When my mother became terminally ill, it sent a shockwave through the family. My father was devastated. He made the decision to stop working at our family business to stay home with her.
Taking care of Mom was a full-time job for him, but he was determined to spend every last second with her. She didn’t want to be in a hospital, but instead surrounded by family and memories at home. My dad would have it no other way.
He transformed our home into a top-flight care facility and tended to her around the clock. He slept in a bed next to hers, read to her every day, talked with her, shared photos with her, and spent hours caressing her skin.
Without him at the helm every day, many employees left the family business and within six months he had to shut it down. He didn’t care. We also had to cut way back on expenses and use a large portion of the family’s savings. He didn’t care. Neither did we.
In the final two weeks we had to move Mom to hospice care. Dad slept there. He ate there. He ensured Mom was warm and comfortable every moment of the day. He held her hand while she slept.
Occasionally I’d urge Dad to go home to take a break and let me fill in. He wouldn’t. He didn’t have to say anything. You could just see the look in his eyes. He wasn’t going to leave her side for one second.
When the final moment arrived Dad knelt next to Mom’s bed, holding her hand gently in his. She left us knowing he was there.
It hurt so bad to see Mom go, but it helped to know the remarkable love and care she received from my dad…and others saw it too.
In one of my conversations with a nurse who took care of my mom in hospice, she said, “Your dad’s devotion was like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Her sentiment was echoed in a chat I had with my mom’s doctor shortly after she passed. He commented, “Never in all my years have I seen a man so devoted to a woman.”
But the conversation with the most profound impact on me was yet to come. The last person I spoke to was another nurse who had spent considerable time with my mom. She approached me and said “Lise, I have something I want to share. When I started your mom’s care I was engaged to be married. But I ended it this morning.”
When I expressed sympathy, she interrupted, “Don’t be sorry. I’m not. It was my choice. The man I was engaged to is a wonderful person, but after seeing how devoted your dad was to your mom in her time of need, I began to question whether the same would be true for me and my future husband. I didn’t know devotion like that existed and now that I do, I won’t settle for anything less.”
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This story was contributed by my good friend, Lise Johnson. I included it in my book, How Fathers Change Lives. She told me that after her mother, Joyce, passed away in 2007, her father, Ralph, went to church every day to “visit her.” They were married for 48 years. He still carries the photo above in his pocket wherever he goes.
I was inspired to share this story because of a comment I heard from a friend a few weeks ago. She said, “Love is not just a feeling, it’s something you demonstrate. Saying I love you is easy, but proving you love someone takes work, sacrifice, and devotion.”
David Wilkerson expressed it simply:
“True love is not something you feel…it’s something you do.”
Expressed in a different way…
“Love is an act, not just a feeling.”