A Thousand Voices
by Nathan M. Bickel
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of thoughts the author shared with family and friends upon the death of his father.
I was summoned via phone at 6:45 a.m. by Mom, who said something was wrong with Dad. He couldn’t get out of be to prepare for his confirmation class scheduled for later that morning.
I rushed over and found my father the victim of an apparent stroke. The left side of his body was paralyzed, and his speech – earnest but garbled – was barely recognizable.
I bent over and touched Dad and told him help was coming. Then I shared with him one of his favorite passages from Scripture: “Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:3). Dad choked up, tears welling in his eyes, as he feebly tried to respond in paralyzed speech.
Toward the end of his first day in the hospital, Dad suffered a second, much more massive stroke. From then on, the only way he could respond to questions during our round-the-clock vigils was by opening wide his eyes.
I asked him, “Do you love Jesus?” He responded in the affirmative with his eyes. “Do you have the assurance that your sins are forgiven?” Again, a “yes.”
A remarkable man, my Dad! As I sat by his hospital bed, I was reminded of his presence at my daughters’ Christmas service just one week earlier. My wife, Anne, had remarked how 70-year-old Dad had sung as loudly and fervently as ever.
These past few days since Christmas have been especially meaningful for me; I have experienced firsthand God’s treasure wrapped up in one of His “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:5-8). My Dad is that earthen vessel – a vessel into which God’s grace has been heavily poured. Beginning many years ago, even before Dad became a Missouri Synod pastor, God’s grace gave him that “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
I remember certain pastoral calls that Dad took me on when I was young. He would visit the old, the sick and the infirm. The parishioners he saw were extremely grateful. Little did I realize then that I would find myself ministering God’s gracious words of comfort and assurance to my own father in his last days.
The nurse took Dad’s temperature, checked his blood pressure and vital signs, then checked his blood pressure again. I bent over him and prayed the prayer I had prayed so often for him these past few days: “Lord Jesus who dost love me,/ Oh spread Thy wings above me,/ And shield me from all harm./ Though evil would assail me,/ Thy mercies will not fail me./ I rest in Thy protecting arms.”
I said, “Dad, Jesus is just about done preparing your mansion. You just rest in His arms.”
By now, Dad was quietly breathing his last. The cassette player at his bedside was playing the final verse from “How Great Thou Art.” As it ended another song began, “Beautiful Savior.” I spoke once more into his ear: “Isn’t He beautiful, Dad? Isn’t Jesus beautiful?”
(Earlier in the week, one of the hymns we had played for Dad on the cassette player was “Oh That I Had a Thousand Voices!” As Dad heard it, he choked up, tears flowing. I spoke into his ear: “Dad none of us has a thousand voices. But we do have grateful hearts, which in the Lord rejoice. Dad, I know you are rejoicing with that heart of yours!”)
My father’s loving heart then ceased all movement. At last, he was safe in eternity, forever under the shelter of God’s wings.
The prayer of Dad’s little grandchild Matthew, had been mercifully answered. When told that Grandpa had one foot on earth and one in heaven, Mathew had said, “Dear Jesus, please get that other foot of Grandpa’s into heaven!”
I phoned my brother to relate Dad’s transition into glory. As the phone rang I watched an intern shine his tiny flashlight into my father’s eyes, confirming his death. Tim answered the phone. With tears of joy, my voice breaking, I reported: “Dad’s now got his thousand voices!”
– Above article copied from “The Lutheran Witness,” March 1989; VOL. 108; NO. 3
Oh for a thousand Tongues to Sing – youtube.com/watch?v=ebY558Z9vFc
Source of the above video: The Edinburgh Singers – youtube.com/user/edinburghsingers/feed
Pic source of “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord:”