How far is heaven? Lord can you tell me!
Dad knew that God was going to call him home, maybe up to the date and time. I know this is true because God will hardly do something in the lives of his sons and daughters without revealing his plans to them and more so, for someone who walked so closely with God like my dad did. I also know it was true because during his last couple weeks on earth, I could see it in his eyes, in his mood that something had shifted – dad had become more sombre, almost sad, and this sombreness grew more and more tangible in that last week. So he knew the day was fast approaching, but couldn’t say anything about it because he had lost his speech. He could only respond to his God and Saviour by getting ready to go home, and praying for those he was leaving behind.
To be honest, at the time, I also had a feeling that God was getting ready to call my dad home to him soon. I know this because when I look back all the signs were there, and not only that, God was actually communicating it to me but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I knew it would undoubtedly happen someday (hopefully in the far away future) but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I didn’t want it to happen soon. We had big dreams, dad and I. We had so many plans. I wanted him to see those dreams of ours become reality. So in a sense I knew it but couldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t really know, nor did I want to really know. Each time God said something to me about it; I would ignore his voice, and instead kept myself busy doing everything I could to add more life to my dad’s days, and if possible, many more days to his life. Let me give an instance of how this used to play out: On Monday 21st May, we had got home from dad’s dialysis session at about 7.p.m and after settling him in, I left to go to Bata to buy him a pair of shoes because I had a kind of urgency to fulfil some of the promises I had made to him. On the way, God said something to the effect that “you know he will not need those shoes you are insisting to buy…” Of course I didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t ready to have that conversation with God because acknowledging him would mean having to deal with the bitter reality of what he was saying. So I continued on, and even passed by the supermarket to buy my dad some vests and comfortable t-shirts. On Tuesday, I was excited to dress him in a brand new jungle-green t-shirt, the same one he was wearing when he died early Wednesday morning.
Wednesday 22nd May 2019. A memorable day. After giving him his last feed at about 1 a.m. I was up again at 3 a.m. for his 2-hourly turning/massage and then headed to prepare his food. As I was turning him at 5.30 a.m., I noticed he didn’t wince or show any discomfort as he normally would when being turned, although he did express his hunger. At about 6:20 a.m. I fed him, got him comfortable, then took some pain-killers for a migraine and went upstairs to relax for a bit and plan our day. It was dialysis day and we had a busy morning ahead of us.
A few minutes later I heard my dad utter a sound I had never heard before – kinda like a long deep sigh, or a long, loud inhale/exhale. I had come to know and understand dad’s language and this sound was new. I instinctively knew something was happening so I immediately sprung out of bed and bounded down the stairs, checking the wall clock on the way down: 6:50 a.m. What happened in the next few minutes was close to an out-of-body experience. Dad looked okay but as I was cleaning him up I noticed there was literally no muscle resistance as I moved him about. I was moving frantically but was very calm at the same time. No panic, very present, but moving lightning fast. I quickly got his blood pressure cuff on his arm: error! No reading! I tried again, nothing. The oximeter I had attached to his finger showed his oxygen level at 92% and his heart rate at an abnormal 220 bpm. I turned it off then on again: same readings! I knew that medical gadgets could malfunction anytime, but was still somewhat confused as I manually searched for a pulse on his neck. Still, nothing was working! [At this point I was regretting not checking his vitals before feeding, as was my routine]. I cradled him in my arms and started asking him, “daddy, have you really gone to your Saviour?” Over and over again I repeated the question, actually expecting him to answer me and excited that it seemed to be so. When he showed no response, I became even more frantic. I turned dad over on his side, and whoosh! a gust of breath came from his lungs. That was the encouragement I needed so I started “administering CPR” and when it (obviously) didn’t work, all I could do was cradle my dad in my arms asking him yet again, “daddy, have you really gone to your Saviour?” I was now pacing the living room lifting my hands saying “thank you Jesus” and going back to ask “daddy, have you really gone to your Saviour?” I checked the time: 6:52 a.m. No kidding. Apparently, two minutes is really a long time. The whole scenario described above took place in 2 minutes! At 6:53 a.m. I realised I have to call for help because if I can get him to hospital, perhaps we can get him breathing again. I mean, people who have been dead for minutes get resurrected all the time #BreakthroughMovie. It was time to activate my faith since dad and I believe in miracles. I started calling various neighbouring hospitals requesting for an ambulance saying “my dad is not breathing”. This, I came to realise, is the last thing to say to a hospital in such circumstances because they do not commit their resources to random desperate pleas of “my dad is not breathing”. I didn’t understand how all this works, I just wanted an ambulance to rush my dad who is not breathing to hospital. Instead, all I heard were all kinds of stories from, “we have an ambulance but no driver has reported for work” or “we don’t have a nurse to accompany the ambulance”. One doctor called me back and said if dad was not breathing I should be calling for a hearse, not an ambulance. All this time I knew dad had already gone to his Maker, I just…I don’t know. Anyways, for the next three hours before family members poured in, it was just me chilling with my dad. (Morbid? Perhaps) Let me tell you, I needed this time with him: to embrace him and kiss his face one more time, thanking God for calling dad home. Dad had looked forward to his home-going, we had been preparing for it, and here it was. God had done it.
I was also grateful for how it happened because I had prayed for this day, for this time. During dad’s long hospitalisation, I spent most of my days and nights at the hospital. I remember sitting at the visiting bay with relatives who have just been notified of their loved one’s demise. I remember seeing bodies being wheeled from the wards to the holding bay. I remember being in the ward when a patient passed on – as discreet and as professional as the medical staff was, I had spent enough time in hospital wards to know when it happened. And I had prayed fervently that God would not let my dad die in hospital because I had seen how terrible was for someone to pass on with no one but medical staff around them, and I had seen how tough it was for that person’s relatives as well.
What happened after this, including how I almost punched the hearse attendant, is a story for another day. One thing’s for sure though…I long for heaven much more than I’ve ever done.