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Posts Tagged ‘Lewy Body Dementia’

In 2012 our youngest son graduated from high school. He applied to only one college his senior year, and by God’s grace, he was accepted! The day that my Dad took his last breath on this earth, Blane got a call from the college, asking if he would be interested in coming down for the second session of the summer work program. They called him before Dad passed and so I said, “Of course!” without even a thought. God was so gracious to allow that call to come BEFORE my Dad passed away, otherwise, I am not sure I would have had the strength to tell this super excited young man yes.

Fast forward 2 years…this (soon to be) 21 year old son of ours calls again with incredible excitement in his voice. College of the Ozarks just announced that there would be a Patriotic Travel Trip to Vietnam this fall (2014). So Blane wrote an essay, which I will post for your reading pleasure. Out of the submitted essays, 12 students would be chosen to accompany 12 Vietnam Veterans to a 13 day trip to Vietnam. In this essay they were to include their reason for desiring to go on this trip. So, of course, Blane wrote about my Dad and Dad’s impact on his life.

Patriotic Travel Trip – Vietnam Essay

Blane R. Bias

     “Above all, Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America…” (Myrna MacPherson, 1984). My interest in participating in the Patriotic Trip to Vietnam stems from my grandfather, Gary B Whitehead. He served as a Combat Medic with the 25th Infantry Division during the Tet Offensive in 1968. On August 4th, 1968, he was wounded when he and his men stepped on a booby trap. In the moments after landing back on the ground, he army crawled to the other wounded men, and bandaged them all up. By the time the helicopter arrived, my grandpa’s wounds were the only ones that had not been attended to. For this heroic deed, he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. During my childhood, my grandpa instilled in both, my brother and I, a deep respect for the soldiers who fought for the United States, especially the soldiers that fought in Vietnam. My grandpa also taught me to have a huge sense of patriotism, duty and pride for America. I remember my grandpa sadly recounting how the soldiers were treated when they arrived back home from Vietnam. With glistening eyes he said that people spit on them and called them “baby killers”. This made me really sad to hear that people back then did not understand that they went there to die for their country. I want to go on this trip so that I can honor my grandpa’s memory.

     I would like to go on this trip so that I can see some of the places that my grandpa may have been and experience some of the places he told in his stories. If I am chosen to do on this trip I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the things that the soldiers went through over in Vietnam. Also I want to honor the service of the Vietnam Veterans who we will be accompanying and learn about some of the struggles that they have been through. I would be grateful for the privilege of honoring them by listening to their stories and sharing in this time with them.

     On June 12th 2012, my grandpa died after a 7 year battle with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease in which patients slowly lose both their cognitive skills and mental thought processes, along with their ability to communicate. Ironically, he died two hours after someone from College of the Ozarks called me to let me know that I have been given the second summer work session. By God’s grace, in 2010, my grandpa went with Central Missouri Honor Flight out of Columbia, Missouri to Washington D.C. to the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Grandpa went because he wanted to honor the men that did die in Vietnam, and to say he was sorry to the ones that he could not save. As I recount all of this, I am reminded of how much respect I have for my grandpa and for those that have fought for my freedom.

 

I can gratefully say that Blane was one of the students chosen to take this trip. They will leave September 25th and return October 8th, 2014. He will celebrate his 21st birthday in Vietnam (HOW COOL IS THAT??). We are so excited for what God will do in Blane’s life, the lives of all that are on the trip and those that they will encounter while they are gone. Blane is taking 18 hours this semester and has 15 hours per week to work. All of the students on this trip must have their class work done that they will miss BEFORE they leave, and he will have to make up the 30 work hours that he will miss while he is gone. We would appreciate your prayers for all of them over the next month. I will be posting the link to the blog that the students will be writing while they are gone so that we can keep up with how their trip is going.

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The last few days I have spent so much time thinking about my dad and how my heart misses him so deeply.

The Christmas season wasn’t as hard as I anticipated it being, since it was our “first” since he died. I was kind of breathing easy since it had come and gone and all seemed to be okay.

