The Darkest Day

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If you’re anything like me, you believe the promise of salvation in the Scriptures and you are not afraid of death. One day we believers will be alive in Christ Jesus, forever. Amen.

The Darkness Before The Dawn

The darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is December 21. The day of the year with the least hours of daylight.

December 21st is also the day my mother passed from this life into bodily death. I believe her soul is with God because she believed with all her heart that Jesus, the Son of God, was her Savior.

My mother suffered a LOT of pain in the years leading to her death. She slipped on the floor of a shower at a campground and hit her head on the shower tiles. For the rest of her life, she was never the same.

One cold February day, I called to wish her a happy birthday, My dad said that something was wrong…

When he took her to town for a birthday dessert, she was completely unaware that one shoe was missing… even though it was freezing cold outside and she was standing on sharp gravel.

Wow. She didn’t know she was missing a shoe – and she was standing on cold, sharp gravel.

Diabetic Neuropathy? Dementia? As far as I know, yes and yes. Anything else? I don’t know for sure.

There are countless other examples of my mother’s suffering at the hands of pain in her last years. Toward the end, she also fell frequently. My dad was in no shape to help her up, I’m afraid. (Dad had his own trouble with falling.)

Numerous times she was transported to the hospital – so much so, that she finally had a Do Not Resuscitate order in place.

Sun Setting On Water

Hello And Goodbye

I lived on the opposite end of our continent, and since flights were not cheap, travel was infrequent. Phone calls were my lifeline.

When our son was 15 months old, we flew to Washington for a family reunion at my in-law’s house in Washington. Since we had come all this way, we decided to drive to Oregon to do the deed – say goodbye to my mother while she was still living.

My mother had very little hair and had worn a wig for decades. Maybelline made her eyebrows. In the hospital room, she was wigless and bald. Her eyebrows were nearly nonexistent. She was still beautiful.

She held Simon and talked with me for a while. Even though I knew it would be the last time I’d see her alive, it was hard to think of what to say.

One thing I did know: I really wanted a picture of her holding her grandson. She let me wash her face and re-draw her eyebrows. (Not exactly my forte.) I took my last pictures of my mother that day.

That was in July, 2002.

Once hospice began that fall, I knew it was a race with time. Time and death. So much left to learn. Stop the clock!

It’s Me… Anna…Your Daughter

I called my mother once to sing her a hymn I knew she liked. “Beautiful Savior.” Not something I do every day. Or ever. I just got up my courage, called her (reminded her who I was), and sang it to her.

On another day, I asked my mother for her secret to the best potato salad in the world – hers. Oh, how I wish I had written it down or even recorded her! I also thought I would recall all her tips on how to make a fall-apart roast. I was wrong. Hers was the best.

One of the most touching phone calls we had was in the fall of 2002. I think that was when we found out about Simon’s asthma. My mother knew who I was that day, and she offered to pray with me for my son.

Thanks, Ma! It was the first and only time she ever did that, and it touched my heart.

In her last week, I sent flowers to my mother. I had the florist write on the card:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” 

(Philippians 4:4)

The florist delivered them, and Dad read my mother the card. He spoke God’s Word to his wife! Yeah! There is power in the Word!

Stick with me. You’ll see why this was such a big deal…

Rest in Peace, Helen Richardson The Darkest Day

The Dawn

One true blessing of my mother’s hospice care was her caregiver. The young woman was bold in the Lord. She did not back down with her witness – not even in the face of my father, Fred J. Richardson, Sr. The atheist.

Her bold witness led Christian family members to follow suit. What did we have to lose? (A dad, a brother, a grandpa – forever.)

I made my dad a Christmas card and wrote out the children’s song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and added “even Grandpa – even Simon,” noting that no matter our ages, we can all become a child of God. Dad was 77 years old.

Dad put that card in a drawer. Didn’t want to see it.

