Dad had finally punched his ticket to heaven, and he was going to be there in time for church Sunday morning. After 55 years of marriage, Mom had lost the love of her life. But she wasn't the only one who lost. His church lost a deacon, the soup kitchen lost a volunteer and his children lost a hero.
I've never done anything more difficult.
On Sunday morning, I woke up after a night of spending time with my ailing father. I held his hand - the one that still functioned - and talked to him. He managed a couple of smiles and was able to say a few words.
I was preparing to head back to the nursing home to feed Dad his breakfast when my cell phone rang. It was my brother. Immediately, I assumed he was making sure little brother wasn't forgetting to take care of Dad.
What he said knocked me off my feet. My father had passed away. The nurses had checked on him about 5:15 a.m. and he was fine. When they checked back in at 6, he had passed on.
As hard as it was, I was glad to be there to let my mom know that Dad had finally punched his ticket to heaven, and he was going to be there in time for church Sunday morning.
After 55 years of marriage, Mom had lost the love of her life.
But she wasn't the only one who lost. His church lost a deacon, the soup kitchen lost a volunteer and his children lost a hero.
My sister said it so well.
"My daddy went to be with Jesus this morning, but I know he was singing as I played 'It is Well with my Soul' today ... he was a man that never retired from being a servant of the Lord, loved all people, served others and I never heard him say anything bad about anyone ... he truly left a legacy."
He was never elected or in a position of authority. But if you were in need, you knew his name.
He served quietly and never required recognition.
I was taller than my dad when I was about 13. But I have a long way to go to be a man of his stature.
God gives grace in times like these. Dad seemed to know that he was going to go soon. As doctors were searching for a diagnosis, he often told visitors that he had his bags packed for heaven.
He never had to make peace with God. He lived in peace with God.
When the apostle Paul was in jail awaiting what appeared to be almost certain execution, he wrote a letter to his young apprentice in the ministry.
He described to Timothy how I think Dad must have felt in his final days.
In 2 Timothy 4, 6-8, he said, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Like Paul, Dad knew God and he had served him with every minute until his body failed.
He was kind, giving, and the hardest working man I knew until this strange condition consumed his final month and claimed his life.
I learned so much from him. I learned to work until the job is done right. I learned to love others the way God does. I learned that living life with a servant's heart would gain the respect of your children, grandchildren, friends and family.
Dad will be missed by so many people for so many reasons. He lived a great life with a great wife and made an impact on many.
His shoes are far too much for me to fill.
Dad may have died, but his legacy will live on in those of us whose lives he touched.
Kent Bush is the Augusta Gazette Publisher, a columnist and blogger for the GateHouse Media Network. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.