October 2013

Post date: Sep 24, 2013 4:59:14 PM

My Dad, Jerry Hickman died Saturday, Sept 21, after struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease for about 5 years. On Tuesday he lost the ability to swallow, even water, and by Saturday morning he passed on. My mom, brother, sister and I were able to spend quite a bit of time with him those last few days. I’m not sure Dad was really aware that we were there, but we needed to be there and say our good-byes and entrust him to God’s everlasting care.

The last few months of his earthly life, I’m not sure my Dad knew me anymore. Perhaps he still recognized my Mom, his wife of over 53 years. My Father declined rapidly with Alzheimer’s disease. The last couple years he slept most of the time. When he tried to talk, it made no sense. The last month or so he could not feed himself anymore. The staff at the care facility or my mom fed him. He became so unbalanced and unsteady on his feet that we did not try to get him up walking anymore. Dad received excellent care at the Alzheimer’s house of Guardian Angel in Richland, WA.

It seemed a cruel end after a lifetime of service to God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jerry Hickman had a sharp mind. He was a word-smith, a loving pastor, who served the Lutheran Church for over 50 years. He was a loving husband and father. We Christians are not exempt from the diseases and accidents and illnesses of this earthly life. We all live in a fallen world. My Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease strikes some fear in my heart, too, knowing there is a genetic factor involved. When I talk about grandpa, my Dad, with my Son Kyle I say, “Remember, that could be me in 30 years.”

People say get physical exercise and keep your mind active to avoid Alzheimer’s. My Dad did all that. It didn’t seem to matter. Earlier in life he played handball and tennis and walked and hiked and cross-country skied. Later in life he went for a long walk almost every day. He was always an avid reader and thinker. He did a lot of crossword puzzles and went to the pastor’s weekly Bible study long after he retired. He still died of Alzheimer’s Disease at the not-so-old age of 81. There were signs of forgetfulness, short and long term memory loss, errors in judgment, as far back as 6 years ago. But he declined rapidly in the last 6 months. Mom took care of him at home for as long as she was able. But he got lost in his own house and fell down a lot.

I began grieving the loss of my Father before he died, because he was not really here anymore. In body he was still here, but not in mind or spirit or emotion. I missed the Dad who walked and talked with me about God, family, the Lutheran Church, scholarly insights into the Bible, the love of Jesus. I missed the smile, the bright eyes, the laughter, the intelligent and caring conversation, the hugs.

I still visited him when I could and had one-sided conversations with him. I prayed with him, read from the Bible, hugged him hello and good-bye. He seemed completely drawn into himself. To me he seemed like a sleepy newborn baby curled into himself. Perhaps he was getting ready for his birth into eternal life.

Even though my Dad may not have known me toward the end, I know God has not forgotten him. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has always known my Dad by name and will never forget him. And now God has called Jerry Hickman home to be with Him forever in the heavenly kingdom, where he is being restored to wholeness.

“But now thus says the Lord….: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-4.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Dennis