This past Saturday Freddo and I were in the kitchen cooking, when I rattled off one of the things that Dad and I used to sayto each other. I would say, “Hey, Poncho” and he’d say, “Hey, Cisco”, then we’d both say, “Hey, Hey, Hey”. It was just one of those things that we have always done. Dad had a lot of sayings.

Even at the end of his days on this earth, I could see his eyes react when I would say both of our parts (cause Dad lost his ability to talk toward the end).

Well, on Saturday, I just rattled that saying off and not one thought of my dad entered my mind until Freddo said, “I bet your dad is laughing at you about now, since you are still saying that”.

My heart was devistated that I said it and didn’t think of him…

Well, I pushed that out of my mind for the remainder of the evening and all seemed fine (avoidance is a tactic I often use)…until we turned off the lights to go to sleep. All of a sudden my mind went directly to the fact that I had “forgotten” my dad, and the tears began to fall. Memories of him at the nursing home flooded my mind like a still shot motion picture, full color, words and all, and for the first time since he died I entered the “guilt” part of the grief process.

When we put him in the nursing home I knew it was God’s plan. Even though I didn’t like it one bit, I never questioned it…until Saturday night. I even entertained thoughts of how awful I was for encouraging my mom to put him into the home. I thought in those brief moments that he very well might still be alive if I hadn’t intervened. I cried the most Saturday night that I have cried at one time since Dad died.

Grief is like that, you are going along fine, then BAM!!! It stops you in your tracks, and plows you right over. My mom calls these times “ambushes”.

Freddo reassured me that it was all a part of God’s plan, reminding me of all that I already knew to be true. But it didn’t change the guilt that flooded my heart in those few hours Saturday night. In my selfishness all I could think of was that I wanted him back…

I decided to go back through some notes that I wrote on Facebook when Dad was sick this morning. And it sure was an encouragement to my heart. I am going to copy and paste one or two of them here, so that you can see a small glimpse of what our family’s journey with Lewy Body Dementia looked like.

This entry was dated August 16th, 2011:

When we decided to have a facebook account a few years ago, we said that we want to use it for God’s glory. So I would like to share with you a bit about our lives. Some background: My (Sheila’s) Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia a few years ago, and up till now my Mom has cared for him at home.  It is with heavy hearts that we applied for him to live at the Veteran’s Home in Mexico a year ago (2010), because his care is getting too much for my mom to handle.  We asked God to take his placement at the home out of our hands and to work it out in the way that He sees fit.  The time has come for him to be admitted, cause his name is very near the top of the waiting list, like within the month, which is much earlier than we had planned. We have cried and struggled much with this decision, even asking God to change the course that we are to be on. So that basically brings you up to speed on where we are.  So please read the following about how God is continuing to work things out in His way.

When I woke yesterday morning I had no idea the day that God had planned for me.  I read my Bible and prayed.  As I prayed I asked God to help me to accept it in my heart what seemed to be His plan for us to move Dad into the Veteran’s Home, so that I wouldn’t become angry when that time came sometime later this month. 

I desperately needed God’s perspective, because so far my perspective was leaving me wanting. God showed me a bit of His vision yesterday morning that I will share with you now.

God allowed me to see that, yes, Dad is going into a nursing home, but that is not the proper perspective.  Dad really is just moving to the mission field, outside of all of our comfort zones.  And we (the rest of the family) get the privilege of visiting that mission field anytime we want to and will be able to share the love of Christ with those that are there. 

Many of you have known my Dad and know that it was his dream to retire and to become even more active on the mission field in Haiti.  When his health began to decline after his early medical retirement, that dream seemed to die, and a part of my Dad seemed to go along with it.  For when he talked about Haiti, it brought out a passion in him.  He loved serving the people there.

So you can imagine the peace that began to overwhelm my heart when I allowed God to remove sadness of “putting him into an institution”, taking him away from his comfortable home that he loves, and to see it as this incredible opportunity for him to move into this place that God had prepared for him to serve the Lord.  Dad still loves to talk about the things of God on his good days.  Not everything he has to say always make sense to the average ear, but when you listen knowing his heart, you hear the message of hope that God has given him and you are able to see Christ in him.  Well, at that point yesterday morning, I briefly thought about it, said thanks God, and moved on.  I had no idea that in a few short hours I was going to be allowed to share that vision with my Dad through tear filled eyes.

