The Death of a Good Man

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

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.

A beautiful drive through the mountains of N.C.

Clouds threaten as we drive through the mountains

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

Cindy and I at Hamburger Station with family

The twins, beautifully arrayed for the funeral

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)

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.

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.

Our family, reunited once again.

Mom and Son

Mom and Son

The girls:  Julie, Tracy, and Mariah

The girls: Julie, Tracy, and Mariah

Don's wife (center), flanked by their children, Donnie, Christy, Cindy, and Tim

Don’s wife (center), flanked by their children, Donnie, Christy, Cindy, and Tim

Don's six grandchildren, Kristin, Ben, Jon, Mariah, Julie, and Jeremy

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.

10 thoughts on “The Death of a Good Man

  1. beautiful words about Cindy’s father….sorry, but glad he is in his Father’s arms. What a blessing he must have been to you all.

  2. Barry, such beautiful words about a man you call “Dad”. How proud he must be.
    God bless each and every one. So happy your were there for Cindy and the family.
    Hope to see you both soon.

  3. So well said! Both Don and Jean made a big impression on me as I grew up there. I never heard an unkind word from either of them, and they always had a smile to share. A good man who will be missed, but a wonderful addition to heavens band! God bless you all.

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