Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Long Goodbye

I apologize to my readers for my long absence from the blogosphere, but March was the worst and most emotionally draining month of my life thus far. With all of the personal difficulties and even tragedies that I have been through over the past few weeks, following the issues surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention has not been a high priority for me.

After almost a month of refusing to eat, my dad, Richard Augustus Sweatman, passed away around 7:15 Monday morning, March 26, at the age of 78. Dad was a private man, so I won't share in such a public forum a lot of details about what happened. Basically, after a couple of incidents where he fell or could not stand up on his own, he simply decided he was ready to go. Despite all of our efforts to get him to change his mind, he would not eat or let anyone take him to the hospital. Over the next couple of weeks Dad told us where his insurance policies and important papers were and that he loved us and was proud of us. While I am thankful that we had plenty of time to say everything we wanted and needed to say (especially since my wife and I live in another state and could visit him only on the weekends), it was difficult watching the strongest man I ever knew gradually waste away by his own choosing. My brother was finally able to get him to the hospital on March 18, but by then it was too late. That Friday he was taken from the hospital to a hospice center, where he peacefully died Monday.

In addition to losing my dad, I had the honor---and the responsibility---of leading his funeral service. In keeping with his wishes, we had a private graveside service with family and a few close friends. Leading that service was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am glad that I did it. I don't believe that anyone outside of his family could have adequately described my dad. I shared about how Dad was his own man: a quiet man who led by example rather than by words; a private man who even as a young boy preferred to go fishing in the swamps of South Carolina by himself rather than hang around with other kids; a working man who did not retire from his job as a construction foreman at 65 but worked as long as his body let him; a strong man both physically (continuing to work about 2 or 3 hours after his lung collapsed) and especially in his will. I then gave a brief summation of the gospel and closed with the Apostle Paul's words from 1 Cor. 15 about the hope of the resurrection we have through Christ.

Please continue to pray for our family, especially my mom and my sister, who lived at home with Dad. While this has been hard on all of us, they were the ones who took care of him every day.