My dad

James E. Price, Jr. – Mar 10, 1926 – Feb 1, 2014

Daddy had open heart surgery, Monday, January 13 – two bypasses and a valve replacement. In 1997, he’d had triple bypass surgery and, as he recalled it, had started going back in to the office part-time three weeks later.

Now 87 and still working as a small-town lawyer, he fully expected to do the same again. He told his clients so.

Complications kept him in the hospital for two weeks after the surgery. My sisters Karen and Judy, my brother Jim and I took turns staying with him and helping as we could, while the incredible staff on the SICU ward at Magnolia Regional Health Center took care of him. We also took turns taking word of his progress to Mama, who lay at a nursing home several miles down the road, bedridden with advanced Alzheimer’s.

Finally, on Saturday, January 25, the turnaround came for which we’d prayed. Karen was there that day. She texted the rest of us with the news. The next Tuesday, Daddy was released from the hospital. He arrived home shortly after noon. About midafternoon, I called and sang (to the tune of the Birthday Song):

“Happy homecoming to you! Happy homecoming to you! Happy homecoming, dear Daddy! Happy homecoming to you!”

That night at 11:57, my phone rang. When I answered, Karen said, “I think Daddy just died.”

He’d been sleeping in his recliner. She was awake, and about a step away, when he suddenly stopped breathing. Calling 911, then following the operator’s directions, she got Daddy on the floor and gave CPR, but with no apparent results. The ambulance arrived in record time and whisked Daddy back to the hospital. The ER doctor who attended Daddy thought he was gone too. Yet contrary to what anyone believed possible, Daddy did resuscitate. The report we received from the hospital a few minutes later was, “He’s still alive – but in critical condition.”

Daddy never regained consciousness or even the ability to respond to us. He lay in the hospital on life support for four days while we watched and waited to see whether he would miraculously begin to revive. More and more, it became apparent, it was time to let him go.

So we did. We stood close, held his hand, looked into his unblinking eyes and said, “Daddy, Jesus is coming for you, and when he does, you go with him.”

We said lots of other things during those four days. Sometimes individually, sometimes together, we stood by his bedside and said what needed to be said.

We sang to him too. At times when he was struggling, it seemed to relax him. Mostly, we sang the old hymns we’d grown up singing in church.

We put the cell phone to his ear when our children called to tell him they loved him. Some of them sang to him too.

Daddy could sing off-key with the best of them – and did every Sunday at church. He’d married a musician and had lived for the next 60 years with the music of pianos playing, drums beating, band instruments resounding and people singing.

So we sang. When we couldn’t do that anymore, we played music through the iPad – first, piano hymn arrangements and other songs of faith; then, Big Band music, the kind he always played on the radio in his car.

I had just discovered two songs – not old, but new songs – that we played for him again and again. They have a common theme, and each has a deeply moving melody and lyrics. Each time we played these songs, it seemed God had sent a two-part love-letter to Daddy. And to Mama. And to us.

You’re Not Alone,” Meredith Andrews.

Alone Yet Not Alone,” Joni Eareckson Tada.

Saturday, February 1, I arrived at the hospital first. I walked into Daddy’s darkened room, looked into his eyes and said, “Daddy, today, Jesus is breaking you out of this place.” We waited with him until he quietly, almost imperceptibly, took his last breath at 3:17 pm.

“Happy homecoming to you. Happy homecoming to you. Happy homecoming, dear Daddy. Happy homecoming to you.”

12 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. Deborah, I feel your pain and your joy. Jesus broke my mom out of the hospice care center the night before, January 31. We, too, had spent a week watching her slip away. But God is so good. As we left the care center, we looked toward our car and three crosses blazed against the night sky. It was as though God said, “I have this.”

  2. Evelyn Streett says:

    Your beautiful and brave report blesses me, Debra. Happy Homecoming indeed to one of God’s sons! I pray peace for you and your family, but in many ways it seems you already have much of that…gratefully.

  3. Linda Dissmore says:

    Deborah, I’ve been thinking of you alot the last few weeks. I guess this is why. My prayers will continue to be with you.


  4. Mary Ann Crumby Roberts says:

    Your daddy is Rejoicing and singing on key now! I have always loved your family and all of you have touched so many lives! Love you all!

  5. Jo Ann Wilbanks says:

    I admired Mr. Price greatly and enjoyed knowing him. He was so friendly and positive. He helped my family by giving advice and praying with us. He spoke at some career days for me when I worked as a school counselor at Burnsville School. He was very impressive. I thought if him as a friend. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. I know we’ll see him again though. God Bless you all.

  6. Rod Bond says:

    Jimmy Price was a godly man who diligently presented himself approved to God as a workman who did not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. I was blessed to have known him. -Rod Bond

  7. Robbie Michael says:

    Your dad was one of the nicest men I ever knew . I went to church with him at Oakland . He would always sit with my husband and I at Wednesday night supper . I always looked forward to seeing him . If I ever had a question about scriptures that I didn’t understand I would ask your dad about them . He always enjoyed talking about God’s word ! My husband which passed away in 06 thought a lot of him . They are together again ! I will miss him greatly ! My condolences to you and your family !

  8. Carole Oates lynch says:

    My mother, Mary Oates, died on November 8, 2013. Your experience sounds like our family’s. What a blessing to say thank you to her for all she meant to us. I know how your heart breaks and I pray that you will feel God’s grace surround you. Mama was 88.

  9. Mike Harland says:

    There is no way to measure the impact of your dad on my family. He was a profound influence in my father’s life and really whetted Wiley’s appetite for the Word of God as his Sunday School teacher. I always thought your dad was one of the best men I ever knew. This is such a beautiful tribute to him.

    I’ll never forget me and Ronnie moving his library to a new office one summer! I haven’t seen that many books since!

    Give my love to all of your family –

    Mike Harland

  10. SylGunter says:

    Bless you, sweet Deborah. Your Daddy had a real homecoming. Oh what glory, nonetheless sad for you and your siblings and his grandkids. I’ll be thinking about you in the days to come. Love and blessing, Sylvia

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