Roger Slideshow

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

After the many family and friends had gradually and reluctantly left Dad's side last night, Nana, Dad's mom, was one of the last to leave. After a long day of expecting that the end could come at any moment, we were all starting to wonder if Dad might be sticking around with us for a while longer. Nana had been sitting in a chair by Dad's side, holding his hand, never moving for the entire day. At about ten o'clock she was waiting to board the elevator to go home with Sandy and Joe to get a few hours sleep. I said to her, "I'll see you tomorrow, we may have him for another day." She looked at me and said "No. I don't want him to be here tomorrow, it's too much. I told him my last good bye. It's time for him to go home."

In the end it was Cara, Katherine, Mom and I settling in for the night with Dad. The three of us kids had been making calls and plans and arrangements, and we came in to the room to find Mom in her pajamas lying next to Dad in the bed, talking to him. She said that this was her last chance to feel him next to her, "in this body that I have loved." Of course she was sort of squinched in between him and the railing, so we eased him over and made room for her. It was like he was home in bed with her, in the bed where he jokingly pointed and told Cara last week "Right there. I'm dying right there, next to your mother." We were talking about Dad, and the day, and the way things were, while Katherine got comfy and squeaked around in her sleeping bag on the air mattress, and Cara got ready for bed. Mom was describing something a friend had been thinking about, how in heaven there will be no more faith, because we'll have "sight," and no more need for hope, because we'll have the Object of our longing. How the one that will finally "remain," of that trinity of spiritual gifts, will be love.

For a while I had been thinking about the meaning behind Dad's many exhalations and vocalizations, as we listened for days to his murmurs and groans, and later to his labored breathing, as he tried to speak, or else to express something deeper than speech. I remembered Romans 8, and the idea of "groaning" there. Like all creation groans to be set free from "bondage to decay," like a mother groans in childbirth--the pain that is necessary, always, to give birth to great joy--like we groan for "the redemption of our bodies," and even the Spirit of God himself intercedes for us with "groans that words cannot express." Amazing that groans can be more expressive than words, and that words can fail to articulate the longing that a groan embodies. Groans "too deep for words." I think it was these deep longings that Dad's groans expressed--the longing to remain with his wife and his children and mother, along with the longing to be finished, home, to be free of his ruined body--the longing to be done with suffering and to see it turned to joy--the deep longing for resurrection and to see the face of his Savior.

We talked about all of this, and then started talking and laughing quietly about Dad, while still shedding tears, like we had done many times over the past few days with Sandy, Christine and Daisy--and with Julie over the phone as she drove the 1800 miles to get here. We were talking about who he was, what was so wonderful about him and why we liked him, and the things people had said about him that day, the hymns we'd sung--"When peace like a river," "My Jesus, I love thee," "My hope is built on nothing less," "On Jordan's Stormy Banks," "In Christ alone my hope is found." We were marveling at Dad's ability to cut to the heart of the matter, how he was capable of seeing the truth so clearly in situations where others got hung up on details and overwrought scenarios and pride and politics. How Dad was actually apolitical, because when he was most himself he had no agenda other than the truth, and the unity of the body of believers, and the good of his friends. He was so able to minister to others because he was all but free of self-regard and self-importance. There was no pretense whatsoever about him: he never pretended to be something more or less than who he was, never fawned and never patronized, and this made everyone he knew feel safe and loved around him, like they could relax and be themselves too. That was the environment in which real discipleship and communion could happen.

So we all unwound a bit after the big groups and the intensity of the day, and I think Dad sensed that, and as we relaxed he relaxed too. I was saying to Mom that Dad seemed to be lingering on even though we had started to pray that God would take him once Julie, Rob and the kids had arrived and spent time with him--but that it was nice. We were just spending time together and reflecting, and a burden was beginning to be lifted. At that point we said to each other that as long as Dad wanted to linger, to tarry with us there on the shore, we would linger with him, because we were still reluctant to let him go, even though we were praying for an end for him. Cara was saying what would turn out to be a last, tearful good bye, and she was by the bed sharing some time with him and Mom. Katherine was remembering the waterskiing incident of many years ago when she (claims she) almost drowned, and how Dad jumped in to save her, but right after that, being Dad, told her to get right back up on those skis. We were talking too about how the next moment for Dad, the next time he opened his eyes, all the pain would be finished, and he would be with Jesus, "face to face."

And moments later when the end came it was very swift and almost miraculously peaceful. Shortly before midnight there was a pause in Dad's breathing, and then he started breathing again, smaller and smaller, with spaces in between, but quieter and quieter. It felt different, and we knew he was very close. We called Kate over from her bed where she had been lying as we chatted, and we all held on to Dad as he breathed his last breaths and the pulse in his neck slowed and then stilled. It was perhaps 45 seconds from when we first noticed the change in his breathing. Immediately after, it was like a huge burden had been lifted off of all of us, and it was eerily quiet. Dad's breathing had created a rhythm of life, however fragile and tenuous, in the room, but that breathing was also the voice of pain, and it was the groanings of a longing deeper than words. So to hear it stilled was both a relief from suffering and a symbol of loss, but the silence signified joy for Dad--to die is gain--and the fulfillment of his deepest, life's desire.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone reading this for all the love you've shown Dad and us over the past decades, months and days. We are so grateful to be in the midst of such an amazing community. More from us later, as there is much to do. We will be posting more info here about funeral arrangements and the memorial service this weekend. Peace.

