Dad, ninety five now and in a nursing home, receives some surprising company.
“Dave comes to visit me,” he’s told me and my siblings often. “He sits beside the bed and reads me the Bible.”
Dad’s twin brother Dave, my favourite uncle, died two years ago. That doesn’t bother my father. “You know,” he continues, “it’s a funny thing. When he was still here, he couldn’t read well. Now he does. And I’m glad he does, because I can’t read so good anymore myself.”
He gets other visitors too. “Mommy was here today,” he told me once, when we could still speak on the phone. “She didn’t stay long, but it was sure nice to see her.”
That startled me. “My mother or your mother?”
“Yours!” he said. But Mom, his wife of sixty-two years, died in 2014 at ninety-five herself. “She never says much, but she pops in from time to time to check on me.”
I pondered that a bit. “Well, Dad, the next time she shows up, put her on the phone, okay? I miss her so much.”
He chuckled. “Kathleen,” he said, in the same, “don’t be silly, child” voice he used on me decades ago. “It doesn’t work like that. But she’s driving now, you know. Got her licence after she left.”
Mom never drove a car. “She doesn’t drive very fast, mind you, but she’s a good driver.”
Words escape my reach. “Well, good for her,” I manage.
Apparently his own mother, who I never met, comes to visit too. And a few others he can’t name. They stand around his bed. Sometimes they sing. He’s never frightened; just accepting and glad of their company.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of Dad’s stories. But my cousin Rena, Dave’s daughter, tells similar ones about her own father’s last years in a nursing home. And others have told me the same kind of things involving their elderly parents.
On my last visit to Dad in BC, my sis and I wheeled him one floor down to visit a pair of old friends. Pastor Bruce and his wife, Lorene were both extremely fragile, but they remembered Mom and Dad.
“You must miss Agnes,” Lorene said.
“I sure do,” Dad said. “But she comes to visit me, you know…”
Lorene’s eyes widened and flew to my sister, who made a sign the elderly pastor’s wife understood instantly to mean Dad was confused. She recovered marvellously. “Well,” she said. “Isn’t that nice of her?”
“Sure is,” said my dad. “She’s driving now, you know…got her licence after she left…”
Before taking Dad back upstairs, Pastor Bruce prayed. A beautiful prayer, strong and articulate. I felt a holy presence that room in those moments. The elderly clergyman died three months later.
I’m glad for Dad’s visitors, believers in Jesus, all of them. And I’ve come to suspect that the veil between here and eternity is far thinner than it seems. One day I’ll know for certain.
By a rather odd, but happy accident, the photo above, taken March 2019, includes my mother Agnes in the pic to the left – taken just a few months before her death in 2014, and my father’s parents in the picture to the right – likely taken in the early 1920s (Grandpa died just a few years after my father’s birth in 1924).