Dad had an appointment with a doctor yesterday; we were hoping that she would be able to convey his need for that level of care for him, since until this point he would not accept that information from us.  Well, when the doctor brought it up he became angry and she backed off and said, “Well, if it is not what you want, then perhaps you and your family should reconsider and wait to place you there when you are ready.” 

I thought then, “Okay, Lord, this is not going as I planned”. 

So we left the office and I took Dad down the hall, I stopped and got on the floor beside his wheelchair and asked him what he thought, to which he replied in a very stern and a fearful tone, “I don’t want to go there, I am afraid to be without my family. I don’t want to live with people that I don’t know.  That scares me.”

I shot a quick prayer to God and asked for wisdom.

I said with tears flowing, “Dad your disease is getting worse and it will continue to decline. What I am about to tell you is hard and I really need you to try to understand…You are going to have to go into the Veteran’s Home when they call, and they are going to be calling soon.” He began to cry, “I don’t want that”.

And I told him through my tears, “I don’t either, I have asked God to do something so that I didn’t have to place you there, but God said I was going to have to.”

Then I began to share the vision that God had given me that morning about the mission field and how he loved to tell people about Christ, and how the people at the home need him to be there to learn about Jesus.  It might be the only way that some of them ever get to hear about God.  I told him that God was going to use all of us and missionaries have rough roads that they don’t really like, but they willingly walk them, cause it is necessary for God’s kingdom to be furthered.

Next I used the new phrase that Dad loves, “We are going to have to ‘adapt and overcome’.”

(Mind you, I haven’t really had a normal conversation with my Dad in MONTHS, cause he doesn’t really live in reality much.)  But yesterday all day from that point on my Dad, the old Dad, that I know and love was there.

He, Mom and I talked and cried for a long time sitting outside at a picnic table at Culver’s.  It was the most exhausting, beautiful, painful, God-filled hours I have ever had in my whole life.  

Through those long, long moments Mom and I were able to reassure Dad of the many things that concerned him about moving there.  We told him we will be able to come any time of the night or day, it’s only 20 minutes.  He can call us anytime he wants.  

He asked if they would celebrate his birthday.  We assured him that they and we would do that.

I have never seen pain on my Dad’s face like there was yesterday.  It was so tough, but God was so faithful!!  

I can’t even begin to tell you how He met me right where I was and gave me every word I spoke.  Bob has a saying that he learned a few years ago, “God gives you exactly what you need, just when you need it.”  He reminds me of this often. And that phrase was true yesterday.  

I have been anxious many a day as we have looked forwardly to the day, wondering whether we would have to place Dad in someone else’s care, it wore on my mind and I couldn’t figure it out.  I knew I wasn’t to worry, I knew that I needed to trust God.  I was worried about how we would convey this to Dad and how he would handle it. Yesterday after it was all done and I was thinking over it all I thought of the following analogy from Corrie Ten Boom.

“When Corrie as a child asked her father, Opa, to tell her about sex, he made her try to pick up his heavy suitcase on the train. When she couldn’t do it, he said that the same was true in life: there are some things too heavy for us to know until we are old enough to bear the burden. The heavy suitcase is a metaphor for the burdens of life…….”.

God, as my Father, knew that the answers to the questions that I sought were too heavy for me at the time; and yet, yesterday, before I knew that I had need of that answer, God supplied my every need.  He showed up with exactly what I needed, just when I needed it!  

We are so blessed to serve a loving God that is so faithful.  I also know that God doesn’t allow things into our lives by accident; He wants us to use them to give Him glory and to encourage others.

I’m not sure what questions you are seeking of God, but I pray that this will encourage you to wait patiently on Him to answer you in His timing and to continually seek Him while you wait, because He alone knows when you need to have the strength to lift the suitcase. Please remember that above all you can trust Him with EVERYTHING!

These pictures were taken between Thursday, August 18 and Sunday, August 21, 2011. All of our family stayed those days at my folks, spending every last moment we could together before Dad was moved into the home on Monday.

