On June 29, 2016 my Dad began an 8 week journey toward his home-going. At the onset of it, we thought we had more time. We were told we had more time. We definitely prayed for more time. But God’s ways are not our ways, and most of the time that concept is fine with me. In this case, it’s a one-day-at-a-time lesson I’m learning as I realize the finality of my father’s death. On August 29, at 4:30 in the morning, Dad passed from the ordinary, natural world as we know it, into the extraordinary, supernatural realm where there is no more pain, no more bondage, no more need.
I’ve spent so much time over the past two months driving back and forth from the farm to Palm Bay, where my parents live. Each trip was different, each trip meant a further decline for Dad, and looking back on it I see now that it was very obvious that we didn’t have much time left with him. Each time I would come home to Monticello, I felt like I could exhale and process what I had just experienced with my parents and my sister. Coming back home meant peace for me. It meant that I was safe, back in a place where I could take a long walk at night and pray. It was when I returned to the farm, after spending the last week of Dad’s life at his side, that I was able to put part of the puzzle together of one of the biggest lessons I learned from Dad the last 8 weeks. I decided to share it at his funeral.
Here is what I told the crowd of 350 people who came to Dad’s service:
You can tell what is deep inside of a person, at their very core, when they experience circumstances in which every ounce of control is taken from them. I have worked with the elderly for 16 years as an occupational Therapist in nursing homes. I have been watching people in this phase of life deal with the harsh reality that they have no way to be in control over most of their life any more. And what comes out in those situations is what is deep inside a person, the traits about yourself that you cannot hide.
9 weeks ago, my Dad walked into the hospital with dehydration. He left 5 days later with a devastating diagnosis of stage 4 sarcoma that was possibly treatable, but definitely incurable. He was told he could not drive, he could no longer work, he needed someone else to manage his medications, and that he could not be left alone. Everything was taken from my Dad that day, and within a matter of days, Tom Babington had his mantra set for this new journey: “Glorify God. Stay in the Game” For my Dad, what rose up in him when everything was taken from him, was relentless optimism, fierce faith, and an even deeper love for God and his family.
4 weeks ago, when we were told that there would not be any more treatment options for Dad because his body was not responding well, he was once again in a situation that was beyond our control. We wanted the treatment to work and give us more time, but it seemed that wasn’t our reality. He took it all in stride, did not miss a beat, and kept on encouraging others around him, kept on staying in the game, glorifying God.
2 weeks ago, he entered the hospital with blood clots and we once again faced another setback. It was clear at that time that we had reached a point where Dad was facing the final lap of his race. Every day of his last week on Earth he spent blessing his family with advice, words of encouragement, and love. He even continued to thank the doctors, nurses, and all staff for their hard work and devotion to his care.
Dad is one of a kind. He impacted others every day. He proved that what you say to others, how you treat others, and how you focus on others truly matters. It impacts people. It touches people. It shows them the love of God.
We talk so much about living well….. but I want to tell you today there is such a thing as dying well. And my Dad did BOTH.