I have lots to say. I mean lots. I’m going to try to limit myself today, though, to the story of the purple hill. But first, you must know the background.
A lot has been going on lately, and for those of you who don’t already know, I lost my Daddy last Thursday night (May 9th), after a valliant fight against cancer. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in December of 2011. Sadie was only 5 months old, and I remember crying my eyes out when I first found out his diagnosis. Partly because he and I have always been so very close. But also because I couldn’t imagine the thought of my kids not getting to know their Pabu through the years, and him not getting to enjoy them as they grew. Never in a billion years would I have ever imagined that my sweet Sadie would actually precede him in death.
As my Dad fought his battle against cancer (he was a non-smoker, by the way), I as always amazed at his amazing attitude and peace. He still was my same ol’ Dad–laughing, cracking jokes, and making other people smile. Although he ran out of energy a little faster than before his diagnosis, he still had a good quality of life. He still worked, went on vacations (including Hawaii last October), visited his kids for the weekend, etc. And when Sadie was diagnosed with cancer, he was a huge encouragement to me. Watching him and the way he was handling his own battle really helped me gain perspective and peace as I helped Sadie battle her disease. Dad drove down the Thursday evening before Sadie passed on Friday and just sat by her bedside, watching over her for about 3 hours straight. On the days of her visitation and funeral, you would never have known he was even sick. He was amazing, and was there for me in my greatest hour of need.
In April, Dad called to tell me that his cancer had spread to, guess where, his brain and his spine. Of all places–the same devastating places that Sadie’s cancer was. I tried so hard to separate the two diseases, but it was so hard not to realize that things were looking all too familiar. Dad began 14 days of radiation to both his brain and his spine, to which we were informed that it would make him very weak and disoriented for 2-4 weeks afterward. They were right–I’ve never seen anyone with so little strength. Soon, it was starting to become apparent that what was happening to my Dad was not just the effects of the radiation–cancer was taking over, and he was inching closer and closer to finishing his walk on this Earth, only to begin his walk (or run, or whatever) to Heaven.
And so now to the story of the purple hill. I went for a visit to my Dad’s hometown the weekend of April 20th. On that Sunday afternoon, I watched my Daddy struggle to get his breath while walking to the couch from his bedroom. He was using a walker for balance, and I could tell he was so weary. He practically fell onto the couch, and I went over and sat down beside him. He started crying, I think for the first time since his battle with cancer began 16 months earlier. After a couple of minutes, he simply said, “I’m ready to go to the purple hill”. Well, I had an idea of what he might be trying to say, but I was unfamiliar with any purple hills, so I wanted to confirm. “What purple hill, Daddy?”, I asked, to which he replied, “The purple hill where Sadie’s at”. And so then I started crying and we were all just an emotional mess. I didn’t ask him anything else about that on that day, but I did say to him a few minutes later, “That’s what I thought you meant, Dad”.
So, the next day, Dad ended up being admitted to the hospital for dehydration and said some pretty crazy things about wedges (blocks of words), supper not being organic, and random other things like that. I am saying this so that you know that he wasn’t always making complete sense. 14 days of radiation to the brain most definitely takes its toll.
Well, all week long while I was back in Nashville, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Dad said about the purple hill. I wanted to know more, but wasn’t sure whether I should bring it up again or not. Dad couldn’t communicate much, so a conversation about something like that over the phone was not going to work.
I went back to Kentucky the following Sunday morning, and stayed until Tuesday. I was sitting with Dad at the hospital in infusion on Monday afternoon (now it was April 29th). Dad was once again extremely weak, and it was becoming more and more obvious that he was not getting any stronger. So, as we were sitting there, I got a text from one of my bestest friends in all the world, Aimee. She simply asked, “how’s your Daddy”, to which I replied, “well, he told me last week he wants to go the purple hill where Sadie’s at”. I knew she’d know what I was getting at. Aimee then replied, “was he out of it?”. I told her that he had been saying some pretty crazy things, but that I think he knew what he was saying when he talked about the purple hill. Naturally, her reply was, “you should ask if he remembers”. So, I glanced over at my Dad–he was awake, and was just kind of staring ahead. My heart started beating hard, like it does when you have to stand up and give a speech, and I knew it was now or never. I leaned over to him, and he leaned his head over to mine. I grabbed his hand and said, “Dad, I have a quick question for you”. He nodded, and here is how the rest of the conversation went (say this outloud, with tears flowing, and you’ll get the full effect):
Me: “Daddy, do you remember talking to me about a purple hill the other day?”
