Monday, December 27, 2010

Charles DeLee Pennington

Hurricane, Utah - Charles DeLee Pennington, 73, laid down his earthly body on Christmas Eve December 24, 2010 in St. George, Utah. Blue eyed baby Charles was born on November 27, 1937 to Mabel Florence Lindsey and Hugh Smith Pennington in Henderson, Texas. Charles was the first-born and older brother to 4 younger siblings. In 1963, Charles married Mary Jo Fawcett in the Los Angeles LDS Temple for time and all eternity and together they shared 46 years and 4 adoring children. Charles grew up in the oil fields of East Texas and shared many wonderful memories with his exceptional family. He attended school at Texas A&M and joined the ROTC program, foreshadowing his Air Force career. After graduating from BYU, the Air Force took him to many places including California, Utah and ultimately Vietnam. Charles heroically flew 365 combat missions earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war he owned his own business, Home Security Shop and later enjoyed working for and retiring from General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin. He has always been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He honorably served a 2 year mission to Northern California and held many callings throughout the years that brought him much joy. Charles’s life was one of service. His humble nature and love of all those around him blessed all that knew him. His talents were many and he selflessly shared himself unceasingly. You could always count on him for a joke or a listening ear, a bowl of homemade ice cream or help doing a home improvement project. The love he had for his family was immeasurable and the happiness they shared everlasting. His presence will be deeply and severely missed.

Charles leaves behind his wife, Mary Jo Fawcett Pennington and a posterity that includes four children and 14 grandchildren: daughter, Sheri Moore of LaVerkin, Utah and her children, Brandon, Justin (currently serving a mission in Nicaragua) and Brooklyn; daughter, Lori (Mark) Holyoak of Lolo, Montana and their children, Aubrey (Kenny Johnson), Lacey, Jace and Hallie; son, Jonathan (Lisa) of Cordova, Tennessee and their children, Nathan, Samantha and Jake; daughter, Ginger Wilcox of Cedar City, Utah and her children, Bailey, Dawson, Weston and Laynie. Also, missing him terribly are his 4 siblings: R.B. (Lena) Pennington of Aubrey, Texas, Louise (Lloyd) Freeman of Raleigh, North Carolina, Elaine (Jimmy Dan) Gauntt of Austin, Texas and Judy Rehkop of Tyler, Texas. He is once again reunited with his parents and grandparents, along with many friends and family that have gone on before him and what a wonderful reunion it was sure to be! Funeral services will be held Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. at the Hurricane LDS Stake Center, 272 South 700 West, Hurricane, Utah. Visitations will be held Tuesday, December 28th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Metcalf Hurricane Valley Mortuary, 140 North Main Street and on Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Stake Center, prior to services. Charles will then be laid to rest with full military honors at the Hurricane City Cemetery directly following the funeral service. Arrangements entrusted to the care of Metcalf Hurricane Valley Mortuary, (435) 635-9922.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Dad - The Greatest Man I Ever Knew

Some people, in life, get lucky. I know I am one of them. I was born to an amazing man. My father, Charles DeLee Pennington, left this mortal existence to journey onward to paradise on Christmas Eve day, 2010.

My father has always been strong and healthy. Four years ago he was diagnosed with fibrosis of the lungs. Some allergen had entered his lungs and laid dormant. One day it decided to make itself known and since then he has carried around an oxygen tank for this same amount of time. It has always been a hassle to him, dragging the tanks, packing enough in the car to last for his frequent day trips, wearing the cannula in his nose. But he did it and without much complaint.

At Thanksgiving time he began to cough and he never quite recovered. He was taken to the emergency room on December 12 and was admitted that same day. He was quite the character. Always telling the nurses jokes, entertaining his many visitors, or telling us how much he enjoyed having his family around him. We never left him alone for even one minute. One of us kids was always spending the night with him and making sure all was well.

