Two weeks ago, my family suffered a loss that was hard, though not unexpected. Seven years after a diagnosis of dementia, my father-in-law peacefully slipped away with family at his side. I had the privilege of being with him and would like to share some of my thoughts.
Although Bob was never an entrepreneur, he was a successful business man – an insurance executive. There was much to admire about his career. He was always on time – a struggle of mine. He was willing to work hard. He ran a district office for all of New England at one point. Employees at that location respected him and knew he would be fair. At the same time, they knew he had high expectations and that they needed to focus on results – as they were paid to do.
Bob was a good man, a dedicated husband, a proud father and a loyal friend. He found comfort in worship. In retirement, he loved spending time with his wife of 63 years, giving business and insurance advice to his family and friends, listening to music, and sharing great stories. In his 70’s, he developed a surprising relationship with the family cat, and they spent many happy hours napping together.
We mourned as the dementia gradually, steadily and irrevocably took hold.
Most of us do not like to think about death. Even if we are Christians, and do not fear the life to come, we still fear the pain and suffering we might experience as we draw near to our own death or that of someone we love. We fear the loss – and the unknown of how we will manage without the one who is leaving us.
Now, I have seen death. I have watched its shadow move slowly through the body, taking quiet hold. Bob’s sometimes-expectant face looked repeatedly toward the plain white ceiling.
I cherished this opportunity to say goodbye because both of my own parents died without warning. In his last hours, we each spoke to Bob, encouraging him on his journey to a life without pain or suffering. Reassuring him, we whispered through our tears that we were there and would take hold as he let go. We will never know what was in Bob’s mind in those moments – he could no longer speak.
I watched peace arrive when too many years of suffering ended. The warmth of love filled the room, giving us great comfort and relief.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,
he makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I am no longer afraid.
Until we meet again,
The Entrepreneur’s Friend
The Entrepreneur’s Friend® is a registered trademark of Wheaton Consulting Group LLC. Photo credits: All photos were taken by Cynthia Wheaton and owned by Wheaton Consulting Group LLC except as noted. Coffee cup art by Jim Wheaton. Author support: Fellow authors from The Wrinklings and Light of Carolina Christian Writers Group.