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I miss him

It’s only been five days, but I miss my dad.


J Roland Underwood, my father, passed away very unexpectedly last week. He was 71 years young and was doing very well in the grand scheme of things. The circumstances of his death are very odd to me. It all began Sunday, August 24. We had went to church together that morning, and as usual, he found a time and place to clear his throat very loudly when I said something that afforded a comment. He was like that. Every Sunday, if I was speaking, I would hear an “Oh, me.” or an “Amen,” or a one or two word commentary from his perch on the back row. I think he sat there so he could oversee everything that was happening and because he wanted to be as far away from the speakers as possible. He did not enjoy my musical taste or volume preference.

Before and after church he was in his customary place that morning – at the main entrance catching every person he could, coming and going. He was, according to Dr Gilbert Bilezikian, a one-man welcoming committee of ten. He was our ambassador. More than one person has told me over time that he, not I, was the reason they were in the church. He loved people and they felt it. It did not matter your race, socio-economic status, religion or lack of it, he was going to let you know you were valuable and that he was glad to see you.

On this particular Sunday, he was hugging and smiling and chatting it up with everyone. He told more than one person he was getting caught up on his hugs. Not only did he love everyone, but everyone seemed to love him back.

After service I went home alone rather than go to lunch with he and my Mother. I did not eat until later in the day, but I did go break in his house while he was at lunch and grab a tomato and two peaches for my own lunch at home. Later, I called him and asked him about lunch. He told me that he and my Mother went to Huddle House (a Waffle House clone) here in Snellville. I told him that I was cooking my lunch and how long it would take to boil corn on the cob. He told me and we chatted a minute or so.

Later that afternoon he decided to share some watermelon with my Mother and commented to her that it just was not good watermelon. He finished his, got up from his chair and went and disposed of his leftover rind in the kitchen garbage can. He walked back in the sitting room, went to move his TV tray that he had been using as a table and just collapsed without warning or preview. He hit the door before he hit the floor and was out. His heart had just stopped.

It took paramedics less than ten minutes to respond but it was too late. He had been without oxygen for that time and, at his age, it was four times too long. He never responded again. After two days they told us he was brain dead and we made the difficult choice to remove him from the ventilator.

As we gathered around his bed, about twenty of us, and prayed, we broke into the first verse of Amazing Grace. As we finished it we began to sing the chorus of ‘Praise God’ that accompanies the melody. His pulse rate went lower and lower. As we began singing his pulse rate rose 10 bpm then began to rescind. They had told us he was brain dead, without response and gone. Lower, to 36bpm and then, on the chorus, back to 45bpm. Then it happened..the most amazing thing. As his pulse rate lowered his left arm began to raise. He joined us in our worship and then within seconds, flatline. He was gone. I took his left hand and gently laid it across his body. My mother had his right hand in hers as he slipped away.

It has been five days now. I want to call him, to see him, to hear him. I can’t.

I miss my dad. I am glad that I am not the only one. I love him.

Related article – Shalom Existence (link)

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