Dad (immediately tears flowing down his cheeks, while nodding): “Yes, the purple hill where Sadie’s at.”
Me (also tears flowing, but with a smile): “What made the hill purple, Dad? Was it flowers? Or the grass? What was it?”
Dad: “It was just beautiful.”
Me: “And Sadie was there? You know it was Sadie?”
Me: “Did she see you, Daddy? Did she know it was you?”
Dad: “Yes, she reached out and took my hand and called me Pabu.”
Me: “Oh my gosh Of course she knew who you were–y’all are tight!” (tears)
Me: “Was there anyone else there?”
Dad: “I could only see Sadie.”
Me: “And you KNOW it was Sadie??”
Dad: “Yep. It was her.”
Me (about to DIE): “Daddy, could she walk?”
Dad: “Oh yeah, she was running and playing and having fun.”
Me: “And did she still have her pretty blonde curly hair?”
Me: “And her big blue eyes?”
Me: “And her pretty little smile?”
Me: “Daddy–was she still a little toddler, or was she older?”
Dad: “She was still little Sadie.”
Me (tears flying everywhere): “Dad, when she reached out and took your hand…could you FEEL her?”
Dad (not exactly answering the question): “She was playing ball.”
Me: “Awww, playing ball! Fun!”
Me: “Dad–was it a dream?”
Dad: “No, Amb, it was for real.”
Me: “Dad, did you get to see a piece of Heaven???”
Dad: (nod, tears, smiles, you name it)
And so I stopped there. I had wore him out with all of my questions, but I could tell it was something that he probably really wanted to tell me. I was completely overwhelmed at the conversation that had just taken place. I truly believe God let my Dad see a glimpse of Heaven, and Sadie, not just to bring him peace, but so that he could share it with ME. God knew that one of my biggest struggles is that I am Sadie’s mommy, yet I can’t get to her to check on her. I know she’s fine up in Heaven, but I still want to know what she’s up to, and know that she’s happy and healthy, and okay. And even though there are other wonderful people in our family that have gone before her, I never got to see them together here, so it’s hard for me to picture them together there. But God allowed my Daddy to live long enough with a monster of a disease that he and Sadie go to know and love one another. I got to see it here, so I could picture it there.
The next weekend, I went back up to Kentucky again. This time I decided I had better stay. I could see that Dad’s health was just getting worse and worse. He was in and out of the hospital, but last Monday, we called the ambulance because Dad was unable to get to the car himself, and they took him to the hospital for the last time. He was coherent for the next day or two, but he could not talk. I know for a fact, though, that up until Wednesday morning, he understood everything we were talking about.
I took a moment on Tuesday to spend some time talking to my Dad. He couldn’t talk back, but he was tuned in to what I was saying. I took his hand and told him that the conversation we had about the purple hill was one of the most important conversations I had had with anyone about anything–ever. I told him that it made me feel like I got to see a glimpse of my babygirl, and that I knew that she was going to know her Pabu when he got there. I told him that I could picture him running up to her on that purple hill, scooping her up (just like I wished he could do for years here on earth), and they would be so happy in Heaven together. He was crying, and so was I.
And then I told him one more thing. I told him to please hug and kiss my girl for me–to tell her that I love her so very much, and for her to look for me, because one day (hopefully a long time from now!) I will be looking to find her atop a purple hill. I asked my Dad if he would do that for me, and he nodded with tears streaming down his cheeks.
So, needless to say, all of this was highly emotional, but truly amazing. I know that when my Dad left us on Thursday night, that he got to be face to face with God Almighty and Jesus Christ, but he also got to play ball with my sweet little blue-eyed angel, and he got to give her my message of love. And so I know for sure something that happened in the Heavenlies.
All that to say, I still miss my girl with all my heart, and now I miss my Daddy so much, too. But I am realizing more and more with each passing day that this life on Earth is only a small part of our journey. It’s a big deal to us because it’s all we know. But in the bigger picture, there is so much more in store for Children of God. Death has a large sting to us left here on Earth, but it is truly a stepping stone to a better place. Now, I’m not ready to go there really anytime soon…I feel like God has some serious work cut out for me here on Earth…but it sure seems more and more appealing the more loved ones I know who are there. Until that day, I will press on…some days in sadness, and other days in joy. God is carrying me through this time in my life, and although it hurts (a lot), I know that He will not leave me alone. And I know He is bound to have some blessings in store along the way–He has already shown me some of those blessings–I just have to try to always be ready to receive them. God knows, I am ready…