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We spent some time singing praise songs to encourage our hearts.

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These two pictures were taken on Sunday just after we told Dad that he would be going to the home the next day. He handled it so well. We all cried. He just hugged and hugged on mom and they cried together.

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Freddo and Dad played Connect Four, which was Dad’s favorite game. It was always a hoot to play with him. So often he would accuse my mom of cheating when they played together, which made it even funnier.

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While Mom was working to get Dad’s clothes ready, Dad and I made homemade pizzas. Below he is chopping the olives for me. He sure enjoyed cooking.

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This entry was dated August 21st, 2011, the day before we took Dad to live at the nursing home:

“I read something from a caregiver’s devotional this morning. I think it really fit my thoughts and prayers as I think about and feel anxious about tomorrow. I have been wondering how God is going to work out all that concerns me.  “I have learned that even though the world is a tangle of paths and highways, avenues and streets, my Father knows them all, so we needn’t fear finding our way. My family is on a journey together, and whether or not we’re skittish about seating arrangements, we’re confident we’re heading toward a pre-determined destination. My earthly father has relinquished the driver’s seat, but he is confident, as we are, that our heavenly Father knows each turn on the horizon and the secret shortcuts. Our perspective is eternal- we have a view from above.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm to, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13″

I find it interesting that God allowed me to write these notes about Dad entering the nursing home with so much detail of how He had worked in all of it to bring us to the point of placing Dad in the home. Only God could have orchestrated all of that, including me documenting in the fall 2011, the very thing I would need at the start of 2013 to reassure me of His plans and free me from the guilt phase of my grieving process.

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I love you, Daddy…with all my heart!! We all miss you like crazy!

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Gary B. Whitehead, my dad, went on to be with the Lord on June 12, 2012 at 11:35 am. We celebrated his life on June 16th  at 10:30 am. The dates and times are forever etched into my mind. His death affected me much differently than I imagined it would.

I wanted him to be out of pain, as the past several years had been so hard on him. His mind constantly lied to him, because of his Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). And yet, when that moment came to truly let him slip completely into God’s Hands (figuratively), I wanted more than anything to selfishly say NO!! I even whispered in his ear, “I really don’t want you to go like I said before. I am really going to miss you” just before he died.

I found an audio Freddo recorded of Dad while he was talking to one of his friends on the phone back in March of this year. At first I didn’t remember when it had been recorded, but as the call went on everything came back to me.  His pain, his anxiety, his sorrow, his fear, his loneliness, his strength, his faith, how hard it was every time I had to walk in the door wondering what I would find and how incredibly difficult it was to walk away, not knowing what might happen while I was gone…and my eyes leaked a bit as I pondered all of it.

The season of this Lewy Body Dementia disease that God allowed in my dad’s life was where my faith in God was tested…maybe developed is a better word, or perhaps it was both…

Everybody has a “faith developer”, so to speak, in their life. A storm that shakes all that can be shaken to help us to realize what cannot be shaken.  There are many ways to respond to them, not all are healthy.

I asked God over and over not to waste Dad’s disease. I wanted Dad’s trial, which was also our trial, to bring about whatever it was that God desired most in my life. I didn’t want this pain, that was Divinely allowed, to be wasted.

Although within that process that meant I would need to follow Him, trust Him and obey Him with an open hand, through the laughs, the frustration, the fear and the tears.  Looking back I can see God’s Hand all through this journey to joy.

His celebration was such a blessed time. As I look back I am amazed at how God covered us through those days. It was so easy because of God for us to be strong and receive all that came to honor Dad that Friday night, to collect all the pictures, to write his eulogy, to bury him then go back to the church to celebrate his life and worship our Lord. We were blessed to have a couple of family members that were thoughtful enough to snap some shots of his military burial, which is still yet a huge blessing to us.

Last night and today have been more difficult days within this journey; partly due to finding that recording, but also since today they set Dad’s tombstone today. Veteran’s Day was always held in high esteem by Dad, in his honor Mom has pushed to have his tombstone set before November 11th. By God’s grace they were able to get it set today.

