The Transfiguration


Years ago, the time came to move my mom and dad from their home in suburban Chicago where they had lived for over fifty years. I was surprised at mom’s willingness and her accepting the responsibilities for packing, moving and selling the house. My greater surprise was dad did not lead the way. Instead, he was quiet and somewhat distant with the move.

For a couple of years, I previously had received phone calls from mom and her concern over dad’s forgetfulness. During those days when we visited, he seemed a little repetitive and not as quick but it didn’t seem like age anything to worry about. However, once back in Louisville, I will never forget a panicked phone call from mom that changed everything. Dad was lost. The earliest flight from Louisville was a few hours away and I called back and forth as the police had been notified and neighbors were on the lookout, so mom was just waiting.

Although these were the days before cell phones and tracking, when mom finally received a phone call on her landline. Dad was fine. He had gone to McDonald’s for a discounted price of coffee and sat there most of the morning. Moving them to Louisville and into an assisted living center provided the immediate necessary care for dad and relief for mom. Once settled, we went for an appointment to a geriatric psychiatrist and dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

From those days on, dad’s condition declined but the senior citizen’s center had the ability to move him into appropriate levels of care. Life was getting squeezed for me and Mary as we were juggling the needs for dad with mounting pressures with a son engaged with the war in Iraq and another son who was quite ill. And there were trips to the hospital for dad which only stretched us further and by the way, my leadership at church continued with little respite.     

Following one hospital stay, the doctors made it clear dad was dying and little else they could do but send him back to the nursing home.  I sat with him over the next several days when on a late Saturday afternoon, the visiting doctor informed me dad would probably not live through the night.  I remember making countless phone calls updating family, while almost forgetting to call my associate minister to fill-in for me on Sunday and preach. It was a long night and around six o’clock Sunday morning dad breathed his last.

I was aware of something while sitting next to his still body. Call it “holy” but dad’s life—beginning and end—seemed before me. Then there was a knock at the door interrupting my thoughts. It was housekeeping. I informed the cleaning lady dad just died and there was no need for her help. She apologized and as I waited for her to leave, she approached dad’s bed asking if she could say a prayer. She did not know I was a minister but so what.              

I honestly believe she prayed like an angel. She prayed for God to enter the room. She then asked God to fill dad’s lungs with the breath of the Holy Spirit. She prayed for his feet to walk in heaven and give him the mind of Christ and she prayed his eyes would help him see his loved ones in heaven. As she prayed, I wept like a baby. Then she left almost as quickly as she entered. I will never forget the lady from housekeeping. And I will never forget this all took place on the Sunday of the Transfiguration.

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Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

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