Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Death

Alvin L Heise: Lois' father.

Alvin and Maxine: Mother and Dad Heise's wedding picture.

We sometimes call this Dad's movie star picture.

Mother and Dad just before Dad's death

One of the last family pictures for Lois' family.

Today is Good Friday, sometimes called Dark Friday. It is good, of course, and it is dark, even though the sun is shining. Easter comes on Sunday. As Tony Campolo reminds us, quoting from a black preacher in his home church in Philadelphia, "It's Friday. But Sunday's coming."

I could run with that sermon, that theme, on this Dark Friday, as forces of evil work behind the scenes in the USA and Zimbabwe and every other country in the world. I could think deeply about the darkness that envelopes Zimbabwe today, in which a cameraman this week was shot to death by security forces, because he dares to take pictures of the brutality that stalks Zimbabwe daily. "It's Friday. And some people in Zimbabwe wonder whether they will ever be free of tyranny and hunger. But Sunday's coming!"

But instead I remember another Easter, 16 years ago. Mother was scheduled for heart surgery the day after Resurrection Sunday, and Lois and I and Vaughn and Nevin were visiting Mom and Dad for Easter weekend.

We lived then at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, and spent most weekends with Lois' parents in New Madison, Ohio. Dad Heise was dying of lung cancer, and we treasured every moment we could spend with them in his last days. But Mother was scheduled for surgery to correct a defect in a heart valve (I have never been good with these details), and we wanted to see her and Dad before the surgery. So we drove to Pennsylvania for Easter weekend.

Friday and Saturday we spent a lot of time with friends from our days living in Lancaster County. Sunday was set aside for Mom and Dad. Then about 4 a.m. Resurrection Sunday, my Dad came down the steps to wake Lois and me. Dad Heise had suffered cardiac arrest, brought on by the trauma of the cancer in his body, and died just before.

Sleep was forgotten. Plans to be with my parents that day were set aside. We dressed, woke the boys, gave up plans for the day and started driving to Ohio. I don't remember much of that weekend or the week that followed: only pictures in my mind.

The family sitting in a circle, laughing and crying, remembering and grieving. It is quite surprising how much laughter there is in times of grief, as those who have experienced such bereavement know.

Amazingly long line of people to pay their respects. Dad was the family doctor for New Madison from somewhere around 1960 until 1991, when he retired as his cancer took hold.

Nevin standing by the grave as the casket and body were lowered into it: a detail I felt was important -- to see the casket into the grave and throw a handful of dirt there. Nevin (four years old) singing softly to himself. I was afraid that it was his favourite "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", but it was "1, 2, 3 Jesus loves me; number 4 more and more; 5, 6, 7 we're all going to Heaven; 8, 9, 10 He's coming back again."

The funeral service, as we pictured to ourselves Dad singing in heaven's choir instead of the choir at Highland Church. More tears, more remembering, more laughter, more tears.

Easter Sunday. The day Dad died. Joy and grief live together, a union God has joined together.

Postscript: Mother went into surgery on Monday. Six weeks after Dad died was Mother's Day: May 12, 1991. On that day an infection on the new valve in her heart brought her life to an end. Joy and grief joined together forever.


Anonymous said...

How well I remeber! Pictures engraved indelibly in my mind and heart! What more can I say?
Love, Dad (to you) Father "C"

KGMom said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful vintage photos of Mom & Dad Heise. And I too recall the confluence of events and how it seemed so much personal sorrow should now fall so closely together.

Denise said...

I remember that weekend well. So much emotion, so much sadness and joy at Dad Heise’s home going. There was concern for Mother during that day – Lois’ family taking time to ask and be concerned for her on the heels of burying their husband and father. What compassion and love. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you or not, but Mother wanted us (Gail and me) to be at the funeral. That was so important to her. We told her that we would come and be with you because she and Dad could not. These parents of ours have left an indelible impact on our lives and I am grateful for Sunday’s Resurrection and the promise of new life after this and a reunion like none other!