I went by today after they were gone. For many days after Dad’s celebration I went and sat beside his grave, read my Bible and prayed. I knew he wasn’t there, but it was the last place I had known his body to be. Somehow going there, sitting, reading, and talking to God there brought me peace. Then it became hard to go there…not really sure why, as I have done my best not to think of why I avoid it. But today, yes today, I forced myself to go, knowing full well that it would bring a fresh reality that I truly cared less to entertain.

A reality set in today that I wished weren’t true. In my mind I knew that my dad’s casket and his physical body were below that dirt, but without his name on a stone above it, somehow I was able to avoid the final feeling that arrived at my heart today. The memories of him are my lifeline most days, having an audio of his laugh and videos of him praying, they keep me smiling despite the longing in my heart to have him back. I have gone back over all that happened in the last 7 years and despite that love that we had and the laughs, I truly would never be so selfish as to want him to come back. He is in heaven now, his every fear, pain and ailment has been alleviated by his sovereign Lord, and that brings me so much peace. He is whole for the first time ever in his life, he is with His Father. Now He has met my only sibling that my parents lost during Mom’s second and last pregnancy. It sure leaves me with a wonderful smile and joy in my heart to think of all Dad is experiencing now…how could I ever want to bring him back?


I decided to attach a link to Dad’s Eulogy for those of you that would like to see it. All you have to do is click on the following links. The eulogy is divided into a Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

 

 

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For years I have been seeking joy, real joy, the kind that is a lifestyle,  so I can can smile and be content no matter what is going on around me. Not the happiness feeling that arises strong from good, fun and exciting moments, but then in the next breath rejects anything that might disrupt that good feeling of the flesh being momentarily satisfied.

No, I am referring to joy, that way of life that comes from the heart of God, the kind of life that can smile even in the midst of the worse storm ever imagined, not because joy is happy, but because it is elusive outside of complete trust in a sovereign God that always has my good and His glory at heart.

Joy comes and stays because it knows that all God does is good, even if it has to wait until this life is over to understand the how and whys of it all, yes, even then it continues to trust in Him.

Trusting not because it is easy, or because it is enjoyable, but because it is aware that sometimes God has to allow tough, painful things in life so that we seek Him.

I do not know if there are other ways to attain joy, but one way that Ann Voskamp has taught me to find joy is to count gifts in the day. Gifts. Things that God allows in each day, big and small, good and bad, thanking Him for each one.

This counting changes my focus from my circumstance to my Savior. It encourages me to hope in Him alone, and all of the sudden even when life is hard, joy comes, mixing with the pain, or the sorrow of life…ushering in His peace. So I go on counting every day and thanking Him all the while…

~finding other Lewy Body Dementia blogs, reading them, feeling God to begin to give me the courage to start writing about Dad’s journey with this horrific disease, praying that in time God will use me to offer others on this same journey some encouragement. Learn about Lewy Body Dementia by clicking here.

~the sun warming up the day nicely

~spending a bit of time talking with a friend

~smell of BBQ

~God giving me strength to not allow that temptation to take root in my heart and bloom into sin, grace, His grace alone

~Freddo getting home in time for us to get the bedroom walls almost finished

~paint and paint brushes, trim almost complete, then we will be on to the next project…one day at a time…

~Freddo being able to fix our tire, love being married to a handy man

~Momma bringing us supper and spending some time with us

~beautiful Mum she brought for our front porch…picture tomorrow, as the sun set before I could get a shot of it

{Joy Dare} 3 gifts unconventional:

~husband and wife working together through whatever comes into their marriage, not just every now and then, but every time the road gets tough

~pouring soapy water on a tire to find the hole

~painting trim in my good clothes, not getting anything on me was a blessing

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Today, (10-11-12) would have been my dad’s 71st birthday, so in his honor I am going to post the words I spoke at his celebration of life in June of this year (2012) during his eulogy.  But first I want to share some pictures of him in his much younger years. I smile as I look through these pictures, since there is a face he makes as a child that he also has been captured in a photo that was taken in the last month of his life, both are posted on this blog…see if you can find it. I think it will make you smile too, even if you don’t know him!

