for our "Sunday" afternoon time together fully expecting to play the domino game he had promised me the day before. In that 24 hour period he had taken a turn for the worse with his breathing becoming very labored. I found him in his bed gasping for air in spite of being on oxygen. It broke my heart to see him struggle for each breath. I was blessed to spend those last seven hours of his life praying for him, talking about my special memories of him, reflecting on the role he had played in so many lives, rubbing lotion on his dry skin, combing his hair, reminding him of how much he is loved, and reading God's word of comfort to him. At some point I sensed that last night would be his final one and I was able to get hold of Mike and Deb and let them know. Mike was there to share his last few hours.
So many feelings rush over me as I remember this precious man that has been part of my life these past 26 years. Above all things he was devoted to his family and country. He had spent a good part of his life in the air force serving in three wars. He was awarded the Purple Heart medal for his courage in battle. He often talked fondly of the brave young men he helped train and protect as part of his responsibility. This sense of duty and loyalty was woven throughout his life. When his wife Norma Jo became seriously ill I saw him step up to the plate of caring for her every need until she required nursing care. At that point he moved to an apartment next to the nursing home and spent hours everyday with Jo, the love of his life. I am privileged to have had his generous spirit and unselfish love showered on Mike and me throughout our marriage. These last few years I will especially treasure since he lived within walking distance of our home. So many evenings were spent together watching movies, eating snacks, playing with Biskit and Cookie, and just "hanging out" laughing and having fun. Once in the nursing home our times together took on a more "intimate" flavor. In his more fragile state, he allowed me to care for some of his personal needs. He loved to have me put lotion on his dry skin, wash the sand from his eyes, comb is hair, clean his dentures, massage his feet, push him around in the wheel chair, help him eat his meals, and give him lots of kisses and hugs. He was always appreciative of everything I did for him, often saying, "Oh honey, how can I ever repay you for this?", to which I would respond "Payment needs to be made in hugs and kisses". He would lift up his cheek for me to kiss and put his arms around me. Those memories are priceless and will fill my memory bank forever. Having Freddie Smith in my life is one of the huge gifts the Lord has blessed my life with. I am forever changed because of him.