On a warm September afternoon in 1979, I was out in my workshop making a towel rack for my upstairs bathroom.
I had just inserted the dowel into place and was about to apply shellac when the phone rang in the house, and
Mary called me.

"Chuck, it's for you, long distance."

As soon as I heard my parents' voices I knew something was
wrong. My dad had retired in 1973 from the foreign service
because of a blood disease. Over the last six years he had
lived in San Antonio and had vastly improved. I had visited
him earlier that year and caddied for him as he played his
usual fine game of golf. I could feel the tension in his voice
as he told me,

"Chuck, the doctor just told me I have leukemia."

"He's been feeling so good, I can't understand it," Mom added.

My mother had only recently recovered from a blow to the
head she had received in a robbery. Dad had to care for Mom
for some time afterward. Now somehow she had to muster
strength to care for him. They had both always sacrificed for
others. In fact their reason for moving to San Antonio was to
help care for Dad's 101 year old mother.

Dad was speaking, "Charles, I want you to be ready, I may
need you to give me white blood cells. I'm going in soon for
three to six weeks of intense chemotherapy. Can you come?"

"I'll come as soon as you call."

"Charles, I'm going to fight this thing all the way."

"Good, Dad, we're praying for you."

"Charles, can you baptize me when you come? I've been
thinking about it for a long time."

"Of course, Dad. We'll do it."

Mary and I had received Christ into our hearts in 1969-70. I had asked Jesus in on a street corner and since that time I had tried to share the good news with my parents. I had been quite a flake and it took a few years for my folks to understand that my life had really changed. After a few years, they began to respond and I started mailing Bible studies to them. They filled them out and mailed the studies back to me. It was so precious, I could only stand in awe at the Lord's grace. I was constantly reminded of Wordsworth's words "the child is father to the man." It was like I was Dad and he was the child. I now realize that this was working a deep humility in my father and mother as well as in myself.

I arrived in San Antonio three weeks later. Dad was failing. My sister had flown in from Massachusetts. The doctors had tried her blood and my aunt Jane's, but nothing was working. The last hope was my white blood cells. Within a day, I was strapped to the blood machine with tubes running in and out of my arms. Soon I could observe blood running out of me through a centrifugal machine. It whirled the blood at high speed extracting the white cells and returning the red cells. I was on the machine four times in a week about four hours at a time. Each time left me feeling weak.
While I was sitting there each day, I had the opportunity to share about Jesus with the nurses. One of them was the wife of a local TV weatherman who was also a Christian. After I told her about my father, she told her husband. From that point on, this wonderful servant of Christ visited my father each day in his hospital room and later at his house. He read to him from scripture and prayed with him until six months later, Dad went to be with the Lord. I had prayed that Dad have someone to minister to him when I wasn't there, and Jesus mercifully answered my prayer.
My white cells temporarily gave Dad new life. He felt well enough several days later to be dressed in a fresh white hospital gown by a very cooperative hospital staff.

One evening, in front of a neighbor, nurses, my mother, and myself, my dad shared how he had given his life to Christ and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He had believed when he was a boy, but had been offended by a Sunday School teacher and left the church he was in. I found it amazing how seemingly small encounters can effect the course of our lives.

Because he could not get out of his bed, I sprinkled him with water. What grace I felt present in that room; what amazing love that would allow me to lead my seventy year old father to Christ and baptize him. The following is an account of my final time with my father as read at his memorial service June 1980.

I gave my cells to you, as you have
given your cells to me
and watched you change
to a little child before my eyes.
O father,
Like a helpless baby
you search for comfort in your struggle.

I sprinkle water on your head
Baptizing you in Jesus' name
You tell me of the peace
that you receive.
Such a simple way to be
a comfort to you.

Each night I hold your hand and pray,
almost as if I was the Dad
and you the little boy.
I call you blood brother
and you try a little laugh.

You are so tender inside
so gentle and sweet and concerned for others.
Even as you suffer.
I am seeing a Kingdom in your heart.

The nurses love you,
You wake from a nap
and in the midst of fever
shyly ask them,
"Am I your favorite patient?"

Tuesday night you say, "Let me pray for you".
I give you my hand. You say, "Lord, thank you for a faithful son".
No false motives, just sincere concerned, love.
I think of how I want to say that to my son, Abe
and how grateful I am to you, Lord for making
this moment possible.

Wednesday night came and it was time to go.
The doctor congratulates me saying, "Some people won't even give blood".
Instead of feeling proud I told him how I had to overcome
fear and selfishness in order to give. I remember the blood
that Jesus shed for us all.

I read Psalm 121.
"I look to the mountains, Where does my help come from."
Dad turns to me, "Let me pray for you, son."
It's like a benediction I feel a little like Isaac when Abraham blessed him. . .
You pray "Thank you, Lord, for the miracles Charles has worked among us.
Thank you for his helping me find the way into your heart.
Lord be diligent to help him in his church work and school.
Help him not to have a backed up workload. In Jesus' name."

I pray, "Thank you, Lord Jesus for a dad who loves you.
Thank you that we have an eternal relationship and nothing
can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ. Neither death,
nor life, principalities or powers, heights or depths, things present or things to come.
Thank you for eternal life Bless and strengthen Dad and Mom. In Jesus' name."

I give you a farewell kiss,
Pray with Mom,
and walk out into the warm Texas night.

Charles E. Smith

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