In June 2008, right around Father’s Day, my father sat my younger brother and me down to tell us that he had extremely aggressive prostate cancer. So dire was the prognosis his doctor suggested that my father use that summer to plan his affairs accordingly, and get ready to say goodbye.
With the coolest confidence I’ve ever witnessed in the face of such devastating news, my father simply said to my brother and me, “I am more than ready to meet Jesus. I would rather enjoy some more time with your mother and my grandkids, but if it’s time for me to go, I am ready! I just want to make sure that you two will look after your mother for me!”
Not long after, my mother, brother and I were in a hospital waiting room together as my father underwent radical surgery to remove a very large tumor. What seemed like forever was finally interrupted with a visit from a doctor with no emotion on his face, who simply said, “I think I got it all!”
Thank the Lord, the doctor did appear to get it all, or as my father would say, he “got an extension on his warranty.” And this was a blessing, because my mother would indeed need to be cared for, and only in the way a loving, committed husband could provide.
In 2015, our mother would be struck with dementia. Seemingly overnight, she stopped talking, and being able to care for herself, or function on even the most basic levels. Our father, who eight years earlier had been told to prepare to die, was not only still strong, healthy and in remission, but also would, seemingly in the blink of an eye, be forced by our mother’s sickness to exchange roles with her.
Our mom always took care of our father, and their home. Now, it was Dad’s turn to care for his bride, and home. And Dad did so, all the while still always calling his bride “princess,” “sugarcake,” or “honey-bun,” and always still holding her and tending to her the way he had done, my entire life, just as I’m sure he did when they were dating over a half-century earlier. Most telling about our father and his commitment to his bride and marriage was how he dealt with challenges most of us, I pray, will never experience.
About a year before my mother’s passing, she had fallen out of bed in the middle of the night. She was having convulsions. My father said, with tears in his eyes, “I thought your mother was dying as I held her shaking body on the floor. All I could think to do, was recite my wedding vows … Suddenly her eyes rolled back, and her body went limp. I thought she had died in my arms. But moments later, her eyes opened, and she was with me again.”
On May 2, 2022, I had the privilege of being with my parents when my mother, Carol Bernice Smith went home to be with the Lord. My dad was laying next to her in bed, holding her just like he’d done for 58 years!
Thank you Dad! Because of you, I know exactly what a father is! A father is a man who loves his children by loving their mother with both his words and deeds, ’til death do them part! In doing so, a father teaches his children how to love. When children are taught to love by their parents, they will, in turn, love others. It’s a formula that works. The recipe is as old as time.
Thank you dad. I love you! Thank you for loving mom, in sickness and in health. Thank you for teaching me and my brother how to love our wives, our kids, and therefore, most others we cross paths with in this life. Dad, you, Eugene Wesley Smith, born July 10, 1939, are my definition and example of what a father is. I love you. And I’m so thankful to be able to share this with you before you join Mom, I’m confident, in heaven.