With the holidays approaching my heart is drawn to this day in particular. This is a journal related memory. DISCLAIMER: It was a really long day...
I opened my eyes and looked out the window. The earth was blanketed in white from the freshly fallen snow. I was instantly excited. School was out and I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Christmas vacation than sledding. I was lucky to live on Frost Lane. One of the best sledding hills in town. There was just enough slope at the top that with the right push off a person could coast all the way to the bottom of the road. (which was really long).
I jumped out of bed and without bothering with breakfast or brushing my teeth I bundled up and headed out the door. Much to my delight my dad had thought ahead. He knew me so well. He had gotten the sled down from the rafters in the garage before leaving for work. My sisters and friends gathered at the top of Frost Lane. We spent the entire day sledding. We built ramps, and jumps, and all manner of entertaining and dangerous things like that. When we were waiting our turn we would make snow angels and have snowball fights. It was so fun.
The sun was setting and we knew our moms would be calling us for dinner. We decided to call it a day. The road was a sheet of ice. It was so slippery I remember sliding to my house in my snow boots. We got home and ate dinner. I was SUPER excited because we were going to deliver some Christmas gifts to our neighbors as soon as Dad got home from work. We had worked so hard on the gifts. We made blankets for every member of their family. I couldn't wait to see the looks on their faces. Dad got home and said he wasn't feeling so well. He decided that he would come with us to deliver the blankets. The neighbors LOVED their gifts. We went home with happy hearts.
As soon as we got back home my dad collapsed onto the couch. He was gasping for breath and clutching his chest. It took only one moment for me to understand that something was very wrong. I remember my mom calling 911. "911, do you have an emergency?" ~ "Yes this is Doodie Johnson. My husband is having a heart attack. We need an ambulance. Please hurry." At the words "HEART ATTACH" my own heart skipped a beat. Dad had a heart attack a few years back. They did some artery excavation and told him he needed to watch his diet. I specifically remember the doctor saying, "You need to be very careful Verl, your heart won't survive another one like that." My 12 year heart sank. I looked into my daddy's colorless face and the gravity of the situation sank in.
My uncles gave my dad a blessing and I remember them saying "Thy will be done." I had never heard that in a blessing before. It was always things like, "We bless you with strength, or we bless that you will be made whole." After the blessing it was time to go to the hospital.
The ambulance was there in minutes. The house was buzzing with activity. There were so many people. My aunt Lolly stayed with us while my mom rode in the ambulance. I remember kissing his forehead and saying, "Bye daddy, I love you." He was in too much pain to respond, but I looked into his eyes and I saw that he loved me too.
The ambulance didn't fare so well on the trip back up Frost Lane. That little bit of a hill that was slick as an ice skating rink and perfect for sledding, was not so perfect for driving. I watched the flashing lights out my kitchen window for over an hour. The stress finally got to be too much for me. I felt so guilty. It was my fault that the road was slick. Finally the Ambulance got onto the main road. The nearest hospital was over an hour away.
We were sitting at home waiting for news. Aunt Lolly did a great job of distracting us. We played games, watched movies, and were having a great time really. About midnight the phone rang. Aunt Lolly answered it and talked for just a moment. She wouldn't tell us anything except that my mom was on her way home and she would update us when she got there.
Mom arrived home with wet, red puffy eyes. It only took one glance and we were all up to date. Daddy was gone. We hugged and cried and not much was said. My mom was exhausted and we were sent off to bed. We were all just lying there sobbing. My uncle Shane came over and got us out of bed. He gave everyone a blessing. We were able to get some sleep. When I awoke on Christmas eve the feeling was surreal. I wanted it all to be a bad dream, but I knew that it was all too real.
My Daddy was gone. I didn't quite know how to go on. Life around me seemed to move in slow motion. Every interaction was forced and unnatural. Slowly the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and of course melted into years. Nothing really HEALS, time dulls the ache, but with every passing year I can't help but wish that I had my daddy here to see me get married. To hold my babies, and rub his whiskers on their toes. I have felt his presence, and I know he watches over me.
With Christmas waiting just around the bend I cannot help but have feelings of my dad. I miss him alot. I know with all my heart that I will see him again. And I know that everything happens for a reason. We must take the tests and trials of life and use them to make ourselves more Christ like. I feel like I grew up alot that Christmas. I learned which things in life really matter. I learned that I am so grateful for Jesus Christ.