Crossing the River of Life
I have always believed in life after death. But now I know that death is not the end. I have witnessed the death of my father as he described his experience. At first this truly frightened me, but now I cherish the final moments of his life.
The night that he was expected to die, I was with him in his hospital room watching every breath for signs that it may be his last. Late in the night, he appeared to be unconscious. I waited and waited, watching his breathing become increasingly labored. He began to hum. This humming became louder and louder and it seemed that he was arguing, almost wrestling with himself, perhaps struggling with is own soul. His humming turned into garbled, angry words. He began flailing his arms in the air, his IV tubes flapping against his arms. He opened his eyes and began yelling to his great uncle who died before I was born and who was very important to my father and had convinced his to enter the Methodist ministry.
“Grab my hand, grab my hand! Take me across the river!” He was desperately calling to his uncle, “Please take my hand! Life on earth let me go, let me go!” His yelling became intense. I stood my his bed in bewilderment. What was going on here? He was so close to death an hour ago! Why is he yelling these things? Why is a minister having trouble entering heaven? Why can’t he cross this river?
Suddeny Dad sat up and turned around onto his stomach and started moving his arms and legs like he was swimming. “Let me cross the river, let me go, let me go! Life on earth let me go!” He was so frightened, yet he was intent on going to the other side. I was horrified. He appeared not to know I was there.
I called to him, “Dad, let me go, go to Jesus!” He turned his head and yelled to me, “It’s not you I can’t let go of!” Then he started yelling for his brother who was resting in the hospital lounge. I ran down the hall to get him.
My uncle rushed into the room and instinctively took my father’s hand and said, “You can let go of me. Go to the Lord.” Immediately my father stopped yelling. We watched in amazement as he sighed and his last breath slowly left his body. He became still and peaceful as he died.
I was terrified of death immediately following that experience. I prayed that I would learned that he was okay and he was happy. A few weeks after his death, I felt his warm and calm presence near me and I felt assured that he was where he was supposed to be. We all have our personal struggles and I have not been able to piece together why he needed his brother’s permission to die. I am certain that after I die, I will find out what my father went through that night.