My Dad was a lover of God and of people. Making people feel welcome was important to him; putting them at ease came naturally. He was a friendly man that had a sparkle about him; you could see it in his eyes. In the last weeks of his life, when he really couldn’t communicate, he talked with his eyes and his facial expressions, even with that ornery little grin he had. He desired us to be at ease with his death. In some ways, we could see that he looked out for us all the way to the end.

Gary Blaine never met a stranger. I’ve always teased him that he could talk to a brick wall.  As you well know, he always had a smile and a kind word to share with others. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he had a temper too, but that side of him wasn’t seen very often. Dad was frugal, fair and fun loving. He loved to make people laugh. He enjoyed telling jokes, and in the last ten years, or so, it was often the same jokes over and over…lol.

He was a great encourager. So many people have told me how blessed they were that Dad took the time to tell them a story, share a Bible verse, or give a testimony that encouraged them in their walk with the Lord in regards to whatever trial they may have been going through. He loved to cheer people on, tell them they were doing a good job.

My Dad was very strong willed, or should I say stubborn. He said what he thought, even if it was contrary to everyone else’s opinion. Everyone always knew where they stood with him. But he wasn’t a harsh man. If there was tension in a situation…any situation….you would often hear Dad say, “How about them cardinals”, to try to help lighten the mood.

My father was not perfect, no one in this world is. He was, however, I am pleased to say, effortlessly himself… a prayer warrior… a worshiper of God… a man of integrity… a friend to many and for that I will be always grateful.  As Mom and I talked, and evaluated Dad’s life, we decided that 3 main passions have emerged: His love for God, his family and his country.

He loved history and stories that emphasized strong moral character. We spent so much time when the boys were growing up talking about history stuff, he even helped me teach them world history one year. He felt that learning accurate History was very important.

Dad has always been a patriot! Perhaps that began when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. I was 6 months old before my dad ever saw or held me.

It wasn’t until he got sick that he began talking about Vietnam and its devastating effects on him and the other guys. He loved having that flag pole in his yard so he could proudly fly the flag. Dad instilled his love for country in us. Many of you have been with him at the Memorial Day parade, where no matter how much pain he was in he would stand and salute the veteran’s in the parade. Standing tall and proud, he would sound out, “Welcome Home Gentlemen, welcome home”.

(This was Dad’s last Memorial Day Parade, 2010)

He never wanted to ride in the parade, although he was given the chance many times, he was more concerned with welcoming the veteran’s home than any fanfare he would receive from riding in the parade. This year our family and some of you went to the parade without Dad. It was a tough day, but the boys really felt we should go. We took Dad’s hat and vest with us and put them in his chair beside us.

Afterward a man came up to one of us and asked, “Where is that man that usually sits in that chair? We always know where we are going to sit, because we always look for him in his hat and vest.” He then expressed his sympathies to the family. It was so neat to know that my Dad touched lives that he never even met. Just by his presence and his respect for his God and his country, people were affected.

In June of 2010 Central Missouri Honor Flight invited my Dad to travel to Washington DC and visit the war memorials with them. I went along as Dad’s guardian because of his illness. The honor of accompanying him on this flight to visit the Vietnam wall as his guardian is one of the greatest memories I have. As many of you know I was born while my Dad was in Vietnam. I was 6 months old when he held me for the first time. So this trip held special significance for both of us.

Dad was grateful to get to see the wall and to communicate some things out loud to the guys that he couldn’t save. It was healing for him.

On this trip I learned something about my Dad that I didn’t know, that he was more concerned with how hard the Korean War Vets had it then talking about how hard Vietnam was. He talked so much about them and their memorial.  He was humble about his service in Vietnam, but at the same time proud that he was able to serve. A few years back Bob ordered Dad’s medals that were awarded to him after Vietnam and put them in a shadow box. If you have been to the house or visited him in the nursing home I am positive that you have seen his shadow box.

Dad continued to serve veterans after the war, by being a surgeon’s assistant at the VA hospital for 25 years. He loved working there. Because of his wounds from Vietnam he had to take an early medical retirement.

