Monday, June 2, 2008

Last Words

Last Words- H. L. “Bud” Tenney

I had been home from work for about fifteen or twenty minutes, when my older son David came in from playing—looking very serious. He was only six years old at the time. Our younger son Mark, who is two and a half years younger, was right behind him.

I was watching the evening news on television when David came in and stood right in front of me. I have to admit that my thoughts were rambling between the news and David. I knew he had something on his mind, and he knew he could talk to me about anything. He also thought I had the answers to everything.

As he stood there, I could sense that he was nervous and wondered if there was something wrong, or if he was just going to ask one of his very serious questions about the rules of the game they were playing. But he was much too serious for that. Now he had my full attention.

He spoke rather quietly when he said, “Daddy, I need to talk to you.”

“Okay, Davie, what’s on your mind?”

“I’m a big boy now, right?”

“You sure are. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

He said, “I don’t want you to call me ‘Davie’ anymore, I want you to call me ‘Dave,’ and I don’t want to call you ‘Daddy,’ I want to call you ‘Dad.’”

With this out, he seemed even more serious or nervous. I smiled at him with the proudest smile I think I ever had.

I said, “That will be okay, Dave. I would like to call you ‘Dave’ or ‘David’ and look forward to you calling me ‘Dad.’ But, don’t ever call me ‘Father,’ okay?”

He relaxed and said in a very strong voice, “Can I go back out and play now, Dad?” As I said yes, my younger son came over close to me and said, “I still want to call you ‘Daddy.’”

I said, “I’m so glad you do!”

For the next few days, every time David had anything to say to me, he would begin it with “Dad.” Even if he wanted to know what we were having for supper, he would ask, “Dad, what are we having for dinner?”

It didn’t take Mark long to follow suit. I could barely keep the smile off my face! My wife would turn her head to smile.

My son David died July 1, 1993. The night before he died, he and I were talking on the telephone about how he was feeling. About six weeks before, he had surgery for removal of a testicular cancer. Then they did exploratory surgery to verify that his lymph system was clear of cancer. It was, thank God.

In this telephone conversation, David told me that he was experiencing blurred vision and numbness in his fingers, as well as slurred speech. I told him that he would be alright. He had just gone back to work too soon after the surgery. He agreed and said he would slow down a bit. We both laughed, because we both knew he wouldn’t slow down.

I said, “I love you, Davie,” to which he responded with loving laughter, “I love you, too, Daddy.”

I laughed and said, “Goodnight, Davie.”

“Goodnight, Daddy,” he said, and we both hung up our telephones. These were the last words we ever spoke to each other.

The next day at about noon, I was notified that David had been taken by ambulance to the local hospital. His wife was with him during the trip. When I arrived at the hospital, he was in a coma. As the afternoon wore on, the doctor informed us that David had a ruptured aneurysm in his brain. He lived until 7:06 p.m.

As I prayed for his life, many things went through my mind. Mainly, I will forever be grateful to God for his last words. We had no fences to mend. We enjoyed a good relationship. Although David’s passing was obviously painful—for him physically and for me emotionally—the innocence and sweetness of that shared childhood memory offered a poignant note on which a father can remember a son taken too early.

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