Last Saturday morning as our family was pulling out the driveway on our way to a wedding, we received the news that Mr. Kelly was dying. He had a previously undetected ulcer in his stomach which had finally made its way through a major artery. He was hemmoraging severely and we were told it could be five minutes or five hours. Dad stopped the car and ran in the house to get keys to the other car. Kelly and I were soon on our way to the hospital, while Dad and Mom went to the wedding, as Dad was to be a groomsman.
Mr. Kelly was in ICU. His son, Paul W., and daughter-law were there with a few other extended family members and friends. When we arrived, he was in a very poor state, unable to communicate as he had been given morphine to ease his pain. It was said at his funeral that at one point the previous night, the doctor had stated that he had 3-5 minutes to live. He continued to fight, however, living 12 more hours. I can only imagine that though he could not communicate it to the rest of us, inwardly he was grieving for the dreams he would be unable to live. Especially the ones he had for his students. When we were visiting him in the hospital and caring for him at home, he would tell us of plans he had made for us when he was well again. He was quite irritated and impatient to be sitting there convalescing while there were things to be done. Mr. Kelly lived on purpose. He always had a plan and goal in place when we arrived at our lessons. No matter how long it took, he would gently push us until we reached the goal he had set for us.
As we walked into that little room in ICU, he lay struggling to hang on to life. He would open his eyes for just a few seconds before again being overcome by the morphine and physical torments. You had to shout in order for him to hear you. His breathing was loud and labored. At one point he opened his eyes and it was evident that he recognized Kelly standing there, but he quickly relapsed. It was heartwrenching to watch him struggle so. We stayed but a short while, then with hugs and tears left the room to wait outside. They said it could be several more hours.
As we sat in the waiting room praying that the Lord would be merciful to take him soon, more and more of his friends began to arrive. We watched the Perez family pass by. Shortly thereafter, part of their family came back out and when we ran over to talk to them, they said Mr. Kelly had asked, by signaling with his left arm, for violins to be brought in. They made a quick trip home for the violins and when they arrived again, we followed them back to Mr. Kelly's room. By this time, that little room was packed wall to wall with teary eyed and grieving family, friends, and students. One young man stood and played a song that Mr. Kelly had made him play an innumerable amount of times, but Mr. Kelly continued to struggle.
Next, one of the Perez girls stood up and began to play Amazing Grace. As soon as he heard it, Mr. Kelly relaxed and his breathing became calm and quiet as he began to acquiesce to the will of God. She finished the beautiful tune and her sister stood up to join her in a duet of hymns. As their father stood at the foot of the bed and held their music, the girls began to play. When they reached What a Friend We Have in Jesus, a peace came over Mr. Kelly's countenance and he quickly began to slip away. As Paul W. stood by the bed holding his father's hand and carressing his face, the girls steadfastly played on. I saw them glance up at their mother for encouragement and she signaled them to play on. Everyone was watching the monitors and someone soon said that Mr. Kelly was gone. As the room erupted in the sobs of those clinging to one another in grief, the girls played through to the end of the song before giving way to their own grief. Words can't express what a beautiful picture of Christian fortitude, love, and unashamed faith it was to watch those girls stand with their father and minster to a dying man. The Lord had sent them on a mission and they were faithful to complete it. It made me joy all the more to be a daughter of my own father. These beautiful scenes are indelibly etched in our memories and we are exceedingly grateful both to Mr. Kelly's family and to the Lord for allowing us to witness them.
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him." Psalm 28:7