My Dad

My Dad April 9, 2024

Rick, Frank, and David Rice (author’s photo)

My Dad

“My dad passed away last Thursday.”

Actually, it was a few Thursdays ago – March 14, to be exact. But that phrase – “My dad passed away last Thursday” – has been stuck in my head ever since then. As time went on, I realized that I was not going to be able to write anything else until I wrote about him. So here goes.

My Dad: September 10, 1926 – March 14, 2024

My dad was 97. He was born in 1926, grew up during the Depression, and went to serve in World War II. He never talked about the war when I was growing up. I suspect that like a lot of other veterans, his experience was not a pleasant subject. Much later – in the last several years of his life – he started to talk about it. Not so much with me, but with my son David. I think Dad was glad to finally be able to discuss some of his experiences.

Dad grew up in western Pennsylvania – Fredericktown, to be exact. His dad passed in 1940; after the war, my grandma moved with all five kids from Pennsylvania to Indiana. All five of them eventually ended up working at Uniroyal, and all five retired from there. Dad was the middle of the five – he had an older brother and an older sister, and a younger brother and a younger sister. The rest of them passed before he did – as did my mom – so he was the last of his generation to go.

Mom and Dad lived in the same little house in Mishawaka from 1949, when they were married, until 1994, when they moved to northwestern Arkansas. Until they moved, all of my family (six siblings) lived within a half-hour of them. After they moved, we spread out all over the country. I’ve been in northern Michigan for 25 years, so trips to Arkansas to see Dad were harder to arrange. And while he and Mom used to come visit every summer, health issues eventually made that impossible.

My Dad: Follower of Jesus

Dad was blessed to retain his mental sharpness, right up to the end. While there were times that some details escaped him (something that has become more common for me as well), he could remember people and stories from years and years ago. He enjoyed watching sports on TV. In fact, I joked that God probably allowed him to pass that morning because Duke was going to lose their basketball game that night.

When I was young, my dad was not a follower of Jesus. My mom got saved when I was very young, so she took us kids to church every Sunday (Dad played golf). Eventually, though, Dad came to faith, and then he was with us in church. He became an avid reader of Scripture, and continued to study the Word throughout his life. During COVID, he would watch the livestream of our worship services. In fact, when I visited him last November, he pulled some notes out of his Bible from the sermon series I did that year. Needless to say, that made me feel very good!

Finishing Well

I’m grateful that I was able to get to be with him when he passed. As a pastor, I’ve been in hospital rooms many times as someone made their transition into eternity. God blessed my dad with a very peaceful passing. He was ready, both spiritually and physically. During his last night, he asked at one point, “When does this end?” The nurse explained that he couldn’t breathe on his own without the mask, so they couldn’t take it off. I’m sure he realized at that point that his time had come. He had already told them not to resuscitate him or intubate him. He probably considered the mask the same way.

The next morning, the doctors told us (my sister and I) that they had done all they could for him; he just didn’t have the strength to fight off the infections (pneumonia and COVID). So after lunch, we talked to dad and told him that they had done all they could do. We asked if he was ready for them to take the mask off, and he said “yes.” I said, “You realize that once they do that, you can’t breathe on your own, and you won’t be with us much longer?”  He nodded, and I asked again, “Are you ready for that?” “Yes.”

They took off the mask, and we had a few minutes to talk with him, and then he drifted off into “sleep.” He didn’t struggle, and he had told us repeatedly that he wasn’t in pain. And after about a half-hour, he made his way into eternity.  I’m confident we’ll see him again, and I’m honored to have had him as my dad.

“I have kept the faith”

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB).

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