Dad's Glimpse of Heaven
- Monday, March 01, 1999
At 4:00 a.m. the nurse woke Dad to give him a breathing treatment. "Mr. Hershberger, do you know where you are?"
"Goshen Hospital," he answered politely and closed his eyes again.
She wrapped the blood pressure cuff around his arm. "Mr. Hershberger, who's the president of the United States?"
Dad looked at me with an expression that said, "Do I have to answer these silly questions in the middle of the night?"
She raised her voice, "Mr. Hershberger! Who's the president of the United States?"
"Do we have one?" he asked her.
"Good answer, Dad," I teased.
The nurse laughed loudly, gave him a mock punch on the shoulder, put an oxygen mask over his face, and turned on the noisy machine. "I guess you're awake and alert."
A week or two. That's how long the doctor said Dad might live, and we wanted to make the most of every minute.
I was glad to sit with my father-in-law during the night, while my husband, Dwight, slept on a sofa in the visitor's lounge down the hall.
When the breathing treatment was finished, the nurse repositioned Dad on his right side in the middle of the bed, carefully placing pillows against his back for support. He promptly pulled himself out of her neat nest and scooted to the side of the bed, his face almost against the bed rail.
"Okay, be that way!" she laughed.
I pulled my chair close to the bed and covered myself with a blanket. "I'm going to stay right here, Dad," I assured him, his hand in mine. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," he answered automatically.
I frowned at him, and he chuckled weakly.
"Not too good," he admitted.
I was grateful Dr. Yoder had been straightforward with Dad. He had told him that he would continue to weaken and sleep more. Eventually, he'd fall asleep and not wake up.
I brushed the damp hair from his forehead. "I wonder how it feels to know that you'll soon see God."
"It feels good," Dad said without hesitating.
"It's such a mystery. Tell us what you feel and see and hear, to help us understand what you're experiencing."
"I'll try," he promised.
"Are you scared?"
"No," he said, "I feel at peace. I've been wishing to go to heaven all day."
I could hear the nurses talking at the desk. "Do you know if there's a bed available at Greencroft yet? Mr. Hershberger's supposed to be transferred to the nursing center there on Saturday."
This was Tuesday night. In four days, Dad would be transferred to the nursing center where he hoped he'd never have to go.
I thought about Dad falling asleep and not waking up. There were some things I wanted to tell him. "Hey, Dad, soon after Dwight and I started dating, he told me what you said about me. You told him he had picked a good one. You told him I was a peach. No one ever called me a peach before. And I've loved you ever since."
He squeezed my hand and closed his eyes.
"I'd better be quiet and let you sleep," I apologized.
"No," he said quickly. "I want you to keep talking. I just can't keep my eyes open."
"I've always wanted to thank you for helping me plant that sweet gum tree as a surprise for Dwight's birthday," I told him. "You were so kind. You could have warned me that sweet gum trees drop thousands of nasty, prickly balls in the fall. But I was so excited about the wonderful tree I had bought. You couldn't bear to burst my bubble, could you?"
"The leaves are pretty," he said.
I laughed. "That's another thing I love about you. You see the best in everything."
Dad jumped as though startled by something.
I sat up, held both of his hands in mine, and put my face close to his. "Is something wrong, Dad?"
His eyes were open, but he didn't seem to see me.
"I'm leaving," I thought I heard him say in a weak voice.
"Did you say, 'I'm leaving?'" I asked quickly.
"I'm leaving," he repeated more distinctly.
He surely couldn't mean dying. Not yet!
I tried to think of some appropriate last words to say in case this really was the end, but my mind went blank. I started to say, "I love you," but he interrupted me with one word. It sounded like, "cold."
"Oh! You're cold!" I tried to reach for the blanket, but he wouldn't let go of my hand.
He tensed, and quickly spelled it for me, with emphasis on the g sound, "G-o-l-d, gold. G-o-l-d, gold and silver. G-o-l ? "
I was shivering. My heart was pounding. I leaned my head against the cold metal bed rail. "Lord, please carry him gently," I prayed.
"We love you, Dad," I kept repeating, as he took four long, shuddering breaths, and then was still. His hands became limp.
I should call the nurse, I thought. But I couldn't move.
I sat there in the darkness, holding Dad's badly bruised hands with intravenous fluids still running into them. My forehead seemed fused to the bed rail. Tears ran down my cheeks.
Six inches from my face, something supernatural had occurred, something far greater than my mind could absorb. I knew God was in the room, but I couldn't see him or feel him. I longed to be able to see what Dad had seen.
My mind was bursting with questions. Where was Dad right now? Could he see me crying? Had he heard the "good-bye" I said after he stopped breathing? Where is Heaven? Is it out beyond the earth's atmosphere like I always imagined? Or could it be very near? If Dad could see it while he was holding my hands, how far away could it be?
I gently laid Dad's hands on the bed, and walked out to the nurse's desk. I dried my cheeks and blew my nose. "Excuse me," I said, "my father-in-law is gone."
She jumped out of her chair. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"
"He just died," I said with a sob.
"That can't be!" she stammered. "He was just joking with me a few minutes ago."
She grabbed her stethoscope and rushed into his room, turning on lights and calling his name.
I walked down the hall to tell my husband that his father had just gone to heaven, and there really is gold there.
by Michelle Ablard
When my niece Carly turned two, I decided to take her to our church's Passion Play?a dramatic presentation performed before thousands of people. We arrived early and headed to the front row. I knew part of the fun would be watching Carly, who immediately got into the story, captivated by what was happening.
It was time for the scene from the Last Supper. Jesus told Peter why he must wash his disciple's feet. "Lord, don't just wash my feet, wash my head, and my hands, too," Peter replied.
Carly was definitely paying attention to this conversation, as she stood up and shouted at the top of her lungs, "And wash his tummy, too!"
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