My father, Lynn Howard Smith, died in the early hours of January 4 at Holy Cross Hospital in Wheaton, Maryland. He was 89 years old.
My dad had been suffering from a bad cold and feeling run down during the Holidays, and on Thursday, December 30, he woke up with troubled breathing. An ambulance took him to an emergency room and then he was transferred to Holy Cross. He seemed to improve and we were hoping to move him to a nursing home. Sometime early January 3, he suffered a heart attack that seriously compromised his whole system.
When I got to the hospital yesterday, I could tell that he was clinging to life. He could barely get a sentence out and then he would drift off. He did not have the strength to sit up on his own. He knew that the deck was stacked against. After consulting with the cardiologist, my mother, my sister and I determined that surgery was ill-advised and the best course was to make him as comfortable as possible.
I was fortunate that I was able to spend time with my dad while he was in the hospital. Matthew and Stephanie, my son and daughter, went to see him on Monday because it was likely the last time they could speak with him.
I got word that my dad had died about 1:30 am and was unable to sleep so I sat down to write these words, to just do something to fight off the sense of helplessness about not being at his side at his final moments, about not being able to relieve his discomfort and at having disappointed him at several points in my life. I know that he had long ago brushed aside those failings as insignificant, but they still remain in my memories, like pebbles in my shoe — I will wear them down until they are smooth.
My father was a pastor and a man of deep faith so I know that he accepted this passage as inevitable and, ultimately, as a blessing from his Lord and Savior. It pained him to be separated from my mother, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Beyond the accomplishment of nurturing this extended family, he devoted his life to the ministry. Over four decades, he served only three congregations. I know that they all ended up regretting that he moved on.