Growing up Amason meant watching a lot of football and having quite an understanding of every moment that could occur in a game. Dad taught me how to appreciate the game from start to finish, no matter if your team was winning or losing. In winning and losing, Dad taught me how to see character in teams, coaches and players. But most importantly, he taught me how you could really know the real character of a team, the entire team, by how they played the final 2 minutes of every game; no matter how close or far apart the score was in the game.
As a kid, I didn’t fully understand but as I grew up, I began to understand what he meant. In a close game, did a team stick to their true selves or did they change who they are just because of the situation they were in for that moment? Did the team practice enough for the situation they are in or are they just looking for some desperate measure to work? In a blowout win or loss, how did they act? Did they respect their opponent or did they trash talk or attempt to embarrass their opponent?
As I got older, I grew to appreciate the final 2 minutes of a game and for this reason, I try not to leave a game or celebrate until the clock hits 0:00. It’s hard to explain to some but others know it for a fact that I have a very hard time leaving early. Most think it’s because I want to stay but honestly, it’s out of respect for those playing. No matter that outcome.
Over the past year, I saw something I did not want to see. I saw my Dad enter the 4th quarter of his life and begin to move very fast through this quarter. We all knew he would begin his 4th quarter but we never wanted it to happen and we never thought he would arrive to his final 2 minutes so quickly. Just as Dad said about football teams in the final 2 minutes, I learned more about him during this time than I ever thought I could. And, it was beautiful.
It was October 1st when the final 2 minutes began for him. He had just arrived home from a month long hospital stay and all he could say was, “I’m tired.” We knew he was tired and needed rest but in true Tom form, he fought. He had fought for years and as he realized he was in the final 2 minutes, he fought and his true character was bright and shining. Up to this point, I thought I knew my Dad. I thought for sure there was nothing more I could learn about him or from him. I saw this final 2 minutes as a time to reflect and he saw it as a time to teach, say goodbye and love us until the clock hit 0:00. In his final minutes, we didn’t know what to expect. He knew exactly what he was going to do and it was beautiful. It was an experience I will never forget.
I always knew my Dad loved Jesus and all people. He was always willing to help those who he could help and there were times, when, helping others meant something else had to give. He was called to help others and he obeyed that calling. What I never saw from him though was a spiritual side that would touch many people. He always wanted us to go to church, even when he couldn’t, because in his words, “You have to figure out who Jesus is to you and you can’t do it without seeking Him on your own.” But the thing is, I was too blind to see his words were his spiritual side. I saw it as him doing what he was supposed to do as a husband and dad but what he was doing was what God had told him to do. Let us search, on our own, to find our Jesus, not his. As his clock went from 2 minutes down, we continued to see things that were hard but beautiful. I saw my Dad get to say goodbye to his wife of 47 years, his 4 boys, their spouses, former in laws, each living grandchild and many friends and other family members. This is something not everyone gets a chance to have. I’m thankful he was able to have this time with each of us.
He would be comatose for hours and then all of the sudden, he would wake up and be clear with whoever was in the room. Where we really saw the beauty of this time was when, one night, a pastor came by to read scripture and pray over him. There was a lot going on that night in the house with some plumbing problems but God didn’t let that stop him from showing up in a great way! As the pastor read and prayed, I looked at Dad and I could tell he was quoting the scripture being read. As we finished, the pastor looked at Dad and said thanks for allowing him to come over. At that moment, Dad reached up, grabbed his hand and began praying for the pastor. It was a beautiful time and something I had never seen my Dad do in my life. To me, this was out of his comfort zone but, in the final few minutes, he did something that God asked him to do. Pray for this pastor, not his pastor, but this certain pastor. For his family, his ministry and his future. This is something this pastor had said he had never had happen to him. A man, on his deathbed praying for him. It was a beautiful moment.
As Dad’s time continued to diminish, he had several visitors to say bye, love you and thanks for being in their life. It was touching and then, on October 12, he asked for certain people to be at his bedside that evening. The people were his wife, 2 of his sons and their wives and his pastor. As we all gathered around him, he said thank you in his way to everyone. He said goodbye because he knew this would be one of his last audible moments. His final words to my wife were, “Whatever tomorrow brings, trust God with every fiber. I love you.” These were not only his final words to Christy but his final instructions to us as a family. To, every morning, trust God with every fiber and always love. Another beautiful moment! And then, after we all pulled ourselves back together, he asked for prayer and after the prayers were over, he grabbed his pastor’s hand and prayed for his pastor and his ministry. This pastor also said this had never happened to him in all his years of ministry. It was another beautiful moment.
Over the next two weeks, leading up to his death, we had glimpses into Dad’s character and every moment matched exactly who he was throughout his life. He fought hard and remained positive, just as he had in life. Over the years, the pain that was associated with all of his injuries could have defined him as a person or forced him into a life not worth living. But because of his character, the pain grew him into the man he became and the person we loved. It forced us all to adapt at times but he certainly lived a worthy life. Too many times in life, people get defined by what causes them pain but in Dad’s life, he used the pain, hurts and circumstances and created a testimony to share to the world. He also did this in his final 2 minutes.
As I look back at Dad’s final 2 minutes, I saw Dad’s true character and it was no different in the final drive than it was in every quarter before. He never changed who he was, no matter the circumstance. A true man in every way possible. I am grateful to have been able to spend just about every minute watching his final drive. It wasn’t easy on any of us but it was beautiful. There were times when we would cry out to God, “Why oh Lord have you not released him from his pain?” We know why; because there was still time left on the clock and we don’t leave when there’s still time left. We are thankful for the things we learned on that last drive with Dad. He showed us on that final drive, up to the very last breath, as he had my entire life, to be strong, brave and courageous and to never give up on this thing called life.
Dad, I thank you for every lesson, correction, hug, kiss and I love you. You will remain with me every day and from time to time, I hear you say, “Den, I love you.” Thank you for living a life worth living and for showing so many how to play a full game, to the very last second. Without you showing me this, I wouldn’t have been able to walk with you on your last drive. You are an amazing man and you will never be forgotten. I love you buddy!