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Tonight I cried, by Mark Rector copyright 1999

Originally published at:
[Written to my father's widow, Miss Audrey, almost eight months after my father's passing.]


Tonight I cried
He was right there, in the next room, all the time...

Dear Audrey,
I hope this doesn't upset you, if it seems like it might, then please don't read it. Just set it aside, someday you may be more ready to read it. I am writing it because tonight I have to write it.
Tonight I went to the store just before closing time (9:00PM) at the local IGA. I hadn't eaten anything all day, and knew I would be hungry eventually: after everything is closed.
I have been in the house about a week, but I haven't actually unpacked or put stuff up yet. I just don't seem to be able to get moving on it. I haven't been out looking for a job, since I found out the one I thought I had won't be there after all. I haven't set up the bed in the bedroom. I haven't put up most of my clothes yet. I have set up the computer, and set up the kitchen real nice (I will post a picture on my Boswell website).
Tonight, coming back from the store, I promised myself that I would finish the kitchen, and set up my bedroom. Instead, I got so tired I just lied down on the couch and closed my eyes. I fell asleep.
I woke up after having had a dream. In the dream, I was rushing between Indiana and Missouri, trying to catch up with something I guess. In the dream, I actually pictured a map, with me running back and forth on the map. I had to get somewhere, I had to be there! I didn't really know what I was going back and forth for. At the end of the dream, when I awoke, I had this feeling like I had to get back to where Dad was. I had to see him one more time.
And I realized that, all the time I spent in Missouri, I never really talked to him like I had intended to when I went down there. I was busy painting, or working on the computer trying to learn how to build a web site for the horses. Or doing something.
One night, Dad asked me if I wanted to watch an old movie he had on tape, I forget now which one it was. I recognized the name of the movie, and I'm pretty sure it was an old John Wayne flick. But I told him I had work on the web site I had to get done right away. He sat in the living room, watching an old movie he had probably seen a dozen times, while I sat in the other room: pounding away at the computer and cussing’ at its stupidity. I became enrapt with the computer, and ignored everything that was going on around me, driven to pound away on it until I got it the way I wanted it to be.
Now, I am beating up on myself, for wasting the opportunity I had when I should have been initiating the conversation with Dad. Instead, I had been waiting for him to initiate the conversation. Perhaps he felt like he would be interrupting me, or that I wouldn't be interested, or that I thought I had more important things to do than just sit with an old codger watching old movies. Perhaps I pushed him away. If that is how he felt, I am so sorry. I was trying, once again like I have all of my life, to do something that would impress him, to make him proud of me. But, in doing so, I had lost vision of the reason I was down there, to get closer to him before he died, and I would not be able to connect with him ever again.
All of the time I was down there in Missouri, I was waiting for Dad to be ready to open up to me, to be ready to talk. And I thought that I would know when he was ready, and that he would initiate the long intimate conversation that I knew we would have when I first went down there. I was waiting all of those months for him to talk. And all of that time, he was right there in the next room. He was right there all along, waiting for me.
I guess I should admit something to you. When I went down there, I already believed that Dad was going to die. I knew that everyone has a time to live and a time to die, and I had sensed that it was Dad’s time to die. I had intended to make myself available to him, so that whenever he felt like it, I could share the gospel with him, and make sure that he had the opportunity to seek out his salvation.
Consequently, I never prayed for Dad to be healed. Rather, I prayed for and waited for him to be saved. That was my priority, to get the Lord’s hands on him and to get him into the Lord’s hands. Now, I don't know if I should feel guilty about this or not, not having sought his healing and recovery but rather having sought his salvation.
I always thought that there would come a time when he realized that he was going to die, and then I would tell him the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. I would tell him that the only important thing for him to do in this lifetime–the only imperative–is to meet Jesus and to ask His forgiveness and salvation. That is what this entire lifetime is about for us humans. For the sinner, there is only one sin in the world, and that is unbelief.
I always thought that there would come a clear-cut time to talk about his eternal soul. I thought that there would come a time when he knew he was going to die, and would be receptive to hearing me tell him the gospel. I waited for the perfect time to tell him what he must do to be saved, and what was the true nature of Jesus’ salvation, and how he should get there from here! I was waiting for the right moment, and biding my time until that time came. I busied myself with painting and the Internet and developing the website and trying to sell horses and to sell the farm.
And all of that time I was busying myself, waiting for the Lord to tell me, “Go to him now, and tell him about me.” I kept myself occupied, at least partially because I was afraid to try it on my own. I was waiting, believing that there would come a time....
And all of that time, he was right there in the next room, waiting for me.
That Saturday, when you came back from the hospital and told me we had to go back, that Dad had taken a rapid turn for the worse, I feel like I should have stayed with him that night. The horses could have gone one night without their hay and corn. They had plenty of water. We could have run home the next morning, thrown them some feed, and come back if necessary.
