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Dad - In His Words

Letters From Dad
East Fairfax Rd.
Elementary School
Roxboro Jr. High
Early Friendships
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High School
Amherst 1st Year
Jobs '40--'43
In the Navy
USS Drew APA 162
Amherst '46-'49
Tom's Biography
Fran Kimball
Hiram Hardesty

Our last few hours with Dad…
(As remembered by daughter Ann (Fulton) Johnson)
Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Almost 6 weeks after Dad’s open heart surgery, his suffering finally came to a close. Jane, Tom and Mom were with him throughout, while Bob, Joan, Janet and I came from out of town to cheer Dad toward what we hoped was recovery, and to support Mom, Jane and Tom. And the final gathering, today, was to say good-bye.

On this last day, Dad looked peaceful and did not seem to be suffering. He was slowly slipping away throughout the day as several of the ICU staff stopped by to say their good-byes. Julie, Debbie and Pat were most present this day. Dr. Zivit also made a few appearances, as did Chaplin Harry. And Dr. Nearman saw me in the hallway and gave his sincere thoughts and prayers. The staff requested pictures of Dad as he was in life which I will send to them.

Jane and Sarah spent the early part of the day with Dad, Sarah saying her final good-byes. Uncle Dave and Uncle John spent the morning and into the afternoon with Dad, as well as Jane, Mom and Ann. Bob arrived at the hospital at 3:15. We played music and talked to Dad, held his hands, stroked his arms, head and feet. Several times during the day I had the distinct impression he was trying to squeeze my hand and he acknowledged us by raising his eyebrows a few times. At close to 5:00, Janet called me from the parking garage to arrange putting their luggage in one of our cars (Uncle Dave picked Janet and Joan up from the airport), and as I hung up, the nurse doubled his pain medicine because he seemed to be suffering a bit (his blood pressure dropped and his oxygenation dropped) and thought we did not have much more time with him.

I literally ran to the garage, worried they would not make it back in time. Katie then arrived, along with Tom and Beamie. Marila from Valley Presbyterian was also there. We played the 25 American Hymns CD and sang, held hands, talked to Dad, prayed and cried. We had an hour of final precious moments with all of us there, and when at one point Dad tried to move his mouth, I was sure he knew we were all there. I told him “We loved him too and that he was not alone.” As his breathing slowed, I read the following excerpt from Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King (used in Lord of the Rings):

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way…
Gandalf: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path…one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all change to silver glass…and then you see it.”
Pippin: “What? Gandalf? See what?”
Gandalf: “White shores…and beyond. The far green country under a swift sunrise.”
Pippin: “Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: “No… no, it isn’t.”

After I read the last line, Dad’s heart stopped. It was 6:15. I continued to read a poem that I had read to him several times over the last two days:

When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.

May you be guided by the light of faith every step of the way. (Barbara J. Winter)

I think Dad waited until all of us were there before he let go. I know he took comfort in our presence and love and that he is now at peace.

We love you, Dad.