16 comments:

Penny said...

my last words to your father:

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

and now we grieve with you for the loss of such a wonderful husband, father, friend & man.

Becky Wilson said...

Oh, YES. How often I have felt the limits of words! Groans communicate in layers that words sometimes simply can't.

Sorrowing with you, but not - not - NOT without HOPE,

Becky

Thank you for your willingness to find the words necessary to let us step to the bedside and give one last hug goodbye to the friend and elder who loved us and taught us so very well. Your updates have been a gift to us. I'm so sad, but grateful, too.

stillsmallpoint said...

"when he was most himself he had no agenda other than the truth, and the unity of the body of believers, and the good of his friends. He was so able to minister to others because he was all but free of self-regard and self-importance"
This is how I remember him; why his friendship will be cherished and not forgotten. That love of Christ and his communion with Him were the core of his person.
Ps 89:15-16
"How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
O LORD, they walk in the light of Thy countenance.
In Thy name they rejoice all the day"

Rick

Marc Davis said...

thanks so much for taking the time to write, to reflect publicly for all of us to lean into. in an odd (rather selfish) way I am almost thankful for your dad's illness, for the opportunity it gave for me to drink coffee with him and your mom these last two years and grow in friendship with them. quite the gift.
with heartfelt love to you all, Marc

An Ami in Berlin said...

Tonight the four of us were back together again, and after dinner, I came to read the blog, to check for a post. I called out the news, and David and Rebecca held me as we all read the blog again, this time together. We prayed together for God's comfort for all of you and for ourselves. David was thankful that we had that time with Roger and you nearly a year ago. I reminded him of how Roger had spanked him as a naughty little boy so long ago, and we were all transported back to all the many years we have shared together. I am flooded with memories. Tim commented on how many deep talks we had shared around your kitchen table, and we all thanked God for how much your friendship has blessed us as we all grieve together. May God sustain you, uphold you, comfort you, keep you and give you all that you need. Our hearts long to be there with you, dearest Clark family.

Paul said...

Karen and kids,
Jill and I are so thankful to have been part of your family...two crazy driven families trying to follow Jesus with our teenagers at Philmont, hockey and etc! We have been grieving and praying with you as you go through this passage. Thank you for pointing us to Jesus as you watched your husband and father go to be with Jesus. Now Roger sees so clearly and we are all seeing so dimly.
Paul and Jill

Colbert Family said...

Our family's heart's ache with yours, yet we rejoice in the hope that your dad now is seeing face to face!

With Much Love,

Jim and Shelley

Courtney said...

Mrs Clark, Katherine, Andrew, Daisy, Sandy and Cara, Julie and Christine,

Your dad used to cheer Katherine (the skilled one) and me (the clutz) when we played basketball -- he was so passionate! And all I could think of yesterday and today was how hard the Father was cheering for him when he came in. He thundered for him.

Much love,
Courtney

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
--Isaiah 41:10

We will never forget how Roger and Karen ministered to us after we married. We were so blessed and never forgot their counsel and love. Will be praying and we will see Roger again.

Love in Christ, Dave and Susan Kelly

anne said...

thank you andrew for sharing this,
praying for peace,, mercy, and rest for the family,

Ashley said...

Karen, Christine, Julie, Daisy, Katherine, Sandy, Cara, and Andrew,

Our hearts are so heavy for you as you are walking through the valley of death. We are praying that each of you will feel the Lord's rod and staff as you grieve.


I always loved being a guest at Clark family birthday dinners. I always left with my muscles strained from laughing so hard and a belly full from delicious food. Can you imagine the banquet that is before Roger??!!! Your husband and dad is face to face with Jesus. He is touching the hands that were pierced for Him and He is tasting eternal life.

Luke 14: 16-23

Love
Ashley and Dave

Ashley said...

Karen, Christine, Julie, Daisy, Katherine, Sandy, Cara, and Andrew,

Our hearts are so heavy for you as you are walking through the valley of death. We are praying that each of you will feel the Lord's rod and staff as you grieve.


I always loved being a guest at Clark family birthday dinners. I always left with my muscles strained from laughing so hard and a belly full from delicious food. Can you imagine the banquet that is before Roger??!!! Your husband and dad is face to face with Jesus. He is touching the hands that were pierced for Him and He is tasting eternal life.

Luke 14: 16-23

Love
Ashley and Dave

Cognitive Dissonance said...

The pain is palatable. Your family has mean so much to mine. The loss of Roger is huge, but his gain is even bigger. Our families prayers are with you in this time. I look forward to the day when the tears are wiped clean and we all feast around one big table

Judi said...

thank you for sharing what is truly a personal and holy moment. we grieve at the loss of such a wonderful man, yet we rejoice because he's met up with jack, ron, ben, al, bill, young jake, and nancy and they are all gathered around Jesus.

love
judi and ron

josh said...

love you guys much