Dad was very much a family man. Anyone that knew much about him knew this.  My parents celebrated 47 years of marriage this past March, but they had dated 3 years before getting married.

My folks have been a great support to one another through the years. Dad’s learning disabilities made surgical technician school hard for him, but Mom was diligent about getting his notes transposed for him and helped him study. I remember many days I would find my parents praying and reading God’s Word together daily, especially after he retired. Them spending time together with God strengthened their bond, seeing that Bob and I have begun to do that same thing.  My parents would write notes to each other with soap on the bathroom mirror. I always found this encouraging and fun. The reality of life is they had a real marriage, they had their struggles, none of their life together was perfect, but they remained married all of his life because they chose to work through whatever came into their life with God’s strength, trying to give more to each other than they took.

Dad had dyslexia, so instead of him reading to me, when I was growing up, I read to him. I have continued reading to him, even until he passed. It was something that we enjoyed doing together as the boys were growing up. Many a night Dad and I would tuck mom in bed then stay up to watch some tv when I was younger. I loved spending time with him. I hated doing homework and I fought him on it when I was in school, but he always encouraged me.  I smile now when I think of all the days that I fussed about having to sit at the table to do my homework, not realizing that he was making memories with me that would help me as I raised our boys. I learned at a young age, not to ask permission for something more than once.  What my Dad said he meant.  My friends would want me to go back inside and beg him to get to do whatever, but I knew that if I went back in there, not only would I not get to do that, but I would get grounded from something else.  Back then I hated that, but now I am grateful for him teaching me so many things.

My father was so proud of being a Whitehead and it was always of utmost importance to him to be there for those in the Whitehead family when there was any type of event, whether happy or sad. He learned so much about being there for his family from the Whitehead men that have gone on before him.  He loved all of you very much.

My parents have always loved Bob, my Dad thought the sun rose and set with my husband. Many days, I would think, wait, “I am the child, he is the son-in-law..” I love how they have always loved him as their own.  It has helped our marriage so much. Their unconditional love gave Bob confidence and freedom to become who God intended him to be. When I mentioned Bob to Dad when he was in the nursing home, dad would always say with a little grin, “I never did like that man.”

Nathan’s birth was one of the proudest days of my dad’s life.  Gary’s first grandchild was a boy and was born on veteran’s day. Dad was thrilled to say the least. I still recall the look in his eye as he held that sweet little baby for the first time, singing two little boys and two little toys to him, with my mom looking on over his shoulder. God had given my Daddy his Silver Star.

I think that Blane’s motto “if you’re on time then your late”, came from my Dad, because Dad always arrived to work on hour or so before he was supposed to be there, he wanted time to get the first cases set up.  He was such a hard worker; he had a great work ethic, but was caring at the same time. Our boys have learned much about being a godly, patriotic man from my Dad.

I would be remiss if I did not mention at all the years that Dad and our family dealt with his Lewy Body Dementia. This disease changed my Dad in so many ways, but even up to the end there was always a little Gary Whitehead that would surface.

He struggled so much with this disease, it seemed to beat him up in his mind. I think there was so much that happened in his mind that we will never understand. But even when things were hardest, God always allowed Dad peace and assurance after a time. As promised in the Bible, God does not ever leave or forsake His children and we saw God be faithful in so many ways. My Dad loved to praise the Lord without restraint.  His dementia didn’t take this desire from him. He still was quick to raise his hand in praise to God when we sang songs of worship to him, even in the weeks before he passed. When the senior choir came to his room to sing to him not that long ago, “Amen. Glory. Hallelujah!”, if I recall correctly, were the words that came from his mouth after they finished singing.

My Dad became a Christian after he and his comrades were blown up by a booby trap in Vietnam. There in the army hospital in Japan, when they thought they were going to have to amputate both of his legs, my Dad asked Jesus to forgive him for his sins and surrendered his life to God. While Dad has struggled from time to time, as we all do in our Christian walk, he never stopped trusting God, or encouraging others to do the same.

Probably my Dad is most well-known for the hearty amen that could always be heard from him when there was some sort of disruption in the worship service. That one word would encourage others and “lighten the mood”. I have heard from several of you that have been blessed by his encouraging heart. He was a giving man; whatever he had he would willingly give or share. In this way and many more, he pointed us to Christ.

