This happened on Monday morning, May 23rd. On the previous Friday, about lunch, Mom heard dad fall in the living room, and ran in to find him on the floor, paralyzed and unable to speak. He'd had what the doctors later called, "A very large stroke." I was on the road back to Amarillo from some meetings in Albuquerque when she called. I made it back to Amarillo and BSA hospital just a few minutes before the life-flight helicopter landed with Dad. He was unconscious, having been sedated by the flight crew for being 'combative.' I don't doubt it. He's pretty feisty. He was a fighter, and continually kept fooling the medical people on his prognoses.
Corporal Bill Boren, ca. 1955
He made some gradual progression in the ER and they moved him up to a regular floor on Saturday morning. He was able to awaken himself for a few minutes at a time, and by Sunday, was able to stay awake and alert for fifteen to thirty minutes at a time, and could recognize his grandkids and hold their hands. He also recovered some movement in his right side. Things were looking positive.
But on Monday, things went downhill. He could only stay awake for about an hour total on Monday, and was less responsive. By Tuesday, he was only awake for about 5 minutes total, and even the Doc doing a knuckle-rub on his sternum could not waken him by Tuesday night. We had been talking about long-term rehab; now we started talking about hospice. Because of the damage (immediate and residual) from the stroke, he was now functioning at what the doctors called, "a brain-stem level".
We moved him to hospice care on Wednesday evening. The doctor and nurses at hospice all said they didn't expect him to make it through the night. I bet them he would, and of course I won. He just won't give up. He never has given up on anything in his life.
When he was in high school, he was an outstanding pitcher. He threw nine no-hitters his senior year. He went off to college at West Texas State College and played both basketball and baseball there, briefly. He was a math major and had straight As, but decided college wasn't for him and took off for a job. He met my Mom the next year and married; they bought a piece of land on Saddle Mountain, west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and settled in to ranching. He had been hoping to be drafted into Major League Baseball, and actually had scouts from the St. Louis Cardinals at a few of his games, but unfortunately and fortunately (at the same time), Uncle Sam did the drafting before the Cards came calling.
He spent two years in the Army, and was headed for Korea when just a week before the end of basic training, the cease-fire accords were signed at Panmunjom. He did the rest of his tour at Fort Bliss in the anti-aircraft artillery. He wasn't a slacker in the army, either. He did so well in basic he was made squad leader, and promoted to Corporal upon graduation. Instead of one of the mundane jobs that most privates got, he ended up as the driver for a General.
The ranch they bought in Colorado would be worth millions of dollars today had they kept it, but upon being inducted into the US Army, his pay wouldn't allow him to make the payments on the note, and the ranch was sold. So, he went into farming for himself, eventually ending up on his Dad's land near Kerrick, Texas. He was still farming as of a few weeks ago, his health notwithstanding. Not a quitter. He never considered full retirement...it just wasn't an option.
Dad working his garden, Spring 2000
As tough as he was, he didn't have enough gas left in the tank to keep fighting the damage from the stroke. He spent most of the week in a terrific struggle just to draw a breath...thirty or forty seconds of Cheyne-Stokes breathing followed by twenty to thirty seconds of apnea. I don't care how tough you are, that's impossible to sustain for long. He went on to glory about 7:30 a.m. on Friday, May 27th. Here's a link to his obituary.
He wanted things simple, and we are keeping to that wish. We'll have a grave-side service with military honors at the Stratford Cemetery on Tuesday the 31st at 11 a.m.
My kids have been a bit curious why I haven't been emotional and crying and upset and all those things you see on TV when someone dies. I've tried to use this as a teaching moment. As I explained to them, I really do believe all those things you hear in church about heaven and grace and faith. Dad was a believer. His kids are all believers, and his grandkids are all believers. He did his job, and did it well. I have no doubt about where he is now, and the thought of that excites me for him rather than makes me sad. He's struggled with his health (heart disease, the onset of Alzheimer's, all the stuff that goes with being nearly 80 years old in a body worn out by years of hard work on a farm, etc.) for a long time. He isn't having to fight that battle now. He spent the last week expending tremendous amounts of energy just trying to breathe...that's over with as well. And ever greater (and hard to comprehend), he's no longer struggling with sin. In the sermon on the mount, Christ told us that, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Because of Christ's work on the cross, and his perfect sinless life, imputed to us upon our saving faith in him, we will one day be 'pure in heart', as Dad is now. That's how he can stand in the presence of the Lamb in glory. I'm happy for him!
I'm sure there will be times of nostalgia and memories that will bring tears to my heart, if not my eyes, but those are mostly selfish in that I am impatient to see him again. But see him again I know I shall, because of the faith that unites us as not only father-and-son, but brother-to-brother. Wow.
Yes, Bill Boren was a good man. He was a great dad, a good friend, a wise confidant, and a loving Grandpa. But now, he's not only posse non peccare, he's non posse peccare, standing in the presence of the Lord and praising Him face-to-face...showing us how relative the term 'good' is. I always hoped I'd be as good a man as my dad. Now, he's set the standard pretty high, and the only way I'll ever achieve it is through the righteousness of Christ, because I certainly can't measure up on my own, as if I ever could have in the first place. This process just completes the picture for us.
I'll close with this verse from a favorite hymn, "Valley of the Shadow"-
For the child of God, resting in Jesus
It's just a journey to a heavenly place;
And the sting of death has been defeatedThrough the blood of Jesus and amazing grace!
In the valley of the shadow, death will hold no sting for me,
I'll be resting in the arms of Jesus, and with him I'll ever be;And with him I'll ever be.