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I’ll Fly Away (Part 3)

16 Aug

bird flying 1<– Go back to Part 2

Randy was a bird man. I don’t think he started out to be one, but he most definitely became one. After his back injury, his physical activity slowed down quite a bit, even to the point that he wasn’t able to work. What does a man who thrives on physical activity do with his time when he can’t work? In the case of my husband, he took up bird watching.

It started in our backyard with a little red book open to the bright, full color photographs of the birds Randy saw there. His trusty National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds rarely left his hands as he sat looking out the sliding glass door at the birds flitting about the trees and hopping in the grass. “See that one with the little white stripes on its head? It’s a White Crown Sparrow. And those birds diving around in the sky? Swallows.” He worked to attract as many types as he could, providing thistle seed for the goldfinches and nectar-filled feeders for the hummingbirds.

He loved to take walks with me along Fancher Creek near our home. We would stop often to watch the birds flitting about the bushes that grew along the banks. There was one tiny bright green bird that we never could figure out. It darted about rapidly, diving in and out of a bush whose leaves nearly matched its feathers.

But Randy’s first love when it came to birds had nothing to do with feathered creatures. Those objects of his affection were his four children, the ones he called his “birds”. He had a uniquely wonderful view of parenting: we raise our children to lose them, to essentially encourage them to fly away. He was always teaching them things he believed they needed to know in order to survive in life, and as I look at them now, I think they may have been paying pretty close attention.

On this date six years ago, right about this time of day, I sat in a quiet hospital room, curtains drawn across the windows, my family around me. Randy was propped up in the bed, the only tube connected to him a saline drip with pain medication. At this point, there was nothing being done to prolong his life, only to keep him comfortable.

My brother Jeff, a doctor from southern California, had examined Randy and thought his blood gasses were good and it looked like he could go for several more days. He talked to me at length about the positive aspects of hospice, and based upon his recommendation, I let the nurses know I’d like to make arrangements to take Randy home the next day. I’ve read that people who are in a coma, which Randy basically was at that point, can hear what others are saying to them. And I wonder now if my conversation with Jeff was being listened to by the man in that bed, because what happened shortly after that changed everything.

It was dinner time, and though I wasn’t particularly hungry, I had been forcing myself to eat at mealtimes to keep up my strength. I knew it was important in order to make it through everything that was still to come. The rest of the family rose along with me to head to the hospital cafeteria for a brief break, except for Michael. He didn’t want to leave his dad, so he stayed behind.

Mike later described what happened next. He was playing games on his phone when the battery died. What could he do now to pass the time? He decided to sing worship songs. A few songs into his repertoire, he began to sing “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” while leaning over his dad, singing directly to him. It was in the middle of that song that Randy exhaled a long breath–and was gone. Joel walked in at that moment, knew his dad had passed away, and called Janelle to tell her. She came to get me and we all hurried back to the room. I was so upset that I hadn’t been there, but both Janelle and Michelle consoled me, telling me it was okay, it was going to be okay. And I realized then, Randy had done it his way. He didn’t want to go when all of us were hanging out in the room, and he didn’t want to put me through the hassle of getting hospice arranged and having him moved home. He waited until the room was almost empty, and then he left us while Mike’s beautiful voice ushered him into the arms of Jesus.

When I think back on that day, I can’t help but think of birds, the freedom their wings bring them, soaring above our two-legged limitations. There’s an old southern gospel song that comes to mind, “I’ll Fly Away.” Randy flew away from us that Sunday evening, and like the song says, “Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly, I’ll fly away…Oh how glad and happy when we meet, I’ll fly away…To a land where joys will never end, I’ll fly away.”

“I’ll Fly Away”
Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on Gods celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away

Read Part 4

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4 Comments

Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

4 responses to “I’ll Fly Away (Part 3)

  1. Carole Smoot

    August 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Isaiah 40:31
    “…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

     
  2. Tami Foster Wilde

    August 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Well, I was able to hold it together until I got to “I’ll Fly Away (Part 3). My brand new school-issued refresh computer got a tad wet. Beautiful, beautiful writing, Debbie.

     
    • Debbie Allee Nelson

      August 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Aw, thank you Tami! And I’ve got your back if the technology department needs to know what happened to your laptop. 🙂

       

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