Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Mike Adams,

Around noon on November 17th, 2016, I got off a plane at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. As soon as the wheels of my rental car hit I-45 North, I called my mother and told her I would be there just as soon as I grabbed some lunch and checked into the hotel. She told me I needed to hurry because my father might not last long. I decided to skip lunch and headed straight for The Woodlands bypassing the hotel check-in completely.

It was exactly two months to the day since I had gotten a call from my brother telling me our dad had a brain tumor. I got that call as I was sitting in a greenroom with J. Warner Wallace in Sacramento, California. It was just minutes before we had to join Frank Turek on stage at one of our Fearless Faith seminars. After I told J. Warner about dad’s tumor, he paused, expressed his sympathies, and then assured me that a great opportunity had just opened up for me. I knew he was right but I was terrified at the prospect of having to talk about eternity with a dying atheist father.

Despite years of telling others how to defend the Christian worldview, I had no idea what I was going to say when I walked into my father’s room and saw him there on his deathbed. He was emaciated and bald from the radiation treatment. His breathing was strained and irregular. I knew he didn’t have much time left so I asked my mother and the nurse to leave the room and shut the door.

After sitting down on the bed next to dad I announced my presence. When he turned toward me and began reaching in the air with his right hand I thought he was just stretching. Before long, I realized he was reaching out for my face but could not find it. Because of the massive swelling tumor in his brain, my father was completely blind.

When he finally opened his mouth to speak he started repeating, “I’m your d…” As hard as he tried, he just could not complete the sentence. So I completed it for him saying, “Yes, I know you’re my dad. And I know that you are dying.” After I spoke those ominous words, he lowered his right hand to wipe away a tear but he was so badly dehydrated that no tears were flowing.

I hadn’t known what I would say when I walked into the room. But I knew he had just given me an opening into the conversation I knew would have to happen. So after I acknowledged that I knew he was my dad I just kept talking. I repeatedly told him that he had been a good father. While I was reassuring him, his right hand found my face. With his left hand he grabbed my shirt. Using both of his hands and all of his energy, he pulled my face down next to his. The old Army officer then summoned the strength to issue his final command to his youngest son, “Tell your dad that you love him.” And I did.

faith_small Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Health

Telling my dad that he was a good father provided a very easy transition into telling him that he had a good father, too.

I assured him that his good father was coming to carry him home. I kept using the metaphor of the father carrying his children home as I spoke to him of what was about to transpire and of what he needed to do. I also clearly explained what did not have to be done. In other words, I assured him that public baptism was not a requirement for salvation.

When he turned to his side, I could see that he was starting to experience a surge of physical pain. His last words to me were, “Are you going to be there?” He was not asking about eternity. He was asking about his funeral. In his last weeks, it had become evident that he wanted a nice service. It was also important to him that his closest friends and his family would all be there together.

As dad’s pain began to intensify, I knew that it was time to call in the nurse. I walked out thinking I would never see him alive again. I checked into the hotel and then grabbed something to eat. About an hour and fifteen minutes later I walked back into his apartment. The nurse met me at the door and asked me an unusual question, “Does your father like to sing?”

I paused without answering her. Then she told me that my dad was singing after I left the room. When I asked her what song he was singing, she told me it was the old spiritual hymn, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” In case you are not familiar with the words, it goes something like this:

I looked over Jordan, what did I see,

Coming for to carry me home.

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I did not know it then but those would be the final words my father would speak on this earth. After the wonderful revelation of what he had been singing, I felt no desire to go back into my father’s room. But the Holy Spirit would have the final say about that.

To be continued …

Author’s Note: This is the second installment in a multi-part series. The first part, “A Good Father,” was published on www.RightlyOffended.com. For additional context, you can read it there.