Thursday, August 13, 2009

Final Approach

My Dad was an air traffic controller in the Air Force. I'm not sure if the position made him observant, or him being observant made him an air traffic controller, but Dad would look out the windows of the car and notice things.

Notice caterpillars crawling across the road. Hawks soaring high above. An old farmer hunched - almost slumped over the wheel of a tractor.

When we lived in New Orleans, I rode with Dad about as much as I could. To the store or fishing or just about anywhere. When we drove by the airport on the way to New Orleans East, Dad would point out which planes were on the tarmac and describe the processes he'd go through to guide a plane on to the ground.

"We're on final approach," Dad would say, as if he was speaking into the microphone. Those words meant something to both the pilot and the tower. Gear down. Flaps. Bearings. Horizon. Radar.

Dad used it with me a bunch. He told me at the end of my senior year in high school that I was on final approach. Sometimes he'd describe the tail end of a long vacation trek as final approach.

So...I think he'd like me telling you he's on final approach.

The stent was removed and it wasn't the magic fix. His physician knelt next to his bed and stared into his eyes, held his hand, and told Dad he wished he could do more.

Final approach and it turns out my last walk with him - down the walk to a fishing boat this summer - might be my last without a walker, maybe my last outside. Final approach and the thing he worked so hard to refine and stay tuned - his body - is failing him. Fighting him.

I didn't see it coming, not this fast, not this way. And it turns out the final preparations weren't physical at all. It is a legacy of faith and a heart for ministry - he witnessed to his nurse just yesterday - it's strength in something more than a calcified heart valve or a tumor-ridden liver.

This world will break your heart. If it hasn't, it will. This world will break your heart and I hope that you're as prepared for final approach as my Dad is.


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