Better Than I Deserve
The next day, September 17th, my family arrived in Phoenix, and I got more than I had expected.
We walked in and sat down at Dad's bedside, and I said, "hey Dad, it's Jobe..." He perked up, opened his eyes, looking a little puzzled but mumbled something as if to acknowledge that he knew what was going on, then I continued with, "I love you, Dad," and then he quickly replied with a whimpering, "I love you, son." But then he started rolling onto his side, and I was thinking he was just uncomfortable and shifting his body, but then he looked towards me and reached out with his arms and made a motion to come in towards him. Dad just wanted a final hug, and that's exactly what he got, which is far more than what I ever thought I would get on this trip.
After that moment, I didn't have any response from him as I'd spoken with him, and it had been incredibly minimal with everyone else, as well. There was, however, a time that night where we gathered in the room to sing a few worship songs to bring him comfort, and I was playing a song with nice and easy lyrics, and he tried to sing along with a moan that you could tell was trying to be on key and match what I was singing.
The last real meaningful thing he had said as a response to us was when we walked in the room with the hospice nurse who had just arrived and she asked, "hey, Mick, how are you doing?" And he mumbled back,
"Better than I deserve."
And he meant that. The day that they called me to tell me that the cancer had gone to his brain, Dad kept sharing about how overwhelmed he was with how blessed of a life God has given him, and that he just feels like he was given so much in this life. I shared with him that little mantra, "better than I deserve," as a response to the cliche questions of "how are you doing?" Dad just loved it, and it made perfect sense to him, and he said, "I'm gonna use that every time now, because that is exactly true."
Dad has known this past 6 weeks that as bad as things get, he is doing better than he deserves. He understands so deeply that he has been so blessed in this life, and that he will be even more blessed in the next life. So here he is, knowing that he only has days left, having had minimal food or water and a body that is shutting down, and when asked, "how are you doing," he barely mutters out, "better than I deserve."
In the time since that response, he had been largely unresponsive, however hospice had told us that he could still hear us, even if he doesn't respond to us, and all of us had been able to spend some one-on-one time with him.
But Dad also got an unexpected honor just a couple days before this...
Every year for the previous three years, Dad had traveled to the Grand Canyon for an artist event called "the Celebration of Art." It's a 10 day event where artists from all over the country come to do plein air painting (where you take an easel out and paint the scenery "live" rather than in a studio). This year the event started on September 10th, and Dad was hoping he could do this last one, and it would have been his fourth year, and it's a challenging event he looks forward to every year. He has made so many friends and connected with so many fellow artists that he greatly respects, with each year serving sort of as an "artist family reunion."
The paintings they do there, as well as others they bring, are submitted to the Grand Canyon National Park's Kolb Art Studio. Some are given awards, and all the paintings are displayed until January unless they are sold by art collectors.
Of course, he couldn't attend this year, but my Aunt and Uncle graciously offered to drive 12 of his paintings up to the event to be submitted to the gallery to go on display, be judged, and hopefully either be awarded and sold.
So Dad, still too weak to get out of bed (this is back on September 12th), had Mom bring in his pallet, some paint, a brush, and his final paintings that would be sent up to the Grand Canyon so that he could put his finishing touch, his signature, on these last pieces.
When Mom told the Director that they wouldn't be able to make it due to Dad's condition, Mom said, "he wants you to say hello to anyone who knows him there."
The Director, who clearly knows Dad's propensity to befriend everyone, said, "oh.....everyone knows Mick."
To Dad's surprise, Mom received a notice that Dad won what is called the Artist's Award for one of his paintings. This, to Dad, is the most prestigious award, because it is the painting that is judged and awarded by his peers and fellow artists. It's the highest honor my Dad could receive, to have those whom he esteems so highly for their skill and artistry recognize his workmanship and ability to capture the beauty of God's creation at the Grand Canyon.
We are thankful for all those artists who honored my Dad in the best way possible by giving him this award. Although he barely got to enjoy it (when Mom told him, he could only barely eek out a soft, "well that's wonderful"), we will always cherish it as a pinnacle moment for him in his plein air painting career and passion.
One Last Thing...
The next morning, September 18th, it briefly rained that day. It was 97 degrees out and a quick, warm rain blew through just for a few short moments. Afterwards, a bright and vibrant double rainbow spanned the width of the sky right out front of the house. When we saw it, we had a feeling that today would be different than the rest.
And it was.
Part 12: The Final Masterpiece