Friday, August 21, 2009

He's Really Alive Now!

Heartbreaking. Joyful. Sacred. Horrible. Precious.

Those were the kinds of moments we spent together as a family at Dad's bedside yesterday.

It was truly the Lord's hand at work that allowed all six kids and mom to be together in the room when he died. One brother was just about to go out of the hospital for an errand, Debbie had been gone for the hour right before his passing, and another brother had just arrived twenty minutes earlier.

We noticed that Dad's breaths were coming further and further apart and after waking Mom, who was napping in the room, we called the nurse.

She came in with a stethoscope and said there was still a faint heartbeat. A minute or two later, she listened again and said, "He's gone."

I must stay that I've written a lot of words in my life, but there are very few words I can think of that can describe the feelings encompassed in that moment. Seeing Mom in tears, leaning over to kiss her husband of fifty-three years was dear and heart rending, all at the same time.

When Mom had regained her composure a little, she looked at everyone in the room and stated with a joyful, firm conviction, "He's really alive now!"

We wept with each other, hugged each other, and comforted each other--in doing so, we found peace for our own hearts.

Steve, Nathan, and Sarah are flying in today (I'll write about the provision of those flights in another post) and the funeral will be tomorrow.

We'll all fly back home on Sunday and Nathan will leave early Monday morning for the 560 mile drive back to school.

I have many more stories to write from the week (some serious, some funny) but for now, there are dozens of details I must attend to in the next few hours.

I've been so touched by the comments that have been left here and I have been amazed to watch the hit counter climb and climb. It's incredible to think that strangers all over the world care about our family enough to follow my dad's journey home--where he's really alive now!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Free To Fly

Edward George Campbell
May 10, 1936 to August 20, 2009 (9:40 CST)

Surrounded by his loving wife and children
who wept and prayed and let him go.
It's 11:45 pm. I made it here about an hour ago after an excruciationly long day. Dad is still breathing but hasn't spoken in about 24 hours.

The family is settling in around him for the night.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leaving for the airport in 10 minutes.

Debbie called and dad seems to be showing some of the last stage symptoms.

I so want to get there in time.

Thanks for praying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stressed Just About Describes Me

"I'm too blessed to be stressed."

At least that's what the bumper sticker says. At this point in my life though, I think I feel both blessed AND stressed.

I hope it's okay to occasionally be both.

I've also heard that stressed spelled backwards is "desserts."

I think I'm good with that. In fact, I think that I'm so good with it that when I'm done here, I may just go get another piece of pie from supper.

The pie I'm referring to is Sarah's birthday pie that Nathan lovingly went and purchased from Walmart this afternoon since his lovely mother was otherwise occupied with stressful activities.

I was especially stressed because it suddenly occurred to me on our way home from the coast today that tonight might be our last family night together before I leave for Wisconsin. (I may go before the rest of the family.) Then when we all get back home, Nathan will leave immediately for Florida to go back to school.

I thought, Oh dear! I need to put together something special for Sarah's "family birthday" tonight. (We're having her "friend party" next week.) AND get my hair cut. AND research airline tickets. AND make a final selection on Sarah's school curriculum. (Yes, I'm running behind.) AND come to grips with the fact that Nathan will be leaving for school way too soon. AND unpack. AND do laundry. And re-pack. AND ponder the possibilities of a move to the coast. AND worry about our house selling. AND think about the emotional journey the upcoming funeral will be.

Yup. Stressed just about describes me.

On the non-stressful side of things, though, we had a very pleasant meal together. Sarah requested gorditas and lemon meringue pie which made me very happy since gorditas are easy to make and lemon meringue pie is "buyable."

As we ate, each of us said something we appreciated about Sarah. We all liked Nathan's speech the best. He said that he admired her for going through so many hard things and overcoming them. He said that while those hard things have made her tough, they have also made her extra sensitive to other people going through difficulties."

We all applauded when he was done and Sarah just beamed.

The highlight of the evening was when Nathan walked behind Steve and goosed him in the ribs. Steve (who is obviously under a great deal of stress himself), jumped 4.7 feet into the air and made a rather alarmed, bleating noise which caused both children to be thrown into a massive fit of delighted hysterics lasting at least five minutes.

Nothing like cheap entertainment.

Here are a few pictures of the birthday girl. (Her official birthday is Sunday.)

You can tell by this picture that Nathan is reaching for the bass note in Happy Birthday.

Before we left the coast today, Sarah wanted to stop in a gift store to buy some things to give to her friends when they come for her birthday party. (What a generous gal.) While she was searching for the right treasures, Steve and I occupied ourselves in our usual mature fashion. (Sarah pretended she didn't know us.)

I am tentatively planning on heading to Wisconsin tomorrow if I can get some airline schedules to work. And that means that I really shouldn't be sitting here typing; I should be putting laundry in the machine and unpacking (and re-packing) the suitcase from the weekend.

Before I go though, I first want to say thank you to everyone who has already promised to send my mom a "happy card." Mom appreciates small gestures more than any other person I've ever met and I can only imagine the look that will be on her face when she opens her mailbox and sees envelopes full of joy! Thanks to everyone who is helping out with the "Encourage Becky's Mom Project."

