“’Call 911!’ Weston yelled as he ran through the front door. ‘Grandpa fell in the garage and is hurt really bad.’ I immediately called for the ambulance while my mom and I both ran out in the garage to check on my dad. I knew it was bad when I saw him lying unconscious on his back with blood draining from both ears.
The operator told me to try to turn Dad to his side in case he would vomit and choke on it. I got on top of him to try to turn him, but couldn’t budge him. He started to get sick, so I turned his head to the side. That’s when I noticed a huge puddle of blood under his head.
I laid my head on his chest, screaming and crying, ‘Dad, Dad I need you, please don’t leave me!’ He immediately sat up for a brief minute, and we locked eyes. His beautiful brown eyes said more than words ever could, ‘I am so proud of you, and I love you so much!’
‘No Dad, No! Don’t give up, keep fighting!’
I happened to glance over at my mom. She was in shock, and all she could do was stare and pray. I prayed so hard, so fervently, and so desperately. The ambulance finally arrived after what seemed like an eternity. I could tell my dad was trying to fight because even though he was unconscious, the EMT kept saying, ‘Stop moving, Mr. Foster.’ My mom followed my dad in the ambulance to one of the top hospitals in Ohio, and they had a team of surgeons waiting.
After they left, I ran to check on my kids. Weston blessed my heart so much. Without me knowing, he had grabbed all of his siblings and immediately took them to the back bedroom so they wouldn’t hear anything going on. My children at the time were ages fourteen, eleven, eight, six, and three; Weston, Adelynn, Dalton, Audrynn, and Azaliah. We were living with my parents because just two years prior, my 17-year marriage to a pastor tragically ended and I was abandoned, left to raise 5 young kids on my own. My dad rescued us and said we could live with him and my mom until I got on my feet.
I called my pastor so he could pray with me and so we could put Dad on the prayer list. I also posted on Facebook to try to get a prayer chain going. I contemplated whether or not to go outside to the garage. I wanted to try to figure out what happened but was fearful about it. I decided to go look. Dad must have climbed up in the attic, tripped on a wire, and fell through the ceiling. He landed on a tricycle, it rolled and caused him to fly backwards and land on the back of his head.
As I stared at all the blood on the garage floor and the big hole in the attic ceiling, a deep sorrow embraced me. I started crying uncontrollably. Flashbacks of our last conversation flooded my thoughts, replaying in my mind over and over. I blamed myself, thinking, ‘If I just hadn‘t mentioned the boxes in the attic, then he wouldn’t have felt like he had to go up there.’
It was a beautiful, abnormally warm and sunny Saturday, November 26, 2011, and the day before my parents forty-eighth wedding anniversary. They had just returned from a wonderful trip to Cape Cod with my brother and his family. My kids were so excited to have them back home, especially the little girls, Audrynn and Azaliah. Their normal ritual every morning was to run into my parents’ bedroom and jump on their bed to say good morning and pray with them. My dad loved to daily say the Lord’s Prayer. My mom let them play with the bed remote for a little bit, allowing them to move the bed up and down.
Mom was so excited to show the girls all the shells they found on the beach in Cape Cod, and my dad, Weston, and Dalton were extremely excited about the football game they planned to watch in the afternoon. It was so cute how Dalton wanted to dress just like his grandpa and how he ran to put on his matching Ohio State sweatshirt.
Before they went to Cape Cod, my parents had put their house on the market because they wanted to find a house with a different floor plan, but shockingly sold it faster than they ever thought it would. While they were gone to celebrate their forty-eighth wedding anniversary, the inspectors called and said they were coming to look in the attic to check for mold. But they told me there was no need to move anything out of the attic because they had special tools to work around things. That fateful morning, when I was on my way home from my favorite food pantry, I remembered I forgot to tell my dad about the inspectors. So I called and told him they were coming to check the attic Monday morning, but he did not need to go up to move any boxes.
He told me okay and then he asked if we could all watch the Ohio State VS Michigan game together as a family. I told him yes, but regretfully wasn’t too thrilled about it. When I got home from picking up bread, I remember passing Dad on the sidewalk. He looked so festive in his trendy white Ohio State sweater with red trim and white Ohio State baseball cap that really highlighted his olive complexion. I told Weston to put all the bread in the freezer in the garage I got from the ‘free store,’ and that is when Weston found Dad. It all happened in a fifteen-minute time frame.
