Fellowship to Home Page

An Experience with My Dad in a Nursing Home
By Martin Greenhut

"...one more day to do the Father's will and experience the joy of knowing that we are his sons." (P.1928 Jesus speaking of his last free day on earth.)

When we have to face some of the crippling circumstances of ailing and aging human bodies, the true nature of the mortal estate confronts us in its fullness. Our bodies, like work animals that have burnt themselves out over a lifetime of laborious stress and physical abuse become weak and cumbersome organisms requiring inordinate attention and care. Our spirit must draw on whatever strength it has achieved to deal with the withering physical vessel.

And this is not only so for the aging individual, but a powerful experience for the family members who must associate with one going through this deterioration and death. It has all given me a (hard won) appreciation for the value of affliction in our spiritual education and the importance of separating our identity of self from our physical bodies.

In going through this most difficult experience I often have wondered, "Could this possibly be God's will for a man to suffer so?" and as I reflect on the overall value of the experience for all concerned I can only see once again the need to make important choices relevant to eternal survival and loving service. It all seems to put our lives into their true spiritual focus and give us another opportunity to reach out in faith, to experience God's presence, and to manifest the healing power of His love. At ground zero of this battle, suffering has only been in the experiences where we let go of His hand.

When My Father came to live in my hometown he was 89 years old. He was still walking around (though, weakly) and looked forward to enjoying relief from his isolation from family and friends. I, too, anticipated with joy the chance to include my aging father in my life.

Because of his severe health problems, he required around-the-clock supervision and nursing care. We found a nursing home only ten minutes away from my home that is known as one of the very best in the area.

I sensed the help of angelic hands from the very outset of my effort to get him here and can feel the presence of their caring and purposeful ministry as I witness his extremely rapid physical deterioration which I did not anticipate.

Dad never allowed himself to hear about the Fifth Epochal Revelation of God's loving presence in and among us. He had made other commitments to a religion of traditional authority and was not to experience the comfort of knowing these things.

At this writing he is failing in strength and has physical problems that seem to be overtaking him. I spend several hours with him each day and have retained the help of two personal attendants who stay with him mornings and evenings. It is a time when the windows of truth are open. We can see our emotional reactions to his agony on the backdrop of our joy of finding him at peace of mind.

Father In Heaven. Thank you for this opportunity to see the way of love in contrast to otherwise useless endeavor. Thank you for using us as vehicles of your loving care to our brothers and sisters. As we learn to manifest you in our life struggles such as these we will gradually open the curtain of your living truth on our world and enter the glory of light and life.

POST SCRIPT: This was my story as I submitted it to Janet, the Family Life Editor of The STUDY GROUP HERALD the week of March 11. (Janet was due to deliver a baby and was already having contractions of labor for the delivery of her daughter, Hannah, who was born on Thursday, March 16.)

This week, my father had given up the fight to stay alive. He announced his desire to die and even said that he would kill himself if it weren't for us three kids. He stopped cooperating with Chris, his morning attendant, and refused to get up for breakfast or to get dressed. When I got there afternoons he was still in bed and I was given the report of how he only drank his orange juice and would eat nothing else. On Friday, March 12 when I went to see how dad was doing he was sleeping. I woke him up and he cried out to leave him alone. I said that if I were lying in bed having decided to die and would not eat or do anything he would not leave me alone either and would insist that I eat something.

"I will leave you alone, but first you must have a cup of soup," I said. "And we must pray together because you have made such an important decision. Then I will leave you alone." I went out to a nearby restaurant where they happen to specialize in Mexican cuisine and got him a cup of albondigas (meatball) soup which is one of the tastiest of soups that I could get for him. When I returned with the soup, Ruth, his evening attendant, was quietly sitting by his bed while he slept I woke him again and told him that I was back with the soup. We got him to sit up on the side of the bed and while I held him, Ruth fed him until he said that he could eat no more.

It was Friday night and I began reciting the Prayers for the Sabbath that he was accustomed to and then I began to recite some of the prayers that were relevant to his situation such as the praise of God for healing the sick and resurrecting the dead. Then I asked that we speak directly to our Father in heaven and dad spoke out loudly, "Father in heaven, bless my son." And I said, "Father in heaven, my dad wishes to die. If it is your will, take him quickly and mercifully. If it is your will for him to live here longer, return him to health and give him strength for his life."

And with this all said and done, dad laid back down on the bed and I bade him and Ruth good night.

That was the last time I saw him. Because of the blizzard of March 13, I could not see him that Saturday but got a call from his doctor just past midnight that he had died.

The blessings that accrued in these last months of dad's life have filled me to overflowing. After his passing and after the inordinate struggle to care for him and the burden of watching him deteriorate -- after the funeral service when my estranged sisters and I found that he had brought us back into family unity by his move to my hometown, I am astounded by the spiritual proportions of this experience.

Let me not again question the wisdom of God's manner of creation. We are not here, in the flesh, except to bring spiritual values into being in our lives and to share God's love with our associates. This experience of the last months of my father's life in the flesh has come out as a truly Supreme and joyful experience. Let me not shrink before suffering and affliction but thank God for the priceless gift of love.

A service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship