Yesterday, July 27th we buried my father. If you would have told me at the beginning of this year that I would only have a few months left with my father this side of heaven, I wouldn’t have believe it. I’d be convinced you were joking.
You see, my father was very healthy and disciplined. He just had his knee replaced and was back walking 3+miles a day. When he visited my house in June he was walking every other day, maintaining a very healthy diet and happier than ever. It was the most wonderful visit. He was reading to the kids, spending time with Justin and catching up with me. He said so many times how much he loved us and was proud of us. How we were on the right track raising our kids. I remember stopping and thinking several times how grateful I was for both my parents.
July 16th I laid down for a nap after church. I was feeling pretty full after good fellowship and hearing solid teaching. Just after 2:30pm I was dozing off when my whole body jumped up from bed. I felt sick and afraid. I prayed that the Lord would let me rest cause I was so tired and peace fell over me and I feel asleep for a little over an hour. I woke up and checked my phone… “dad’s been in an accident…” my heart sank. I jumped out of bed and found Justin and sank to the floor. The family text was calm but we were tense… “is he ok…?” “where is he?”
He was driving home after spending the last two weeks preaching at a youth camp and catching up with friends and family. He should have finally been home that night. But the drive went terribly wrong. After attending church with my sister he changed at church and texted my mom saying he was coming home to her. He picked up subway and passed through Albany, GA. It was storming and my father hydroplaned and hit a tree on the drivers side. The door smashed in, car bent, steering wheel even snapped. He wouldn’t have even know what happened it happened so fast.
The text messages kept slowly flowing in… “any word?” Another one comes through… “Rachel is on her way, just over two hours out.” “They say he’s in and out of consciousness.” (Which later we found out was not accurate.) My stomach sank lower than it ever has before and I didn’t know how to pray. All I could manage was to ask Justin to get the suitcases down from the attic “just in case.” The next two hours crept bye.. waiting for more answers, waiting and praying for my sister to safely make it to my dad. Praying it really was nothing serious, and quickly texting close friend to pray as my whole body shook. I decided to take my oldest two kids outside to play and get some air. As they played my youngest sister called. “He’s not going to make it!” I dropped to my knees and said “I’m coming jess, I’m coming!” I dropped the phone, fully collapsed and just prayed over and over. “sweet Jesus, don’t take my dad. please Lord don’t take my dad…. I just want to see him… I just want to touch him.. please Lord spare my daddy.” Justin came running and held me I managed to continue. “Sweet Jesus I KNOW you are good, I want to give you glory. please spare him but please remind me you’re good.” My brother wrote and said “we got to go.”
We packed and were gone within twenty minutes. Fifteen hours of driving through the night, without a wink of sleep and we finally met up with all the stateside siblings and my mom. I dropped my kids off at the hotel, put on a dress and went to the SICU. I was met by a good friend who hugged me and escorted me to my dads bedside where my mom was. I had no words. I couldn’t even pray. I just stared. He looked so good, like he should just wake up. He had a broken arm and other broken bones you couldn’t see. His breathing was assisted and there were wires and monitors everywhere. I was speechless and trying to wrap my mind around what happened. I kissed him hands and held them. And thought maybe he will wake up, it’s just a coma, right? I quickly realized that wouldn’t be the case.
Tuesday. I got up early, got my kids fed and ready for the day then went to the hospital, this would be my routine all week. I offered to handle the logistics with the car and the tow truck driver and find my dads wallet. I had to feel useful or I was worried I’d go crazy. I called the tow truck driver and tracked down the car. It was off an old dirt road. Justin graciously drove me. We got out and the tow truck driver asked if my father was still alive. That should tell you something. I walked down the muddy path and saw it. My dads car. I knew he hit a tree but I had NO idea the tree went directly to his door. All I kept thinking was “he shouldn’t have made it this far, we shouldn’t be able to hold his hand and kiss him.” We got everything out but his wallet. After a second visit with my brother still no wallet. My mom asked my brother and I to continue on to the crash sight. We did, and we went together with our spouses. There wasn’t much to see besides tire tracks and a scraped up tree. But there his wallet sat. I was so overwhelmed. Emotions started to come in waves. Anger. Fear. Hurt. Confusion. But in the midst of that. I had a peace that surpasses all understanding. I couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to pray. But I felt the Holy Spirit press upon my heart that He already took my dad home. And that no matter what he is holding us all in his hands. I started to weep. “Father,” I prayed, “I just want my daddy back. But I know you are good.” Through the tears I sang the doxology, and Justin graciously helped me finish cause I could not. Here are the words. We always sing it at family gatherings
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In that moment I gave it to God. I gave him my hurt and my anger, my confusion and my father. I said he is yours, just help me trust, help me praise, help me stay faithful.
Wednesday came, the longer my dad was in SICU the clearer the reality of our situation was. My dad’s brain was so damaged. We all saw the scans, the Dr’s were amazing and taking good care of him. But he wasn’t there anymore. He never woke up. And his body was quickly shutting down. My dad had written wishes stating exactly what we should do in that situation. Another mercy God knew we’d need. After lots of discussion, prayers and so many tears we transferred my dad to hospice. There was a special hospice place where they took amazing care of my father, and where the whole family, kids and all, could hang around and just wait. I have never sung or prayed so much in such a short period of time. We took turns making sure someone was always there and singing, praying and reading. We all had a job and without each siblings, spouse and friends we wouldn’t have made it through. At first light on Sunday, July 23rd, exactly one month before my dads 65th birthday, the Lord called him home.
Although we believe he never felt pain, we were relieved he was finally with his Savior. The next day we drove home to Fort Lauderdale. And three days later we had a family burial. We prayed together, shared stories, praise our savior and read his favorite passages.
Friends, my heart hurts so bad. I’m sitting in my dads office now and it’s so empty. He was more than just my dad, he was my hero, my pastor even from afar, my mentor, and my friend. So many times in this last week and a half I felt like I couldn’t breath. But God is good still. He has shown so many mercies, and the power of his grace. I’m going to continue to praise him. I’m going to carry the torch of my dads spiritual legacy. I’m going to weep so deeply and have to remind myself to breath. But I have no regrets, my dad knew I loved him and looked up to him. My family is even closer than we already were. The word of God is much sweeter. Heaven is something I now look forward to everyday. I want to challenge you. Cling to Jesus. Love your friends and family. When you don’t understand the situation follow my dad’s advice and “look at the big picture.” “it’s about the end game.” My dad lived everyday to serve his savior and his kingdom. He lived counter culture. He lived intentionally. I hope and pray that when God calls me home, my kids can say the same about me.
I want to say a special thanks to my church family in Delaware, you all have lifted me up from afar. Also my in-laws who have been calling and writing and praying. and making it possible for me to be here. To my friends state-side and internationally who have been praying and writing me. To those I’ve never met and might not meet till heaven who are praying and giving. But I really want to thank my siblings and my mom and my husband. You guys have physically, spiritually and emotionally held me up. I have always been proud to be a Perry. But in the last two weeks I have been the most proud and thankful for my family. For my dad. For my mom. For my brothers and sisters and in-laws. And for my husband. I love you guys.
Goodnight for now.
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”