If I had written this on October 1 as I had intended, it would have been about finishing Steady Hedy, my book on blindness and the 28 days of guide dog school earning with tears and triumph my little black Lab Hedy and the fun book signings at wonderful bookstores with puppy raisers and handlers with guides. I would have told you there were numerous wonderful weddings in the families and several births of great grandchildren. I might have sent you a photo of the new band I’m in, North Coast Sound System, with its innovative lyrics and various combinations of folk, rock, funk, blues, and a little country. But early in the morning of October 27, my husband Dennis died in his sleep. Two weeks later, my father did the same. Neither departure was totally unexpected. Dennis had been ill for a very long time and wanted very much to go to be with the Lord. My dad was 95 and very aware that the aneurism in his belly was growing at an alarming rate. He was waiting to schedule a surgery for it and I had told him I would be there to take care of him. God spared us both the trauma. Instead, He took him in his sleep.
My dad was not curious about death or what happens after. He was too busy finding the potential in every situation. When my mom was sick, he focused all his prodigious brain on adapting to each new loss of capability, figuring out how to keep Mom going. He didn’t want me to talk to her about death because she had become a Christian and he was afraid if I told her about heaven she would want to go there and stop fighting to stay alive. He definitely acted like a man who believed this life was all we had. Nevertheless, Daddy believed profoundly in Creator. He said the human hand was too intricate, too perfect to be anything but designed. So many chemical processes and balances had to function for life to persist. It was no accident. Over the years I had tried to explain to my dad that Creator was Jesus (Yeshua) before He came to earth and took that Hebrew name. He was Logos back then—the second member of the Trinity, the Word of God. It was only when He came to Bethlehem that He was called Jesus, which means Savior, for “He will save His people from their sins.”
Well, at that point, I could feel the door slam shut on the conversation. My dad worked hard to be a good person, to help everyone he could (and he did, tirelessly). To him sin applied to a drunk in the gutter. I tried to explain that it is an archery term that means “missing the mark” resulting in separation from holy God—a relational issue rather than a judgment of character and worth, but it was too late. Mom told me that Daddy’s family made fun of Christians, saying they were weak. It was very hard for Chinese to understand Christianity, she said. “In Chinese, sons are everything. And FIRST son especially. Why would a father let his first son, His only son, be killed?” The Lord told me to forget about trying to explain it to my dad. Some things aren’t accessible by scientific inquiry. He told me to forget about doctrine. He said, “Just love him.”
In the next ten years, I had many opportunities to love my father, for I was often at the house helping him care for my steadily weakening mother, and then helping him with his adjustment after she died, and then with his own health problems, including a difficult surgery on his ear. We took several long road trips with plenty of time to talk. One day he asked shyly, “What do you think happens after you die?” I was so shocked I could hardly answer. I told him I had no personal knowledge but the Bible says heaven is a real place where all tears are wiped away and there is no more sorrow or suffering—but it is not boring either. People don’t merge into a great bliss of nothingness; they are still themselves, but completely whole. And Mom is there. Then I asked him what he thought happened. He said frankly, “I don’t know.”
He said Mom had seen visions—her sister who had been so sick as a little girl dancing in a field of flowers, her mom and dad reunited. “It isn’t that I don’t believe in those things,” he said, “it’s just that nothing like that has ever happened to me.” He was pragmatic—a true scientist, open-minded to whatever he observed, then letting the information interpret itself. Because he was so scientific and empirical in his approach to life, I was struck by his acceptance of Mom’s visions. He did not ridicule or doubt her experience with the invisible realm. He kept her accounts in his mental file of information and brought it up when something seemed to relate to it.
Over the years, Daddy changed. He talked more about God. He said the Lord had things for him to bring to the world and he would not die till they were completed. Microcurrent had been one of those things. Daddy chuckled as he recalled how many times he’d tried to get out of it, and how the Lord always nudged him back in, each time growing it more surprisingly until it truly reached and changed the world. I longed to explain that Creator and personal God with a plan for your life—that’s Jesus, but God had told me to just love him, so I did. But I prayed. And two times in that decade I’d said to him, “If Jesus appears to you at the very last millisecond and invites you to go with Him, don’t tell Him no.” The second time was when he had just been diagnosed with a rapidly enlarging aneurism. He said it was a time bomb that killed you in seconds. He told me again that he wasn’t worried because the Lord wanted him to bring things to the world and he would be here until they were finished. It was our last conversation.
When Dennis died, I was sad, but I was glad for him, just as I was for my mom. They had suffered so much and now it was over. They were whole and deliriously happy. I pictured her meeting him at the Gate. It made me smile. But when Daddy died, I was in an agony of doubt. Where was he? I couldn’t stop crying. I thought of my mom, weeping in her living room after the phone call that said her mom had passed away. She told me she suddenly saw her mom floating through the air towards her dad who stood in a golden oval with hands outstretched. Both of them looked young and there was such peace on their faces. As soon as their hands met, they disappeared. Mom told me she immediately stopped crying. There was no need. They were together. They were happy. As I wept, I wished I could see something like that, but knew not to ask. That was a gift of comfort from the sovereign God. “I’d just like to know he’s okay,” I said. “Please let me know if he is,” and hastily added, “Don’t tell me if he’s not.”