After sending out e-mails and getting a prayer chain going, I couldn’t believe the outpouring of love and support from so many people. It was overwhelming how they came out of the woodwork. People from my church, Bible studies, homeschooling groups, and family all offered to watch the kids, cook meals, or do whatever we needed them to do.
About this time, I went to go check on the kids and told them Grandpa had fallen out of the attic and hit his head, but was now at the hospital having surgery. I gave them all a long hug; the fear and sadness in their eyes broke my heart. I hated leaving them knowing how devastated they were, but I knew I had to get to the hospital. I called one of my friends and asked her to watch my children while I went to the hospital. I called my brother, David, on the way there and was crying so hard, I could barely talk. David and my dad were really close. The amazing thing was, David was still driving home to Illinois from Ohio after he and my parents had gone to Cape Cod together, and he happened to only be at the Ohio and Indiana border. So, he immediately turned his car around and was with us within two hours.
I then called one of my close friends, Christina, because (ironically) she worked in the brain and trauma unit at the hospital where they took my dad. She was able to call the nurses and relayed back to me what was going on. She told me the best brain surgeon was working on Dad, and they were ready to operate as soon as my dad came through the hospital door. It was such a comfort, a relief and a total God-thing to know Dad was in the best care possible. He ended up surrounded by Christian nurses, and even one nurse prayed all night for him.
After the surgery, the surgeon came out and said the operation was successful, but there was extensive brain injury, and the only thing we could do was wait. When I saw Dad for the first time with all the tubes in him and his head swollen, I just couldn’t stand it. I went to him and held his hand, but he gave no response at all. Right then I knew deep down he was already gone, but all the while I still hoped and believed God could do a miracle.
Despairingly, within twenty-four hours the doctor told us Dad’s brain was completely dead, and only the machines were keeping him alive. My dad had never wanted to be kept alive by machines, so with much prayer and conversations, we chose to shut off the machines. Dad was completely gone within a few minutes on November 27, 2011 – my parents’ forty-eighth wedding anniversary.
‘God, why?’ I prayed. My mom is now left as a widow, and my children and I are left without a father and grandfather. We miss him terribly. We are heartbroken. My dad was the only father Azaliah really knew, and the only stable father figure in my kids’ lives. He took care of us. He loved us unconditionally. We need him!
I just couldn’t seem to stop crying. My pastor and his wife and the youth pastor and his wife came to pray with me, but I was deeply mourning and couldn’t seem to get a grip. Knowing Dad is now in heaven was the greatest comfort for me. He longed to go to heaven, and he mentioned it quite often. To think he was pain free and without any stress or problems to worry about was profusely reassuring to me. On November 27, 2011, I wrote the following on Facebook:
‘It is with a heavy heart and very downcast spirit I let you know my dad died today! It doesn’t seem fair; it doesn’t make sense; but it happened. We lost a patriarch of the faith, a father, grandfather, provider, rescuer, encourager, prayer warrior, and a teacher to my children. He loved his wife with his whole heart! They had been married for forty-eight years today! I know God has a purpose in this, but right now I do not see what that purpose is. Please continue to pray for my mom and my children and my sister and brother and their children. We love you all!’
The hospital took a print of my dad’s hand right after he passed away and gave it to us. Below his hand print was a beautiful poem about death. I came home and gathered all my kids into the living room and showed the handprint and read the poem to them. I tried so hard not to cry as I told them their grandpa was no longer with us and was now living in heaven with Jesus. They all began sobbing. Azaliah didn’t really understand, but the rest were devastated. I just saw Weston’s eyes lose hope. He had been praying so hard God would heal his grandfather.
Adelynn wanted to know more details. So I told her the doctor said Grandpa’s brain was dead and the machines were keeping him alive. So, following Grandpa’s wishes, we unplugged life support. Adelynn got so mad, she cried and screamed and said, ‘Mommy, why did you take him off life support? God could have healed him.’ It took the kids a while to truly come to terms with the reality their Grandpa was gone. For many months after he died, Azaliah would tell everyone she met her grandpa fell out of the attic and got a boo-boo on his head and was now in heaven.