Also, I wanted to leave you with a couple photos that I took this weekend. I don't know about you, but I could use a little peace in my life about now and looking at God's creation is about as peaceful as it gets!

These were the day and night views right outside our hotel deck. Such incredible beauty.

May peace and beauty fill your day.

A Quick Request

I was talking to Debbie on the phone a minute ago and she said whenever she and Mom go home briefly from the hospital, Mom always runs and checks the mail first thing. She usually comes into the house with only a bill or two in her hand.

Debbie asked me to send Mom a little card and for asked me if I would ask a couple of my friends, too.

"Well," I said to myself, "I can do better than that! I've got the world's best blog readers inthe world and I bet THEY would be willing to do something!"

So if you have a moment in the next day or two, would you mind sending a cheery card to Mom? It would mean so much to her and it would mean so much to me.

Jo Ann Campbell
317 Schnick Rd.
Onalaska, WI 54650

The latest report I got was that Dad was moved today from a regular hospital room to a hospice room on another floor. He still floats in and out of coherency but he is receiving a lot of visitors and calls and knows that he is loved.

And what better way to leave this world than knowing that you're loved?

Life Goes On

Life goes on. The sun rises, the sun sets and life just keeps on going on.

Sometimes it seems like when we walk through hard times (like losing a loved one) we think that the whole world should stop and notice and grieve with us. But life just goes on.

And I guess that's a good thing.

Life stopping? Not so good.

Dad is still hanging on to his life, still waiting to be summoned for his glorious graduation. Although it's not quite as glorious for the rest of us, the thought of him getting to meet his own dad (who died when my dad was just three days old ) is quite marvelous to contemplate.

And to think of my dad, who has struggled with major health challenges his whole life, being within just a few breaths of getting a perfect, healthy body? That's pretty marvelous, too.
He'll go to heaven. And life will go on.

And for those of us left behind. Life will go on.

In non-dad news, we're packing up our hotel room and getting ready to hit the road for home.
The interview last night went very well; we just a call this morning that they want us to come back and conduct a service (preaching and music). And then I'm assuming at that point we would be voted on by the congregation.

I'm not giving the name of the town yet, but it is one of the most beautiful little communities we have ever seen. We took a walk on the waterfront Sunday night and ate dinner at a little sidewalk cafe. I'll have some pictures to post once I get a few moments to get my act together a little more. Right now I just feel sort of frazzled and bedraggled.

The funniest moment in the interview last night was when Steve happened to mention that I had beat their former pastor at ping pong many years ago. (We had sung at that church back when we were on the road.) I must say that my stock with the men in the room went up rather significantly when that news was reported.

Their pastor of 21 years was greatly loved there and well respected but the joke about him that everyone knows is that he hates to lose at anything. (In other words, he's a great winner.) All the guys in the room said they were going to call their former pastor and razz him about losing to a girl! (Actually, the pastor demanded a re-match and came back and beat me the second time, so he was a happy guy.)

Anyway, the board members and pulpit search committee were truly delightful, warm hearted, open minded people. We really enjoyed our evening, although we were frightfully nervous going into it.

We didn't tell them till the very end about my dad's situation and they were all rather flabbergasted by the fact that I had been able to sit there so many hours, completely at peace. I knew I was able to keep my composure because of the prayers going up for me; I truly have felt the difference they have made.

Well, I'll sign off now and head out the door. We're still working on travel arrangements but the four of us should be heading to Wisconsin within the next day or two.

And in the meantime? Life goes on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Too Little Sleep, Too Many Tears

Thank you for your many words of encouragement, e-mails, promises of prayer, and virtual hugs. I feel very "surrounded." (In a good way of course!)

Dad is still hanging on to life. The siblings are still coming and going from his bedside, still crying for him, for each other and for mom. We're all more aware than ever of the ties of love that are holding each of us up, and tying all of us together.

Depending on how Dad doing tomorrow when we get home from this trip, I may be flying out very soon. It's been a roller coaster of emotionally massive proportions as he rallies for a few hours, then plummets, then gets better, than takes a turn for the worse. Every time the phone rings, I think it's going to be "The News" and I wonder, when the time comes, how I will take it. How I will feel. How hard it will be to hear the final words. I talked with my sister a few minutes ago and she said it looks like it's coming down to the next day or two.

Tonight at 6:30 is our big, scary and important meeting with the seven men and one woman of the pulpit search committee. It's hard to believe that so much can hang on just a few hours. And with my stress load already pretty high with dad's situation, I hope I don't end up going in there and babbling and rambling and making no sense whatsoever.

The tears come and go with no warning. I had a very teary moment last night when Debbie called and said that dad was asking to go to my two websites and read them. He wanted to see what I had written and see the pictures that had been posted. It occurred to me that in a few hours/days, he would never again see anything I had written and it hit me pretty hard.

He also wanted to look on a map and see where we were traveling this weekend. He's always followed us closely in all of our journeys and has sent his love and prayers along with us. Hard to believe that those won't follow me anymore either.

Sigh. I need to go and get ready for the evening. I'm hoping that my make up might miraculously be able to disguise too little sleep, too many tears.