A year ago, I prayed a very selfish prayer. I knew that my dad was coming to the end of his days here on earth, but I had been so beaten down by the events of the years leading up to that day that I just needed a break. Having been a Bob Dylan fan for the better part of my adult years, I jumped at the opportunity to go see him when he came to Richmond. I bought tickets well in advance of the day, unable to foresee the circumstances that would be playing out as the day of the concert arrived.
As I watched my father’s health decline, I was seeing the perfect storm ensue and wondering whether or not I would have to forego seeing this musical legend because my father had passed. My insides were in knots. I felt like such a jerk. I loved my father and here I was, hoping and praying that he would last one more day so that I could have a few hours to spend with my wife seeing Bob Dylan.
It wasn’t the money that was the issue. If I had had to give up the tickets or if I had been unable to go, it would have just been money. It was really just the opportunity for a break. Between seminary, my church and job situation, my mother’s failing health and eventual death, and now my father’s rapid decline, it was hard for me to get to the surface to catch a breath of air before the next wave hit. As crazy as it sounds, a simple excursion to a Bob Dylan concert could function as that for me.
So I prayed……a selfish prayer. I asked God to preserve my father for just one day. I asked that my night be free of phone calls that he had fallen, that he would stay in his bed, that his heart would keep beating, that he would rest on earth for one more day. I just wanted one more day.
And that’s what I got.
My wife and I went to the concert. My phone never rang. My dad lasted through the night, but that was his last night on earth. I woke up the next morning and spent the entire next day by his side. I read to him, I sang to him, I prayed with and for him. I kissed him. I waited. And that next day, after spending the whole day with him, he breathed his last breath while I sat there by his side.
I wrestled in my spirit whether I had done the wrong thing or not. Should I have forgotten the concert to spend time with my dad for his last night on earth? Should I have not been so selfish? Could I have done more? These questions and so many more were running through my mind.
The reality of loss and grief is that when we go through them, we need to be careful to take time for ourselves. If we aren’t careful, we can be overwhelmed with all of the duties and responsibilities that fall on us, the caretakers. If we don’t stop to care for ourselves, we can easily find ourselves on a decline emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I took the time that I thought I needed……and I prayed. I feel like God heard my prayer, selfish though it might have been. I’m glad he did and I’m glad that I had that one night to step away, to find solace in the music. The next day, reality rushed back in like a tidal wave, and I think that I was a little more ready to deal with it because of a selfish prayer that I had prayed, a selfish prayer that I felt like had been answered by a gracious God.