Not too long after Mom & Dad’s mission, Mom was called to be the stake Relief Society president. Dad seemed to slow down quite a bit. Mom complained that Dad spent a lot of the day resting. A couple of summers ago, Dad had a series of heart attacks. A lot of people aren’t familiar with real heart attack symptoms. They mostly know theatrical heart attacks from TV and movies. So when they are having tightness in their chest and difficulty breathing, they just think they’ve been overdoing and are in need of a rest.
Denial is another common heart attack symptom. And that’s how it was with Dad. He refused to get it checked, figuring that he’d feel better after a rest. Well, each time he did feel better the next day. But he violated the two-hour rule. If you can get treatment within two hours of first noticing symptoms, they can usually prevent serious damage to the heart muscle. While Dad felt somewhat better, his series of heart attacks left significant portions of his heart muscle dead, meaning that his heart pumped much less efficiently.
Dad probably had been experiencing some level of congestive heart failure for years. But his heart attacks made this a serious issue. Oddly, the primary care doctors failed to accurately diagnose the problem. After tests, they sent Dad to a guy that was a liver specialist because tests showed some anomalies with liver enzymes. In retrospect, we now know that this was mostly a result of decreased blood flow to the liver. Dad had a lot of respiratory congestion and he had a lot of fluid gain. He didn’t feel well at all.
Dad resisted Mom’s suggestion that he needed to see a heart specialist. Eventually Dad’s problems became so bad that I took him to see a different primary care doctor that had a reputation for figuring things out. He immediately determined Dad’s CHF problem and soon discovered that Dad had a clot in his heart that could break loose and cause a stroke. They began treatment for CHF, but the stroke occurred anyway.
Following Dad’s stroke, they tried treating him with this horrendous cocktail of drugs that made him goofy and dropped his blood pressure so low that he could have died. A few months later, a drug interaction with a common antibiotic resulted in a bleeding bowel that almost killed him. The doctors said Dad had dementia, but after getting off most of the drugs, he was able to be quite rational again.
Dad’s heart muscle slowly weakened over a year and a half until it was pumping at only 10% of normal. He finally suffered a stroke that incapacitated the left side of his body. He was already in hospice care by this time. Over the next few days, Dad’s body functions shut down until his heart finally just stopped beating.
As long as I have known Dad, his faith in Jesus Christ has been the chief hallmark of his life. He frequently expressed this faith in the final year of his life. He regularly expressed his willingness to pass to the other side and continue on the next step of his journey. Now he has his wish.
My brother works one day each week in the Salt Lake Temple. The day after Dad passed away, my brother was working in the Temple when he very clearly sensed Dad’s presence. He felt a message conveyed that Dad was happy and busy. That’s good, because Dad never enjoyed being idle.
I have learned many things from my Dad. He taught me loyalty. He has been endlessly loyal to his family and to his faith. Dad was a hard working man and he taught me how to work. Dad was a spiritual man. He was a visionary man. He taught me the value of spirituality and spiritual experiences. Dad was a man of reason. He taught me the value of clear analysis. Those that know my Dad will understand what it means when I say that it is a great honor to be called his son.
Dad is no longer with us in this moral realm this Father’s Day. But I am grateful that he is still my Dad — and will be my Dad forever.