While planning the funeral, my mom and I went to visit her pastor, and he answered some deep questions and gave us more clarity on why this might have happened. We left his office knowing God was still in control, and we might not see it yet, but He had a purpose for our pain. The funeral was overwhelming to me; the love and support from hundreds of people was outrageous. It was an open casket. At first, when I saw my dad in the very sweater he died in, it was very difficult for me. His face was a bit swollen, and he did not look like my dad.
My dad was such a handsome man with a beautiful olive complexion, dark brown eyes, and a dimple in his cheek and his chin. Seeing him not look like himself was hard. I also had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to let my children see their grandpa in the casket. I knew it would be good for Weston and Adelynn, but Dalton and Audrynn were only eight and six. I decided to leave Azaliah with a babysitter and let the older ones see their grandpa because I read it really helps a child grieve and it brings finality to the situation.
Not only did they bravely see their grandpa in the casket, Adelynn, Dalton, and Audrynn courageously sang all of Psalms 91 in front of everyone. Watching them sing as they stood in front of their grandfather’s open casket is a picture I will never forget. They sang every verse all the way through with such passion, love, and honor. As they sang, the presence of God filled that little funeral home in the sweetest, most profound way. There was not a dry eye in the place.
We were all privileged to say something meaningful about my dad at the funeral. My mom exuded beauty and grace as she talked about her husband of forty-eight years with such love and adoration. As I got up to share, I looked at the hundreds of people staring back at me, but this time I didn’t care. I wanted them to know what a special person my dad was. This isn’t exactly what I said, but it sums it up the best way I can remember:
‘I would like to honor my dad and share with you a few of the things he taught me. He left a legacy, and his influence on my life resonates within the walls of my home. My dad was a gentle giant, and when he spoke, people listened. This taught me not to talk unless I have something to say.
My favorite Christmas present was when I was nine years old. Dad picked it out and wrapped it all by himself, a beautiful pink sweater with a kitten knitted on it. This taught me to be a thoughtful giver!
Dad took us camping every summer with a ministry called ‘Camping with Christ,’ which taught me how to serve others in ministry. He provided for my wants and my needs. He taught me security. He sent me to Christian school my whole life and went to most of my basketball, volleyball, and softball games to cheer me on. He taught to me to believe in myself.
I wrote a poem when I was eighteen, and he loved it so much he hung it in his office and sent it to every ministry he could think of, hoping it would touch someone’s life. This taught me I have gifts and callings that are worth sharing.
At the age of twenty, when I started seriously dating Troy, Dad shared with me Ecclesiastes 7:1, ‘A good name is better than precious perfume,/ And the day of one’s death better than the day of one’s birth.’ He told me to guard my name, my character and integrity, more than anything, for that is the only way people will truly see Jesus in me.
My dad rarely showed physical affection, but I will never forget when I was going through the most difficult time of my life. I was about to get on an airplane, and he kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘Erica, I love you!’ This taught me unconditional love.
He loved his wife, my mother, until death, forty-eight years, which taught me faithfulness. He loved my children dearly and told me, ‘Erica, God has given you five smooth stones to raise. They are the righteous seed. Don’t ever lose sight of that.’ He selflessly provided for me and my five children for two straight years while we lived in his home.
The greatest, most valuable lesson he taught me was through watching him continually turn to his heavenly Father for guidance and wisdom, even in the midst of his failures and imperfections. This taught me no earthly father should ever take the place of my heavenly Father.’
In the pouring rain, I watched my dad being buried in the graveyard we used to visit together when I was a little girl to put flowers on our ancestor’s tombstones, and the pain was extremely unbearable. However, knowing my dad was in heaven was a comfort beyond any human explanation. I had an unwavering assurance and excitement that he wasn’t in that casket. He was healed and alive, and I would undoubtedly see him again one day. As it says in Revelation 21:4: ‘and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.’
I don’t know your story. I’m sure you’ve had your own lot of hardships, difficulties, and disappointments over the years. But what I have learned over time is no matter what hand we are dealt, God can redeem it all. His love for us meets us where we are, but it never leaves us where we are. During this Holiday season, I want to encourage you to let go of your hurt and allow your heavenly father to heal you and love on you. You are worth it.”
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