It was my Friday routine: ball cap and jeans, today with boots because of the cold weather. Not usual office attire, but that’s the beauty of Friday when 3ABN is closed. No interruptions, no meetings, no phone calls. Just time to catch up on the work piled on my desk.
Today, however, was different. Midway through the morning my cell phone rang. It was Ann,* my “second” mom. I marvel sometimes at the beauty of family. Biological connection is good, but not always essential. The connection of heart and spirit can be just as deep, whether one is related or not.
Ann’s husband, Calvin, had been sick for a couple weeks, and his blood work wasn’t normal. Something was wrong, but the doctor couldn’t determine what. They were heading for the ER, based on the doctor’s recommendation.
I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes as Ann talked. Then she said, “Calvin wants to talk for a moment.”
Calvin’s normally strong voice sounded weak and old. “Hi, Jilly. I need to go into the hospital.” I turned the volume up on my phone, but his voice didn’t get any louder. “We’ll be fine. Just getting checked out.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Love you, darling. I’ll let you go.”
This was more serious than I’d thought. When had he become so weak?
I turned back to my desk, but the tears kept blurring my vision. I loved Calvin more than almost anyone on earth. He believed in me, even when I doubted myself. He was always so proud of me. He listened to me—really listened. Not just superficially, as many do. You know, the polite nod with a quick comeback. Instead he always sought to find my meaning underneath. What my heart felt inside. Most of all, I always knew I was loved. No matter what. God, I hope it isn’t serious.
Later that day Greg and I entered his hospital room. The tests and scans had revealed a mass. No official diagnosis of cancer yet, but the word hung in the room. I looked at my “dad” sitting in bed, and the words wouldn’t come.
Greg carried the conversation well, and we talked about tests and blood work and the doctor’s thoughts and recommendations. All the while I thought, I can’t lose you. How do you pour a heart full of love and longing into just a few words?
I tried several times, but the words never came. We prayed together, and it was time to go. I still hadn’t said anything of substance. Anything that really mattered.
Walking to the bed, I reached out and held his hand. Our eyes locked, and I blurted out the only thing I could, past the lump in my throat. “Don’t forget that you’re my dad.”
Calvin didn’t laugh or ask what I meant. He just said two words. “I remember.”
And in that moment I knew. He understood what I couldn’t convey. Maybe, for today, that was enough.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.
*Names used in this article are pseudonyms.