It has been 18 days since my last post. Much has happened since then, which I’ll share in several blogs over the next few days.
Don and Jean Harris
My first post regards the death of a very good man, my father-in-law, Donald K. Harris, at the age of 82. He crossed over the threshold of mortality and entered into the presence of Jesus on the 17th of this month. We raced against time to see him while he was still alive. After working my string of 10 shifts in Lakeland, we began a road trip northward. We stopped overnight in Atlanta to visit with my sisters (more to come), and stopped in Asheville, N.C. overnight on December 16th. We left the morning of the 17th, knowing that Cindy’s father’s condition was deteriorating. Somewhere in West Virginia, we heard the news that he had been placed on a ventilator. In retrospect, this kept him alive long enough for us to see him before he passed away. After 8 1/2 hours of driving, we arrived at Barberton Hospital 2 hours before his death. He was intubated and sedated, but we talked to him and sang to him over the last two precious hours.
A beautiful drive through the mountains of N.C.
Clouds threaten as we drive through the mountains
Cindy and I went back to his room in the ICU shortly after 8. I notice his blood pressure had been critically low over the past several measurements (50s systolic). I could tell the nurse was concerned. When I questioned him about it, he stated he was going to call the doctor. A moment later, I noticed his heart rate decreasing. I immediately told Cindy to go get Mom. Dad was leaving this world for a better place. A couple of moments later, Mom, Cindy, and Christy (Cindy’s twin sister) arrived to the bedside and started singing one of Dad’s favorite songs, “Sheltered in the Arms of God.” They were singing this song as he left this life of suffering for a life of undefiled joy and health. The nurses rushed in with the code cart and readied to do chest compressions. I asked them to please let him go. He did not have a formal DNR order, but he did not need to suffer any longer. Mom and the family agreed. At 8:35, his heart stopped, and he was gone.
Cindy and I at Hamburger Station with family
The twins, beautifully arrayed for the funeral
Don loved his wife and children and worked hard over a 44 career at Goodyear Tire to support them. He loved God and attending church, which he did faithfully all his life. Cindy and I are glad that he and Mom were able to visit us aboard Beatitude a couple of times while we were docked in Bradenton. While he wasn’t crazy about us becoming seafarers, he was always supportive despite his misgivings. There wasn’t anything he enjoyed more than making music on the mandolin and banjo. He played both throughout his years of performing bluegrass-style music. At times, he played in bluegrass bands, and at other times, he played and sang along with his wife, Jean, who played the guitar. He was generous with his talent, often playing in nursing homes and churches. One thing I could count on when visiting my in-laws in Ohio, I would be able to hear Dad on his mandolin. Both he and his music will be missed on this earth. He is now listening and participating in music on a grander scale…. And, I’m sure he is enjoying himself.
A table of remembrances for Dad (at his funeral)
The most moving part of the funeral for me, my three children and their “cuzbro” (as they call him), Jonathan, playing “Ashokan’s Farewell.” Jeremy played the melody on the mandolin, back up by Julie on the guitar, Mariah on the banjo, and Jonathan on the ukulele. Dad would be so proud and thankful.
We were thankful that we were able to see him before he died, and that we were able to be with mom during this difficult time. We spent the next several days, preparing for the funeral and trying to sort out Mom’s financial future. The holidays were a little more stressful than expected, but we are so glad that we were there. In fact, while we had hoped Dad would pull through his illness, his death occurred at the most opportune time for Cindy and I. I could have been scheduled to work multiple days in a row, or worse, we could have been out of the country or out on the open water. So, while we are saddened by Dad’s absence, we are grateful we were able to be there when his passing occurred.
We were also thankful to be with our three children. Because of Dad’s passing, our son, Jeremy, flew in from California, our daughter, Mariah, flew in from Boston, and our daughter, Julie, drove in from Pennsylvania. It’s not often that our immediate family can be together, so we are especially glad when it happens.
Our family, reunited once again.
Mom and Son
The girls: Julie, Tracy, and Mariah
Don’s wife (center), flanked by their children, Donnie, Christy, Cindy, and Tim
Don’s six grandchildren, Kristin, Ben, Jon, Mariah, Julie, and Jeremy
I miss Beatitude and I missthe water. We will not return to Green Turtle Cay until January 5th. Until then, I’ll provide a few highlights of our experiences of the past couple of weeks.