Two minutes later I remembered three dreams I’d had in the previous weeks. In each one I was at a hotel in an unfamiliar city waiting for my parents to meet me for dinner. I’d see them walking towards me hand in hand, smiling. They were young. And walking. Abruptly, my tears stopped.
A few days later, I came home to find on my table a gorgeous pink rose in a red vase. “Your dad told me to pick that for you,” my friend Dan said. “I was out in the yard and heard, ‘Cut that for Carie.’” My dad had always brought us roses from the garden—a big bloom for Mom and a bud for each daughter. I picked up the vase to admire the huge bloom. That’s when I noticed that from its stem came two strong buds. “The vase is red, for happiness,” Dan added. “Did my dad tell you that too?” I asked. He said, “I was reaching for a clear vase and my eye caught the red. I heard, ‘That one.’” Red. For happiness.
When I talked with my cousin Phoebe about the funeral, I said Daddy would probably want to be buried in his navy blue dress jumpsuit. She surprised me saying, “No, he left instructions. He wanted to wear the red one.” Red? You’re not supposed to wear red to a funeral.
At the funeral, my sister said she had seen Mom go to Dad saying, “The surgery will be much worse than the last. Why don’t you come with me now?” So he took her hand and left with her. Two of my dad’s best friends said they had identical dreams the night after he died—a little boy, very happy and bouncy, coming up asking for a hug. They said in their twenty-six years of marriage they had never had identical dreams. At the graveside, I shared that under my black suit jacket I was wearing a red top. My cousin Wes said he was glad I mentioned it because he had been reaching for his blue tie and felt he should wear a red one instead.
When I returned home, there was an email from my friend Nancy. “I know you are worried about your Daddy not having a personal relationship with Jesus and I just wanted to ease your mind and let you know that he does now. At the moment his soul left his body, every question he never had an answer to and every problem he never solved all came together and he saw how everything, including the trinity, fits together and makes sense. It would be like spending our entire life putting together a puzzle and it never looked like a picture we could understand until that last piece fits in and all of a sudden it does make sense and we understand everything. I hope this helps with your sadness and the loss you are going through. His spirit is with your Mother’s and they are rejoicing right now at the feet of Jesus. —Nancy
At first I thought Nancy was just trying to cheer me up. Then I remembered the accounts I’d heard of people observing themselves during surgeries—how they could describe afterwards all the instruments and procedures that had been used and the conversations that had gone on in the room. The ability to retain all that detail with perfect clarity had struck me, but it made sense because they were no longer encumbered by their material bodies. And then I understood what Nancy had written. Daddy’s scientific mind put all the pieces together—Mom’s visions, my descriptions, his own observations of divine design and his relationship with the One who called him to bring life-enhancing inventions into the world—it made sense. And he said, “Yes.”
Looking at the Daddy Rose, I suddenly understood its meaning. Whenever I visited my dad, the last thing he did as I got into my car to head home was hand me a freshly cut rose from his garden. It was one of my favorite moments—one in which I felt the most loved and cherished. As I looked at that rose, I finally got it. He was showing me he finally had empirical proof of the invisible realm. He was in it—fully himself and making his gesture of farewell in the way I understood and loved most. He wanted all of us to know he was okay. He had said it in his red jumpsuit. He was whole. He was alive and well. And he was happy. He was with Mom and Dennis, and though it was farewell for now, it was not the end. Someday they would meet me at the gate.
I’m telling you this in detail because this is the true message of Christmas—that Jesus came to defeat death and give us glorious eternal life in the presence of our Creator God, the personal God who has a plan for each life and loves us more than we can possibly understand—until we see Him someday face-to-face.
—Carolyn and Hedy
PS: Many of you know of my struggles with Hedy—how aloof she has been and how that has hurt my feelings. Well, the day before Dennis died, she gave me her heart. It was quite sudden. I had just received a disturbing phone call about my husband’s condition and was trying to calm myself down by watching “The Black Stallion.” Hedy came and pushed her head against me, then did a somersault, and then flopped down with her head on my lap. From then on she has been a true companion, and a tremendous comfort during the days and nights of grieving. I had resigned myself to being thankful that she was a good guide, and that the soulmate stuff was not going to happen for us. But then it did—at the worst time of my life.
My father was buried on November 22, exactly two years from Dog Day at GDB when I waited in the library for trainer Pat Kelly to introduce me to my partner. I had prayed for a year for God’s best choice for me, but the ensuing struggle with Hedy made me wonder about His idea of “best.” Now, in the beginning of the third year with Hedy, I can say He couldn’t have chosen better, and maybe if she had been more affectionate from the start I might not have been so touched with her obvious joy every morning now—a joy of wags and kisses that help me want to get out of bed and face another day. She is truly one of His very special blessings to me. And she just keeps getting better and better.