Johnny Ray Williams
December 21, 1946-February 21, 2009
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith"
2 Tim 4:7
A picture I took of my dad in 2006 giving tribute to his love of the confederacy in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium.
I don't even know where to begin.
The past 2 weeks have been a blurry whirlwind.
What day is it?
Let me rewind to two days before I left for Vegas. I honestly didn't want to book the trip, but in the weeks leading up to it, I had a talk with my dad, and he told me I needed to continue moving on with my life, and that this trip signified everything he had worked so hard for to set me up for success, and that I needed to go on the trip. So I booked the trip, planned the photoshoot workshop and my After Party.
Dad had been pretty level and was in comfort receiving home Hospice care. But then, he no longer was able to keep his medicine down due to a continued nauseous problem he was having after not eating since the beginning of the year. So two days before my trip, they moved him into the Hospice facility to try to get the nausea under control to be able to return home. I of course was about to cancel my trip to Vegas, but after a long talk with my mom, she encouraged me to go through with it and reminded me that daddy would want me to go.
The night before I left was Valentine's Day, so I brought my dad some chocolate covered strawberries. He couldn't eat any, but I ate some for him. He was the first man I ever loved, and I couldn't think of a more perfect person to be my Valentine this year. At this point, he was still conscious, but really could only mutter a few words here and there. When my mom got back from errands, we both held his hands and said the most beautiful long heartfelt prayer recalling all our wonderful memories of the life the three of us shared and how thankful we were for all my dad sacrificed to provide my mother and I such a blessed life of abundance. The tears poured down my face as the three of us poured our hearts out to God. We could truly feel His presence in the room, and it was the closure I needed to get on the plane the next day. As I said goodbye, I told him not to go anywhere until I got back from Vegas, and was praying hard that the Lord would allow that to happen.
Fast forward to dinner one night in Vegas. I spoke to my dad one last time on the phone, and though he could only respond with one word at a time, I will cherish that last conversation.
On Thursday night, my mom picked me up from the airport to inform me that earlier that day, daddy became unconscious. We went straight to Hospice, luggage and all, and spent two nights there sleeping on cots beside his bed. It was such a joy that they also allowed us to bring our dogs, my dog Rhett, his "grandpup" and my mom's dog Lucky, my "sister," so that the whole family could be there. Friday morning, the doctor came in to check his vitals and told us that with all the signs he was showing, she didn't expect him to last more than a few hours. Hearing the news, it was the first time I truly cried since I got back. I couldn't believe how close the end was approaching, but at the same time, I was sooooo thankful that he waited until I got back from Vegas. All day Friday, I stayed by his side. I just couldn't leave. As torturous as it was waiting for his last breath, I wanted to be there, as hard as it was to watch him suffer. Though he had been unconscious the past 24 hours and couldn't respond, my mom and I had heard that hearing was the last thing to go, so we continued to talk to him as we always did.
The most beautiful moment we shared was when my mom was having a breakdown moment crying because she wanted to simply lay next to him one more time. In the past few months, my mom had been sleeping in the guest room as to not disturb my dad's sleep at night in their bed, and my mom truly missed laying next to her husband. But since she couldn't lay next to him in the Hospice bed, she stood in front of him and said "Johnny, open your eyes one more time, I need you to open your eyes and look at me one more time before you leave. Honey, will you look at me?" And he did, he opened his eyes for her!!! I jumped up from my cot and was like "Wait, daddy, I want you to see me one more time too, can you open your eyes for me too?" He wasn't able to open his eyes, but he did move his eyebrows up and down as if he was trying. It just meant so much and I'll never forget that moment of seeing his eyes one last time looking at my mom.
(Ok, sorry, have to wipe the tears before I continue.... They still come and go....)
