in his recliner. He was 85, almost 86. I, like you, have a lot of fond memories. I miss him more now than I did right after his passing. You and I were fortunate, “God has been good to us.”

    Hope you’re doing well.

    • Clay Mize

      Hey Dennis, I do remember when your dad passed away and yes we were very fortunate to be in the company of such fine men. I know your kids look to you with the same admiration we looked at our dads. You should be very pleased with that. Thanks for making a comment on my blog and I do miss seeing you and your family. I plan to come visit before too long. God bless you my friend.

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