Friday, November 12, 2010

Seeing Dad Alive for the Last Time

Dad and I during one of our last visits
My father, Roger Lacroix, fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for his injuries, and was blessed with a long and fruitful life. But around age 80, the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease became very pronounced.

In June 2008, he was admitted to the Veterans' Hospital because of his disease. And after that, he never went home. He had to be kept in either a hospital or nursing home for the remainder of his life. He didn't like that at all. He felt it was worse than his prisoner of war experience.

I knew that I would soon be leaving the United States with my family to serve as missionaries in Eastern Europe. We planned to remain overseas for at least a couple years before our first trip back to the US, so I knew I would most likely never see my father again. That was difficult, but we spent as much quality time with him as we could while we were there

Our children would sing songs about Jesus to him and he loved that. Whenever we would talk about my upcoming departure, he would need to be reminded that were going overseas as missionaries. He would always respond by saying something like, "I'll be dead before you come back." That was very difficult
But one of the most difficult things I ever had to do was to say goodbye to him there in the hospital for the last time. The picture above was one of those last visits I ever had with him. Visitors were only allowed to stay with him for a very limited amount of time. So I took each of my children in to see him and my wife went in to see him. I asked the nurse for special permission to stay with him longer, since this would likely be the last time I ever saw him alive. She graciously allowed me. And we had a good visit, but it was somber. Finally I had to say goodbye. I embraced him and walked away for the last time

As I left the hospital with my family, our eyes had tears in them and our hearts were sad. It was final.

Dad's Reaction to My Departure 
I got news later from my sister Claudette how Dad responded after I left that night in mid-October 2008. It surprised me to learn from her just how much he understood what was going on. Claudette wrote to me saying:

“I still remember after you left. Dad called Mom that night and told her he needed her to come visit him so they could talk about your leaving. He was very upset and told her he was going to miss you and probably never see you again.”

Needless to say, I was touched by his love for me. Dad's health continued to decline and he ended up in the Emergency Room with breathing difficulty on New Years Day. I had the chance to talk to him on the phone later on New Years Day, once he was stabilized. He downplayed his condition. I asked for his blessing, which was our family custom. And after he gave me his blessing, he said, "Pray for me, because of what I'm about to go through." Four days later on January 5, 2009, he breathed his last and went to be with the Lord very peacefully.

I know he is with the Lord, because he confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in his heart that God raised Him from the dead. The apostle Paul wrote: "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Rom 10:9). He made it clear that he was trusting in nothing but the blood of Jesus for his salvation. He and I had many discussions about the Lord and he had prayed together with me a few years earlier to invite Jesus Christ into his heart. During his final hospital stay before I left, we confirmed in prayer together that he was ready to meet his Maker.

In the final two days before he died, my father was seeing things in the invisible realm that nobody else could see. They had wrapped some white blankets around him as he was sitting there in his room, in order to keep him warm (see video). He commented to them that he thought he had already been given his heavenly robe (photo below).

My son preaches the Bible

Dad and Mom share a kiss in December 2008

Around Christmas time, approximately twelve days before my father died, my friend Dan Prescott went to visit him at the Epsom Manner nursing home, along with his fiancé, Valerie. He introduced himself as a friend of mine, then he played a couple worship tunes.

Dad made a comment like, “Let’s clear out the room and let people know you’re coming.” He was serious and he meant that if Dan was going to be playing his guitar, Dad wanted everyone else there to be able to enjoy it, too. Val read from the Psalms, maybe Psalm 91. Dad was blessed. He seemed content and reposed throughout the visit, just taking it all in. Dad talked proudly about me, saying, “My son preaches the Bible. I’m very proud of him.” This reminds me of what my sister Teresa told me about Dad. She said he would talk about me during her visits with him at the Epsom Manner.  One time he spoke about the fact that I had taken my family to Budapest, saying, “I’ve got to give him a lot of credit to go over there with his family.He must have had a good calling.”

Dad robed in white two days before he died

Blessed are those who wash their robes 
After I left the States, I asked a friend of mine named Don Bartlett if he would visit my father on my behalf and encourage him. Don called me shortly after Dad died to tell me he did visit my father as I had asked him to do, while Dad was still at the Epsom Manner. This was right after Christmas, so it was within a week and a half before Dad died. Don said he had a good visit with Dad and read some Scriptures to him.  He prayed for Dad and had a good conversation with him.

Apparently when Don turned to visit with the man next to Dad in his room, he set off the man’s security alarm next to his bed. Don turned to Dad, who had closed his eyes to rest, and said, “Wake-up call, Roger. Wake-up, call.”  He said that Dad chuckled at that.  But Don felt like it was significant that he read these Scriptures to Dad, which are for a person getting ready to go home to be with the Lord, and he had no idea Dad was so close to his time.

These are the passages Don read to Dad: Rev 21:1-4 and 22:1-5, 14.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Rev 21:1-4).

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:1-5)

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (Rev 22:14)

Isn't it amazing! Just a week and a half after my friend Don read those Bible verses to my father, he went to be with Jesus and was walking the streets of gold in heaven. There is no pain, no crying, no death there! During his lifetime on earth, my father had washed his robe in Christ's blood. And when his earthly life had ended, he entered the gates into the Holy city. And I thank God that he is in glory now. I know I will see him again one day.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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