July 6th: Independence Day for Dad
by Bob West

As a result of cancer surgery that never quite healed, Dad had to go into a nursing home. He didn't want to go, and we didn't want him to go, but there was no other choice. He wasn't abandoned, however, as God gave Mother and other family members the strength to visit him almost every day for the year and a half he was there. Dad wanted to go home. He told Mother that he could get well if he was allowed to go home. Well, he is finally home. Home with Jesus. Now he has a healthy body. Now he is well.

My Dad, Robert Alton West, Sr., was almost 88. He and Mother were together 70 years. I am the oldest of two sons and two daughters, 9 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren -- all Christians (except the very small children).

For most of his life Dad was very strong physically and took great pride in his ability to handle any situation himself. As his physical ability deteriorated over the past few years, I believe God was teaching him to rely less on himself and more on Jesus. Although Dad has been a member of the "one true church" most of his life, I wanted so much for him to know and experience an intimate relationship with Jesus. He had lost his ability to speak and tell me himself, but I have other indications that he had that kind of relationship during the past year or so.

In addition to two cancer surgeries and chemo and radiation treatments in the past, Dad had other physical problems including advanced Parkinson's and dementia. He had lost his ability to swallow and there seemed to be food in his lungs. When we arrived at the hospital he was suffering from a contagious, medication-resistant staph infection and running a fever which could only be reduced slightly.

On July 1st we learned that Dad did not have long to live, so we went to be with him and the family. As we drove from North Carolina to Florida, I told the Lord that Dad had suffered for such a long time and I would like for Him to go ahead and take him, but only if Dad would be going to heaven. About three different times after that, my Dad came to mind and I heard a small voice say, "Independence Day. Freedom!" I understood that the Lord was saying that Dad's spirit was about to be released from that physical body which could no longer function, but I also thought the Lord was saying it would happen on the 4th of July.

When we arrived at the hospital on July 2nd, I learned that Mother had been begging Dad not to leave her. We talked about that and then on July 3rd with Mother by my side, I told Dad on behalf of our family, "Dad, if you want to go be with Jesus, it is okay. It is okay with me. It is okay with Mother. It is okay with all of us. We love you very much, and we'll miss you. But we will see you again some day, because we all plan to go be with Jesus too. Don't worry about Mother. We will take good care of her." Those words did not come easy, but I knew they needed to be said.

On July 4th the doctor released him to return to the nursing home, as no extraordinary measures were to be used to keep him alive. From that point on, his family was at his side 24 hours a day.

July 5th came and Dad was still alive. I was surprised. Then the Lord told me that His message had nothing to do with an actual date. It had to do with what was happening in the spiritual realm.

Thursday morning, July 6, 2000, was Dad's Independence Day. His freedom from pain and suffering and confinement began at 4:30. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Dad enjoyed old western movies, and he loved to watch Roy Rogers. At the end of some of those shows, Roy would sing "Happy Trails." So at the close of Dad's graveside service, we sang that song to Dad.

Happy trails to you, Dad... till we meet again.


Photo of Dad
Robert Alton West, Sr.
September 15, 1912 -- July 6, 2000

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