By Keith Fisher
On a cold winter day 22 years ago, I had worked the graveyard shift the night before, so I was sleeping in my apartment. I got a phone call from my aunt telling me that someone had called her and my dad had been in an accident at work.
I woke up quickly and listened to the sketchy details. He had fallen from a great distance, had been revived a couple of times and was on his way via Life Flight to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake. I picked up my brother and booked it up north to find out more.
Our family began a vigil that would last several months. I found my mother in the waiting room and learned more details. Dad was a millwright/welder. He worked construction, and had been working on the power plant at Castledale, Utah. The crew had been mounting venting units in the ceiling. Dad had started across the beams, to retrieve a needed tool, while the crew waited. He stepped on a loose piece of grating and fell an estimated 90 feet, hitting beams and cable trays on the way down.
Several questions came to mind while we waited for him to be brought up to ICU. Would he die? Would he be crippled? Would he ever be able to work again? The big question was when, and where, could I give him a blessing?
While working in Castledale, Dad had been staying in his camp trailer, parked in his uncle’s driveway, in nearby Orangeville. My Great Uncle Dave was a patriarch and had expressed to me his profound regret that he hadn't been able to give Dad a blessing before he left Castledale. Uncle Dave made me promise that I would give Dad a blessing.
Myriad emotions passed through my heart while I waited to see my father. I walked the halls outside ICU. I watched many people deal with the grief of having hurt loved ones in the hospital. Finally the doctors stabilized Dad’s condition enough to bring him upstairs. To say he looked nothing like himself would be an understatement. His appearance was that of a lump of flesh. It shocked me and brought tears to my eyes.
After much pleading, the nurses allowed a few of us to go into his room and give him a blessing. I was able to fulfill my great uncle’s wishes. I knew Dad would be okay. I also knew it would be a long time before he would be well.
The vigil continued. As the days went on, my mother began to worry about Christmas. She had always made a big production out of the holidays, but this year she wanted to stay with Dad. We finally talked her into going home. She stayed Christmas Eve and went back to the hospital on Christmas night.
While we were together, we tried to make merry, but someone was missing. Understandably, our conversation turned to Dad, and Mom mentioned how he’d bought her a special gift. She didn’t know where he’d hidden it, but she didn’t care. I went looking. When I finally found it in his shed, I was touched by the magic. Dad had placed it with care and pride. I imagined what he must have felt as he hid the gift in anticipation of the holiday. He was happy to be able to give that gift to his wife.
At my mother’s request, I drove to Orangeville. She wanted me to bring Dad's camp trailer home. Uncle Dave gave me the personal effects the paramedics had taken from Dad, along with his stuff from work. I began to go through it all. I felt as though I was looking at a snapshot of a moment in my father’s life. I knew what he’d made for lunch that morning. I knew how much money he had in his pockets. I fingered the tools from his coveralls, and I was touched.
I think we all tend to immortalize our parents, but in that moment, I was given a glimpse into the humanity of my dad. I learned that in many ways, he is just like me.
Dads recovery wasn’t easy, in fact he was never the same, but the insights I was given during his blessing came true. There have been many times since then, when he should’ve died, but God continues to bless us with Dad’s life. My mother often talks about that Christmas and is grateful that Dad survived. She feels he was her Christmas gift, but I remember it as the Christmas I discovered my Dad.
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