One of the first things I would do after I woke up in the morning was to ask Wes how Dad was doing. I took the first shift at night, which ended at 2 am. Wes would go to bed at 7 and get up between 1 and 2 am and stay with Dad the rest of the night. When I went in to check on Dad on Wednesday, May 16, I found him unresponsive to me. He hadn't been real responsive in the last couple of days, but he would at least acknowledge my presence. That morning, he didn't. I started to look for other signs our hospice nurse had told me to look for and sure enough, most of them were present. I immediately called hospice and they sent a nurse out to confirm my observations. Yes, we were in the last days of Dad's life here on earth. Yes, it was time to call my brother and sister and tell them they needed to come. Both dropped everything and came immediately.
Let me back up and give you a little history........
In 1968, Dad went to Florida and caught this huge sailfish. From the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail, it was 91 inches long. From the top of its top fin to the bottom of the fish's belly was about 3.5 feet tall. It was huge! And from the time I was 10 years old, that fish hung over my parents' fireplace. It really was one of Dad's prized possessions.
As time passed on, my brother, sister, and I would joke about who would inherit the fish. Even though it meant so much to Dad, it really didn't have a sentimental value to us.....plus the thing was so big that it would take up a full wall wherever it hung. We would kid and tell each other that Dad had specifically put it in his will that whoever we were talking to would get this fish. We would laugh and joke, but deep down I became a little concerned.
Once Dad moved in with us we decided it was time to sell his house. I called our Realtor and set up an appointment for her to see Dad's house and list it. She walked in the front door, saw the fish, and said, "Oh my! What is that thing? It has to go!" I knew I was in trouble. The fish was coming to my house and it might never leave.
Wes and Dad brought the fish down to our house and mounted it in Dad's tv room. (It was actually one of our bedrooms, but became one of Dad's rooms when he moved in.) The fish was proudly displayed over Dad's tv and honestly, it looked pretty good. He would proudly tell every hospice person or visitor about his fish when they would come visit.
So......back to the top of my story.....
When my brother and sister arrived at my house, the kidding began again who was inheriting the fish. We even told all the grandkids that Pawdy had "willed" it to them, but no one would bite. No one wanted the fish. Yep, I was going to get stuck with that fish and had no idea what to do with the thing. It's not like you could donate it to the Salvation Army, or sell the thing, or even put it out on the curb. I mean, what do you do with the monster? But pressing matters put the fish in the back of my mind. Dad's earthly days were coming to an end.
So, Dad passed on Saturday, the 19th. We were so thankful God allowed him to go home. He was so ready....and because of that, we were so ready for him to go. The funeral home came out that evening to pick up Dad's body. The young man, Victor, walked in and very respectfully gave his condolences, and honestly, I'm not sure he knew what to do with us. We were all laughing and having a great time. Dad was in the presence of Jesus and seeing family members who had gone before him. We knew we would see him again and we were happy for him. So, we weren't the normal crying, somber group that Victor was probably use to. Victor also informed us that his helper, Don would be coming shortly to help him. And it turns out, Don, almost showed up immediately.....in another hearse. So I have 2 white hearses in front of my house. Our neighbors were quite concerned. They knew about Dad, but with two hearses.....what was going on?
My brother takes Victor to the room where we had Dad's body....which happened to be the same room with the sailfish. Victor walks into the room and is overwhelmed with the fish! It is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. He is in awe! So, what does my brother do? He looks right at Victor and asks, "Would you like it?" Victor tells him not to kid him.....that's the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. My brother looks back at him and says, "No really....would you like that fish? You can have it". And yes, my friends, he took the fish! Don walks in about the time Wes and my brother are taking the fish off the wall. Being a little confused, Victor explains to Don that they are going to put the sailfish in one of the hearses and put Dad's body in the other. I wish you could have seen Don's face, but he shook his head and said, "Ok". So Wes and my brother take the fish out and place it on top of the gurneys in the back of one hearse, and then the gentlemen go back in and get Dad and put him in the other. We are all giggling....no, just down right laughing at the sight of Dad and his sailfish heading off together!
Isn't that like God? He took care of a really kinda unimportant thing - a sailfish. But during our time of saying good-bye to Dad, God steps in and does something so fun to let us know, "I am here. I will take care of things for you." And He did and gave us much laughter and a memory we will NEVER forget.
Oh, and by the way, Victor sent me a picture the next morning of the sailfish in its new home. What a treat, to be able to give it to someone who will truly enjoy it. So, I've put on a couple of pictures....one of the fish in the hearse and one with it hanging it its new home. Yep, a memory that will last forever.