My parents worked well together in God’s Kingdom…most of the time! Whether that was on the mission field in Haiti, cooking snack suppers at church, teaching Survival Kit for new Christians SS class, they truly desired to share with others their love for the Lord.

Dad was a deacon, he loved serving God and Christ’s body in that capacity.  He would pray with and for people often. He made many visits to those that had needs when he was able to get around. Although he loved serving God in all ways, serving the people of Haiti and the people of God, through either medical missions or his gift of cooking, was dearest to his heart. His gift of cooking is something that God developed in him after he retired from working at the VA Hospital. While Dad was blessed with the gift of cooking some great meals, the mess that he made in that process just came naturally to him. Many of you know that Dad would dirty about every pot possible when he cooked, but the food sure was good!

Gary Blane Whitehead is in heaven now because he trusted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He is smiling and whole, for the first time ever. And that brings us this calm assurance that will get us through the tough days that are ahead. Because you see about a week before he passed away, I was going to leave for a little bit, as I was leaning to kiss him goodbye, he said, “I’m home. I’m home.” With this huge smile on his face and his hand reaching toward that sky he said, “Wow. Wow. It’s beautiful.” I said, “daddy, can you tell me what you see?” With this look of awe on his face, he said, “Words cannot describe this.” And from then on Dad didn’t cry as he had been doing. We believe that God gave him a tiny glimpse of heaven that helped him long more for heaven than he longed to stay with us.

I would like to take a few moments to share with you what God has taught me through my relationship with my earthly father’s life, his Lewy Body Dementia and his death.

I was quite discouraged in January of this year, depression was closing in on me, because I was focusing on the situation with my Dad and Blane graduating and not being able to do everything that I felt I should be doing instead of Christ. One day a friend sent me the book “One Thousand Gifts”  in the mail that challenged me to take time each day to count the gifts, list them out somewhere what God was providing daily for me.

I learned that it was in eucharisteo (giving thanks) that I would learn how to find joy in all things. Giving thanks to God leads to praise. As I realized that I didn’t have any control over anything in my life, really, I began to see so clearly my desperate need for Christ. Counting God’s gifts changed me from a negative, depressed person that always saw the down side of things, into this person that eagerly anticipated what little gift God was going to place in my day to prove time and time again His faithfulness to me.

You see, I’ve known Jesus Christ as my Savior since I was 21 y.o., but I haven’t been living my life fully surrendered to Him. I have wanted to have control. Events in my life over the last few years have caused me to see that I really didn’t TRUST God as the words that came out of my mouth implied.

I saw that God desired to take me into deeper water, waters so deep that I couldn’t even see if there was a bottom, so that I could learn to trust in Him alone, not in myself, or others, just Him alone.

Watching my Dad suffer with this horrible illness that was slowly consuming who my Dad used to be, could have totally stolen my joy and caused me to fear (and sometimes it did), but God used this to show me an analogy of something beautiful, yet painful that I could learn from something so devastating.

God was trying to bring me to a place that Christ so consumed me that it wasn’t me that people saw, but Christ in me, the hope of glory.

God used something horrible that was happening to my earthly Dad to draw me closer to my Heavenly Father, the only One that could meet my needs. I am far from being totally surrendered, but each day I see God drawing me closer and closer.

I am so grateful that God never let’s go of me, He never gives up on me and will continue to walk me through whatever it is He allows in my life. He has proved Himself trustworthy and faithful through it all and I pray that I can willingly continue to offer Him an opened hand and live a life that is surrendered to Him no matter the cost.

In closing, to those of you that are unsure of whether you will go to heaven when you die, please allow me to encourage you to nail that down today, seek someone out to explain what it means to trust Jesus as your Savior so that you can know the peace that my Dad, Mom and I have. And for those of you that have trusted in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, let me encourage you with words from Hebrews 12:1-3.

Offer God your open hand, knowing upfront that this offering may bring pain, but you will never be sorry that you did, because He will bring beauty from ashes, if you will but trust Him.

 

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