I didn't know that might would be my last chance ever to talk with him.
But, I still didn't think that Dad’s time had fully come. I thought that there would be another day, another opportunity to sit and talk about all of the things that we should have been talking about the previous few months.
I always thought that there would come a better time to talk with him. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later that week. Maybe after he came back from the hospital later the next week.
But, the next day he was on heavy sedation, and it wasn't possible to carry on a conversation with him. In a short while he slipped into a coma, and I couldn't talk with him. That is why I asked the surgeon if it was possible to cut back on the morphine: I was hoping he would come out of the coma long enough that I could talk with him about the Lord, and help him to confess and to believe unto salvation. Or, even if he never came out of the coma, that he would at least be able to meet these last moments of his lifetime with a clear mind, even if he couldn't respond to us verbally. I wanted him to be able to cry out to the Lord, when he was ready to go.
So, when Dad was in a coma, I prayed over him, telling him the gospel. I told him that I believed that he could hear me, even though he couldn't respond to me. I told him that I was talking to his soul, that I was speaking these words into his spirit, and that his spirit would hear them. I told him that he could cry out to the Lord with his heart, and the Lord would hear him and would come to him, and would take his hand and would lead him into salvation. I told him that the Lord could still reach him, that the Lord was the only one who could still reach him before he left this life behind. I urged him to call out to the Lord with his heart, to seek Him out in the darkness, that He was there and that He could hear Dad.
After a while, when I became pessimistic about him coming out of the coma--even if only momentarily--I told him that he was now beyond all of our reaches. We couldn't reach him anymore, he had gone beyond that part of his life where we could reach out to him.
I prayed over him in the Spirit, hoping that the Lord would make him hear the words he needed to hear.
All of this time, Dad was laboring to breathe. Every breath he drew seemed like it took all of his strength, that he couldn't even stop for a second, or he may not have the strength to start inhaling his next breath.
I had my head on his breast, trying to make him sense my presence. Mickey had just taken Jasper and Julie back to the hotel (I had suggested it, I still didn't believe that he would go without me having one last chance to talk with him before he departed). While I had my head gently resting against his chest, I kept whispering to him, “Dad, I'm still here. I'm still with you, I will always be with you. I'm right here next to you, you're not alone.” I just kept repeating these assurances, I didn't want him to think that he was alone at this time, I wanted him to know that we were there with him, and were supporting him in the only way we now could.
And while I was touching my head to his breast, and softly repeating these assurances, he opened his eyes and looked out towards me. He stopped inhaling, and opened his mouth as though he wanted to say something to me, even though he didn't have the breath to speak fully. I told him, “No, Dad, don't try to speak, just keep breathing!” I was afraid that if he tried to talk, he wouldn't be able to resume breathing again.
But he opened his mouth anyway, and breathlessly “mouthed” some few words that I couldn't hear, and his mouth was still open after mouthing a few words but he wasn't moving his lips or his mouth anymore. And the nurse came over, and put her stethoscope on his chest, and asked me to move away or something. I couldn't remember her exact words, because I was still there trying to will him to breathe another breath, as though by my mental exertion and the urgent desire of my heart, I could” will” him into breathing again.
But I couldn't.
And I a came home to feed the horses. And I walked around the farm for hours outside, it felt like he was still there somehow. I felt his presence, still, on the farm. And I sang some old Hank Williams songs, and sang some more, while I walked around. And I sang “Lonesome Blues” over and over again, because it felt so right that night and I felt like Dad was there listening, and that he loved hearing me sing the songs he loved all his life, so I kept singing it.
The previous morning, when I had taken a cab home and you had stayed at the hospital with your family, after I awoke and fed the horses, I decided to mow the lawn. I just had to mow the lawn right away, it was getting too high and it had to be mowed and it might be awhile before I got the chance again and it was dry enough to mow again. And all of the time I was mowing, I was singing “Lonesome Blues,” because it felt right. I was mowing the lawn and feeding the horses and singing Hank Williams all morning and regretting that I had wasted all of that time waiting for Dad to be ready to talk, and he was right there in the next room all that time. And that’s what I did until you and TW and your sister came back to get me to go back to the hospital.
But the morning after Dad passed away, I awoke after having a dream. And after a few hours, I remembered what I had dreamed. Awake then, I could see what, in the dream that morning, Dad had been saying the night before.
In the dream, Dad was using his last breath to mouth those words to me again. But, unlike the night before when he was using his very last breath to try to speak with me an couldn't, in the dream I could actually hear his words. And he was saying, “Mark, I love you.”

And now, I don't know what to do.
~Mark A. Rector

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© 18 March 2001, Copyright Mark A. Rector. All Rights Reserved.