My father, Loy Grover Hicks, Jr., died Sunday September 25, 2011, at the age of 86. I was so fortunate to have been at his bedside along with my four sisters and his caregiver, Karen Alexander. We were, in fact, in Karen’s home in Habersham County, Georgia, where Daddy had lived the last four months of his life.
As you may know, Daddy had had Alzheimer’s for eight or nine years so there was some amount of relief in his passing. However, up until the last couple of weeks he had always been able to walk, to feed himself, to read his newspaper, and to talk a little bit with Karen and her family. But still, over the years, it has been hard to watch this active, smart, good-looking, old-fashioned country doctor deteriorate before our very eyes. When he was first diagnosed, the five of us girls decided that one of us would come to stay with him and Mama every weekend. Casey also wanted to help out, so she, too, became part of the extended care team. I am proud to say that we were able to carry out our plan with only a few missed weekends (when we had to hire help) until Mama died last July. After that, we still came down, although not as often, for by then Daddy didn’t really know us and he had round-the-clock care at home. During that time, even though he couldn’t call my name, I would know that he knew me when he would look at me and ask, “Did you bring your gee-tar?”
But a couple of week ago his condition worsened and he began to have trouble walking and was less “with it.” We called in Hospice, who had helped with him before and who had also helped with Mama, but we had no idea he would go so fast. As it happened, all four of my sisters ended up down there this past weekend for a visit and on Friday, Laurie texted me that his breathing was rough and he had a fever. It was pneumonia. My dad himself had called pneumonia “the old man’s friend” so we decided to make him comfortable, give him morphine for pain, and wait. I made the nine-hour trip down from Virginia staring early Saturday morning, September 24. When I’d talked with Laurie he seemed a bit more stable, so I was hoping I would get there in time.
When I finally arrived, he was sleeping, his breathing still labored, although I knew he was not in any pain. I was so happy that at one point he roused enough to look at me standing at the foot of his bed. He held out his hand to me and I was sure he recognized me. I took his hand and held on for a long time. Over the course of the evening and into the next day, we sat and watched by his bedside. Three different times we sang for him, doing the old hymns we loved and hope that he loved. My dad was a man of few words, so we really didn’t know what songs he liked, we just knew that he liked to hear us sing together. So we sang When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Fly Away, Life’s Railway to Heaven, In the Garden, I Will Meet You in the Morning, Glad Reunion Day, Amazing Grace, and On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand. We also sang some of the songs Mama had sung to us like Chattanooga Choo Choo, Kalamazoo, and, our favorite, There’s A Little Cabin. As it happened he held on till 1:30 pm Sunday afternoon. By that time we had told him we loved him, told him it was okay to go, and told him Mama was waiting for him. The last song we sang for him was Uncloudy Day. He died just a few minutes later with all of us holding his hands and touching him.
The funeral was held on Wednesday, September 28. It was a lovely service and one of the highlights was the prayer that his long-time partner prayed. With Dr. Tom’s permission I share that prayer with you now. Thanks, as always, for reading this personal remembrance. It helps me so much.
Dr. Tom Lumsden’s Prayer
Our gracious Heavenly Father, we are gathered here today to worship you, to acknowledge your Lordship in our lives and to celebrate the promotion of Dr. Loy Grover Hicks, Jr.
Father, we are grateful for the sure and certain knowledge that the quality of medical care in your celestial kingdom has just been improved by the addition of Dr Hicks to your medical staff. We are also aware that the Great Physician is already there, but if, at any time, He ever needs an assistant, or a consultant, Dr. Hicks will still be “on call” just like he always was here on earth.
At times when our spirits are burdened and the load seems difficult fro us to bear, we are thankful that we can turn to your word for comfort and solace. From the prophet Isaish comes the admonition “speak ye comfort to my people” and your word does just that. We thank you for the first verses of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where we are reminded that you are, at all times, in command: “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…A time to be born and a time to die.” Though sometimes when that time comes, even though pre-ordained and expected, it still leaves us needing your word for help.
Jesus’ words of comfort, spoken to his followers just before his own death, are recorded in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John: “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, were it not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.” Thank you Father for these words of comfort and assurance.
We are grateful for the life and the dedication of Dr. Hicks to his practice of medicine. In his work he was certainly guided by the words of Dr. William Osler, long-time Dean of John Hopkins School of Medicine, who stated:
“It is the province of the Physician to cure occasionally, to relieve frequently but to comfort always.”
Lord, for the many happy memories of L.G. and for my association with him in the practice of medicine for 38 years, I thank you. Amen