My dad’s birthday was yesterday. I kind of feel bad for him, having a birthday after the holidays. It doesn’t lend itself to being all cheery when you’re back at work or taking down the decorations. In fact, it’s worse when you’re sick. Inevitably, for several years that I can recall, my dad and probably the rest of our household were sick on his birthday. One year it was food poisoning related to the never-again strawberry ice cream cake. One year it the stomach virus. This year it’s a cold.
However one year in particular I remember vividly. I was home from my first year of college and dad wasn’t himself at all. He stayed sick the entire holiday. I distinctly remember walking into the living room and seeing him asleep in the recliner and thinking “Something is just not right.” Later that year, as dad became progressively worse, doctors informed us that he had sclerosis of the liver. The deterioration of the liver was caused by years of alcohol consumption in excess. Bottom line, my dad was an alcoholic. As much as families swept the issue under the rug, or shared tired glances at holidays, I felt the need to share this.
You see, my dad’s story doesn’t end there.
In May of that year I returned home, full of hot air from my first year successes at college. I had two summer jobs lined up and big plans for myself. I came home one day and was changing clothes when my dad yelled for me to help. That image, after 12 years, is still as fresh as the day it happened. I remember him asking me to call an ambulance, and seeing my Marine Corps father being strapped to a gurney by an EMT. I vaguely remember them telling me I couldn’t ride in the ambulance with him. Most of all, I remember seeing my dad helpless, and fearing that would be the last time he’d speak to me again…asking for me to please get him help. Within days my family was informed that my dad was on transplant list, but if he did not receive a liver soon, there wasn’t much hope. As thankful as I am for doctors, my hope does not rest in them. It rests in a healing God.
I think I have honestly blocked so much of what transpired over those following hours and days for some reason. I remember a deacon from church coming to visit us at the hospital, and being asked to wait in the hall with my sister while he spoke to my parents. I remember him coming out and saying “Your dad has something he wants to tell you.” And I distinctly remember the moment my dad told us he could go in peace because he’d accepted Christ as His Savior then. The next thing I recall about all of this is my dad being sent to Vanderbilt because he’d been given days to live and they believed it could be prolonged there. I remember sitting in the hallway in the ICU wing as my dad told the doctor he didn’t want the liver that was awaiting him because he’d lived life wrong for far too long and someone else (the teenager next door on the same list) deserved to live a better life. I remember going with my mom to the extended stay facility they had for families of transplant patients with groceries. I don’t remember much else, but I know that my God performed a miracle in my dad. You see, He saved him in a hospital room so many years ago so that dad would live to share that glorious truth with others. Although my dad is rather quiet about that, and how God worked mightily to restore him and provide him a second chance to live life the way He purposed, I refuse to be quiet about it.
After all that, I am proud of my father. I have to say it’s been hard to talk about for a good part of my life as there was a sense of shame in having grown up having an alcoholic father.But the faithful and fervent prayers of my mother are evidence God hears and brings about good works in His time. I am reminded of that every time I see my dad. I am not ashamed to pray daily for those I love who do not know the God I serve. I am not ashamed to share my dad’s story, because God worked a miracle in him.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh will also rest in hope.-Psalm 16:9