by Valorie L. Tolopilo ©
I have asked my dear wife to contribute the opening article. She penned a short tribute to my dad (Anthony Tolopilo) who passed away eight and a half years ago. I (Marcelo) will never forget a few days before the Lord called my father home. He woke up with a deep impression that the Lord would take him that same day, before the morrow. He was not a prophet; he was off by four days. That following morning, I arrived at his bedside to serve him breakfast.
He awoke, looked up at me and with a glint of surprise in his eyes and in his thick Argentine accent said, “You still here! I no in heaven.” Dad lightened my load with humor to the very end. More importantly, he taught me how to live even as he lay dying. His soul was continually longing for the presence of Jesus. Among his very last words, he joyfully professed to us were, “Pues para mí, el vivir es Cristo y el morir es ganancia.” …”For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians1:21).
Here then is Val’s article: Mr. Standfast
I recently ran across some reflections I wrote in a journal in the days preceding my father-in-law’s home-going to heaven.
Journal entry: September 2013
“I have been attending daily at the bedside of my father-in-law who is dying. His 5′ 7” 135 pound frame has shrunk down to less than 90 pounds. He is no longer able to move his legs and can barely move his arms. Understandably, he is completely bed bound and needs help moving from side to side to prevent bed sores. We have been given the blessing of toiling with him, as it were to the river’s edge, that great, wide, deep river that Bunyan describes. There is yet a work to be done, a dai ly surrendering to the Father’s will and timing. Watching my father-in-law “walk” this path has been a teaching time for my soul…his patience in suffering, his thankfulness and gentleness. God has given us times of sweet conversations… recollections of childhood memories, prayers and hopes for those whom he loves, yes, all mixed in with times of confusion, worry about his glasses, waking up at 3:00 in the morning and thinking it’s midday…”
We did toil to the river’s edge with Anthony–”Abuelito”–and watched as he passed over to the other side. These words describing Mr. Standfast (from Pilgrim’s Progress) seemed written just for him…
When Mr. Standfast had thus set things in order, and the time being come for Him to haste him away, he also went down to the River. Now there was a great calm at that time in the River; wherefore Mr. Standfast, when he was about halfway in, stood a while, and talked to his companions that had waited upon him thither: And he said,
“This River has been terror to many, yea, the thoughts of it also have often frighted me; but now methinks I stand easy… The waters indeed are to the palate bitter, and to the stomach cold; yet the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart.
“I see myself now at the end of my Journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that Head that was crowned with thorns, and that Face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hear-say and Faith; but now I go where I shall live by Sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spoked of; and wherever I have seen the print of His shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too.
“His Name has been to me as a civet-box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His Voice to me has been most sweet; and His Countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the Sun. His Word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He has held me, and… kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath He strengthened in His Way.”
As Marcelo said, it has been 8 and a half years since Anthony slipped from our presence into the arms of Jesus. We still feel his absence; yet, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and so we draw comfort and joy from this reality, though a part of us is missing. While we await that grand reunion around the throne of Christ, we remember that…
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main: if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind: and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (John Donne)