He continued to last through Friday night, the nurses were saying he had the strongest heart holding on that they had ever seen! I would agree. Yesterday morning, I awoke to my mom getting ready to head out to do errands. Before she left, we stood over him and prayed again. Then she headed out and I went back to sleep. Around 11am, his best friend Ed stopped by one more time to check in on him and say goodbye, and I took Rhett out on a walk. I came back in, and Ed headed out. After Ed left, daddy's breathing started to change, almost as if he was gasping for air in those last few breaths. Then mom walked back in, and rushed to his side. The gasps of air became stronger, almost like coughs and he started to make noise that sounded almost like his voice trying to say goodbye. My mom and I stood by his side and simply started to worship the Lord by singing Amazing Grace and other hymns as we stroked him and told him that it was ok to let go. As we continued to sing, he took his last breath and we slowly started to see his pulse come to a stop. It truly was the perfect moment and what an honor it was to send him off to Jesus in the midst of our worship.
Needless to say, it has been an emotional roller coaster. Tears on and off, and in between moments of numbness, like, did this really happen? Is he really gone? The past 8 months since we heard the news of his cancer definitely went by way too fast, but yet, it was the most incredible memorable 8 months of my life. I have never felt God's presence so strong through the last memories my mom and I shared with my dad, and all the wonderful prayers from each and one of you.
I won't be able to thank each one of you personally, but for all who have reached out through Facebook
, text messages, phone calls and emails, please know from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being a friend and being my brother and sister in Christ lifting my family up during this difficult time. Though I can't respond to them all, I have read each of your beautiful words and hold them tight in my heart!!!
Also, my mom and I will not be mourning his death, but instead throwing him a huge party for his funeral as a celebration of his life. For those who have shared in our journey, we are opening it up to all to attend. The funeral will be next Saturday, Feb 28th at noon at Ponte Vedra Valley Cemetery.
As you can imagine, my inbox is slammed right now, so if you have questions about the funeral arrangements, please email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
who can help answer your questions. Also, my mom and I request that you not send flowers, but instead make donations to either:
*The American Cancer Society
in honor of my dad's name.
*Northeast Florida Community Hospice
in honor of my dad's name.
And with my dad's great passion for Southern history, we also ask donations be made in his name to:
*The Jacksonville Museum of Southern History
. You can email email@example.com
for more info.
*The Sons of the Confederate Veterans
. You can email CJ Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more info.
Lastly. For those who follow me on Twitter, I know a lot of you have been wondering who this @mark_sweeney
guy is that I was chatting a lot about while in Vegas. I'm going to keep it on the downlow for now, but I do want to share that he is an amazing source of joy that has come into my life during this difficult time. We shared a romantic first kiss on the Eiffel Tower in Vegas, and things have continued to unfold so much more beautiful than I could ever imagine. We are both excited to see what God has in store for us, but I'm going to keep this part of my life private for the time being. But Mark is definitely a comforting angel that is helping me to smile and laugh a lot right now, and I'm so thankful for his presence in my life. Also, too, I want to share that his mom is also battling cancer right now, so please lift her up in prayer as well. Our parents were diagnosed around the same time, and she is doing remarkably well at the moment. God is good. You can read about her journey through the blog he started for her at lorrainesfight.blogspot.com
Again, THANK YOU for all your support. Your prayers have kept me strong. I cherish each one of you and your friendship. May God bless you in return with His sweet love.
p.s. I have TONS AND TONS of pics from WPPI that I can't wait to share with everyone, but I will be doing a big belated post about that once the funeral is behind me. Stay tuned!
p.p.s. This is the reason I love blogs, being able to document life along the way, for the times you want to reflect back. Here are some old posts about my dad I want to share. I feel so blessed to have all these great memories documented!http://captivatingstudios.blogspot.com/2006/12/fun-in-bathtub.htmlhttp://captivatingstudios.blogspot.com/2006/12/happy-birthday-jesus-daddy-and-moi.htmlhttp://captivatingstudios.blogspot.com/2007/06/fathers-day-in-jekyll-island.htmlhttp://scarlettlillian.blogspot.com/2008/05/its-official.htmlhttp://scarlettlillian.blogspot.com/2008/09/my-fatherdaughter-dance.htmlhttp://scarlettlillian.blogspot.com/2008/10/valley.htmlhttp://scarlettlillian.blogspot.com/2008/12/blessed-holiday-season.htmlhttp://scarlettlillian.blogspot.com/2009/01/daddys-little-girl.html