As you would expect, he took it very hard when my mother, his wife Helen, died. Suddenly he was alone. Over 41 years together, and then nothing. The end.

For several days after the funeral, Dad went to visit his only son. Fred Jr.

When he returned home, my sister, Tessie, loved on him and took care of Dad. She became his full-time caregiver. God bless Tessie.

Sun Rising Over Water

Happy New-Birth Day!

 On January 14th, we got a phone call with the best news: The stronghold had been broken, and Dad believed again in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

He knew he was a sinner and had no part in heaven on his own, but that Jesus died and rose again to save (even) my dad from his sins and eternal damnation!

Fred J. Richardson, Sr. was BORN AGAIN at age 77! Hallelujah!

I just HAD to visit my new Brother in Christ – my dad! Simon and I flew to Seattle; then I drove my sister Beth’s van to Oregon.

My Aunt Helen, Beth, my niece Susie, Susie’s daughter Natalie, Simon, and I all went down to greet Dad one last time. Uncle Charlie and Aunt Pat drove down to see him, too.

It was good to go as a big group to hug Dad and let him hug and kiss his grandson and great-granddaughter.

While I was on the plane, I wrote out some things I wanted to thank him for. I didn’t want him to die without knowing I was grateful. Yes, we knew he was dying.

Beth made Dad some Creamed Peas, Pearl Onions, and New Potatoes. He loved it!

Beth also got the chance to sit with Dad and watch DVD’s of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – and laugh, laugh, LAUGH!

What a gift!

Dad’s sister and a brother, his sister-in-law, three of his daughters, a son-in-law, three grandsons, and a great-granddaughter were all in the room when Dad asked if we could “have a word of prayer.”

Could we ever!

Someone taped my Christmas card to the wall of Dad’s bedroom. My nephew pointed to the card and asked, “Grandpa, who is that?”

Dad answered, “That’s my Lord!”

Take That, Fear!

There was a time when my biggest fear was that my dad would not go to heaven – that he would die an unbeliever and spend eternity in hell, separated from God.

One of the teens in our Youth Group in Mississippi asked me what my biggest fear was, and I told them. It felt awful to say it out loud, but it was true.

Well, since God has taken away my biggest fear, what else can there possibly be to fear? God softened the heart of a man who’d been bitterly angry with Him for decades.

Dad had always rejected any talk of Jesus. On rare occasions, he went to church with us, especially if it was the first Sunday of the month. (Potluck!)

He read the Bible – several times. He just didn’t think God was right in letting him be so hurt in life. Over and over.

I am forever grateful that Dad’s heart was softened after all, and that I will see him again one day in heaven!

Dad’s last words to me were, “Thank God for Simon!”

I do.

Simon is a true miracle of his own – another Tale of a Sonrise Life!

Rest in Peace, Fred Richardson The Darkest Day

3 comments on “The Darkest Day

  1. Beth Sprau

    at Reply

    Don’t forget about Caregiver Dawn’s 6 year old niece who went with her aunt to visit dad. When she got back to her aunt’s house, she said “I like visiting Tessie’s house – especially to see the angels over Fred”. God loved our dad so much that he sent angels to protect him – even after all of dad’s anger toward God. Daddy’s last words to me were “God bless you”. Never, ever, ever in my life did I EVER think I would hear our dad say that! Thank you, Jesus for your love and for your angels over Fred!!

  2. Elizabeth I Sprau

    at Reply

    Oh yes, one more thing. I talked to your mom every day for a week before she died. We talked about Heaven and how she was looking forward to it. She said that her only fear was Daddy not going to Heaven. I remember telling her jokingly that we would get him there by hook or by crook! Thankfully, Jesus took care of it for us!!

  3. Ilene Weissenfels

    at Reply

    This post made me cry, and gave me joy. I loved your parents so much, the sweetest parents on earth. So happy your dad went to Heaven to be with your mom for eternity, I’m sure they smile down on you for that!

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