“Let me turn down the radio so I can hear you better,” my mother said as she disappeared off the line.
The next voice I heard on the phone was my dad’s and it startled me. I thought he was still in the hospital recovering from the heart attack he’d endured several days earlier. This telephone call to my mother was to get an update on his condition; she used it as an opportunity to pleasantly surprise me.
"Oh, Dad, you’re home! I’m so glad to hear your voice. How are you feeling?" I asked. His standard reply seemed understated given the circumstances: "I’m all right for the time being," he responded.
After living in the United Kingdom for almost 25 years, my parents had moved back to their island home in the Caribbean. A few years before, I had introduced them to Daily Word, which they looked forward to receiving. As part of their daily devotion, my mum would read Daily Word out loud to my dad and then they would study the accompanying Scripture in greater depth. Though we were living in different parts of the world, starting our day with the same inspirational message was one of the ways we felt connected.
I had forgotten how, on a previous occasion, Dad and I had discussed one of the Daily Word topics. So when his next words to me were, "I did what you said," I was momentarily confused.
"What did I say?" I asked.
Dad reminded me that we had talked about the power of thanksgiving and gratitude. I had shared, among other things, that thanksgiving and gratitude were transformative practices that could heal any situation and that, no matter what was going on or how challenging the circumstances of our lives, we could always find something to give thanks for. In so doing, we could take the focus off what is "not working."
Those words, innocently shared in a conversation weeks beforehand, would resound in Dad’s mind the day he was being driven to the hospital with a failing heart.
The only hospital in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is located in the capital of Kingstown 12 miles from my parents’ home and accessible only by one narrow road that runs the length of the island. To wait for an ambulance to arrive from the capital to transport Dad to the hospital would have meant certain death. The only recourse to try to save his life was for my younger brother, Leroy, to drive him there in the family car.
Filled with potholes and cliff ledges overhanging the sea, the road is a dangerous and uncomfortable drive at the best of times and even more so when being driven at break-neck speed!
As Leroy drove over potholes and maneuvered hairpin turns, agonizing bolts of pain seared my dad’s chest. Damp and clammy with sweat, barely able to breathe, he clutched at his chest and, with every jolt, gasped over and over again, "Thank you, Jesus!"
While lying on a hospital gurney, with my anxious mother at his side, and not sure whether he would survive, my dad sent goodbye messages of love to his children and, between each wave of wracking pain that continued to rip through his body, he just kept repeating, "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!"
When Dad was finished recounting how he had literally taken me at my word, I was stunned. Tears stung my eyes. "That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I told you to give thanks for everything," I said. However, I’m convinced this improbable demonstration of thanksgiving actually saved Dad’s life.
My dad lived for six more years, and I am extremely grateful for the lasting impression he left with me. Even when his life hung in the balance—he gave thanks anyway.