A birthday book: Themes and witnesses of life
Yesterday was Dad’s 59th birthday – and it was one of the happiest days of recently. I just never want to forget it. He and Mom went to the temple in the afternoon, and then we met them at a fancy restaurant. (Those two outings alone are huge feats!)
The kids and I were led to the table, where GMa and GPa were waiting. When we came around the corner, he stood up in a suit and tie, looking like a dapper and gallant prince charming. He extended one arm to welcome us to the table, and I nearly started crying right there. He looked so good! He looked so healthy and happy! When Alex arrived after work, Alex said to him, “You look perfectly normal tonight. You don’t look sick at all. Have you been pulling our leg?” (Or something like that.)
After dinner, we went back to their house for a giant chocolate chip cookie and gifts … yup, it was finally time to present him with his present! I’ve been compiling love messages and memories from his friends and family.
The “biggest and best birthday card” ended up being a 50+ page, spiral bound book! I have been touched and uplifted by these words, and I know he is being touched and uplifted by them too.
Upon reading the entries, I’ve noticed predominate themes in my father’s life, including: sacrifice and service, family and easily-given friendship, hard work and happiness (especially in trials). Each family member and friend wrote as a witness of his character. They testify of his time on earth. And it is an absolute treasure to us – one with eternal implications.
In Revelation 20:12 it says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
In modern revelation, Josesph Smith explains that verse more in-depth as he says, “You will discover in this quotation that the books were opened … the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven …” (D&C 128:7).
Surely, this record of relationships and lives touched will be opened when he stands before God. Or at least, I like to think so!
And it leaves me wondering: What themes stand out in my life? Have I touched any one’s heart for good? How can I do better? How can I become more like my dad … and more like Christ?
I watched Dad read the messages, eyebrows up and a grin across his face. Sometimes he’d burst out laughing, other times his lower lip would quiver and tears pooled in his eyes. One time, he gathered the grandchildren at his feet to read them a story out loud – laughing and happily reminiscing and adding his own two-cents to the memory. (It was about the bee up Uncle Butch’s nose – thanks, Uncle Don!)
He sat with piles of pages – each representing people. Yes, he sat with his people. He looked to-the-core happy. He also looked incredibly strong and healthy (even with the medicine bag slung around his shoulder, humming as it pumped amphotericin through his picc line)! It’s a sight I will hang to … and hope for … Especially tomorrow.
Tomorrow he undergoes a major and risky surgery. Thoracic surgeons at Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) will attempt to remove the upper lobe of his left lung, in order to remove the mold that is aggressively taking over. The trick is containing the mold, so it doesn’t contaminate anywhere else. Here’s the major risk: If the mold is already growing into the lung lining, the mold will likely contaminate other areas – and there is not a medicine or treatment to cure it. If the mold is NOT in the lining, and the surgery goes without a hitch, they could remove that lobe and he will recover in about 6 weeks … There is no way of knowing if the mold is in the lining until the surgeons get in and tug at the cavity.
In fact, the chief surgeon described it this way: Imagine a wall (representing the lung lining) and a balloon filled with mold up against it (representing the cavity filled with mold). The balloon can be removed easily. Now imagine that a bowl filled with the mold is up against the wall. When removed, the mold is let loose. We are praying for a balloon. We don’t want a bowl! We invite you to pray for a balloon too.
I am so thankful he will go into that surgery feeling strong and loved. He faces the upcoming experience with deep faith, and the collective faith and support of deep friends.
To any of you who wrote in, please know that we are extremely thankful! Thank you!!!