What Dad’s Stroke Taught Me

Last week on January 8, I remembered it had been exactly three years since I lost my father. The hard truth is that in many ways, we lost him about 20 months before. On Easter weekend, the day we call “Holy Saturday,” my dad had a stroke. He spent days in the hospital, and the latest technology saved his life, but dad was never the same.

Everything became a struggle. He could no remember things well. He once had this enormous memory of everything. Now it was gone. He could not formulate words into coherent sentences the same way anymore. Words were mistaken and jumbled. As the days wore on, he would talk less and less. His anger would, and frustration was evident as we struggled to understand him.

The biggest thing that happened was the loss of control of the muscles in his mouth and throat. He could no longer drink regular water. It had to be thickened to the perfect consistency. Meals became a struggle as he could not swallow the same way. Throughout the entire twenty months, every day consisted of trying to get him to eat and not choke.

One of the most significant lessons to me through that time was not just my love of dad, but the amazing designs of our creator. While this may take a more extended discussion somewhere else, I do not believe in evolution. I understand the Bible story of Genesis chapters one and two are hard to harmonize. Within the first part of the story of humanity is the undeniable truth that God created humanity. Each and every individual is put together in a fantastic and complicated way. Systems in your body depend on other systems and muscle groups.

We take for granted the intricate design simply to take a drink of water. Your brain kicks in when you lift the bottle. Muscles in the back of your throat contract so that you do not allow liquids down until you are ready (that is what dad lost). At the precisely right moment, your mouth pushes the fluid back with your tongue while your throat opens. It takes multiple muscles and brain activity, and you do not even notice. That is until it is all taken away.

Dad choked on food. He would gag on water. We did everything we could, including me telling him my sister was “going to throw him into a home” if he didn’t try harder. It didn’t help. He lost weight and struggled until the very end. All this happened because he lost control of a handful of muscles and mental connections.

One example of the hand of the creator is the human body. It is said that Darwin struggled with his theory because of the complexity of the eye. The work of the mouth reassures what I believe. Our creator God knit us together, and even with its flaws and shortcomings, you are an incredible piece of engineering. Your body and your life are not formed by random chance.

In many ways, my dad continued to teach me about God to the very end. At one point, it was through his words, and near the end, it was through his body. The whole experience might have left me sad in one way, but in another, it strengthened my faith in the one who made me.

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