He could not believe that they served three full meals a day in the hospital. He was not use to eating so much food so he asked for smaller portions. He began to get hungry in between time and asked the nurse for extra food from the cafeteria. One night he asked the nurse for a grilled cheese sandwich...and said, "And not a wimpy one..." The nurse delivered a thick sandwich, chips, Dr. Pepper, fruit cup and pudding. My dad exclaimed, "I bet the people in the cafeteria said..That guy in room 303 is a pig, load him up!" Later that same night he was watching an infomercial on an excercise glider. He said, "I don't think now is the time for me to begin an exercise program." I laughed so hard I cried.

A miracle happened on Monday. Justin is serving his mission in Nicaragua. He and his papa have a very special relationship. I knew it would be very painful for him to lose his papa while he was gone. On Monday as he was emailing for his p-day, I caught him online. I quickly emailed him telling him of his papa's condition. Although I did not believe my dad would pass as quickly as he did, I thought it important that Justin get to converse with him. Justin arranged to go to his Stake President's home and skype with my dad. They were able to talk face to face - computer to computer - for quite awhile. I know that this was a tender mercy.

My dad was in a very unique position. He had only one thing wrong with him...his lungs. He could sit in the bed, talk, joke, eat and watch movies. But he could not breathe. If he tried to use the bedside commode, only 3 steps away, he was gasping for air and it would take 4 nurses and 30 mintues plus medication to get him settled down and breathing regularly. It was scary to watch. Eighteen litres of oxygen were being pumped into his lungs each minute. The hospital considers 4 litres high.

He had decided that he would go home on hospice. But the day held many obstacles and his transport home was postponed. That night the electricity at his house went off because of terrible rain and flooding. Had he been at home, it could have been a life threatening situation because his oxygen was connected electrically. We as his family would have been frantically trying to keep him alive without help from medical personnel. At this time we did not know how close he already was to death. The following day it was evident that transporting him would cause too much trauma to his body and it was determined he would finish his mortal journey in the hospital.

Because of his situation he could choose when he wanted to end his life. His lungs would never recover, he would never be able to leave his bed, he was losing his appetite, his heart had already begun to enlarge because of all the extra work it was doing, his veins were constricting. The writing was on the wall. My dad had jokingly said, "I think January 3rd would be a good day...and it would help with our taxes."

But for some reason that day changed. I spent the last night with my father. On the morning of December 23rd I woke up and saw him looking at me from across the room. He said, "Sheri, today is the day. Let's plan the funeral and then you can call your mother and sisters to come over so we can finalize everything." He said nothing extreme visions, he had been feeling an occassional tapping on the shoulder from some invisible source...but he just knew it was time to go. He asked me to dial each of his siblings, my brother who had barely left to fly back to his home in Memphis, the bishop of his ward. He wanted to talk to each of them. He began by saying, "It is time to lay my life down"...but by the final phone call he was saying, "I'm going to buy the farm."

I had spent much time alone with my dad, we all had. I had my chance to say goodbye. I had my time to love on him, reminisce with him, tell him how perfect he was as my father. It was a magical time. When he lay in his hospital bed, I crawled in right next to him. I wanted to lay my head on his shoulder. I wanted to be his little girl all over again.

As the time drew near he began to talk about what he wished for when he got to heaven. My dad loves, loves, loves banana pudding. He said he hoped they would have banana pudding and watermelon on the buffet in heaven. I had thought all week about making him some, but I wanted to be with him every spare moment I had. I mentioned to the CNA Sheila, that I wish he had some banana pudding. In Dixie Regional Medical Center...ask and you shall receive. Sheila arrived with two pieces of banana cream pie. I fed him the pie, minus the crust, and he got the banana pudding he had been longing for. Thank you Sheila for being sensitive to my father's wishes. Each of the nurses and CNAs there were so kind and attentive. My father continually commented on how well he was taken care of. He had not one complaint...but then again, he never did. My dad was a ray of sunshine always.

We began to make the preparations for the time to begin his journey home. His little sister was arriving from Texas at 1:15 am on December 24th. He wanted time to visit with her. He continued to look at the clock. He continued to say he was ready. The whole day he had a peaceful look on his face. A goofy grin at times. His vitals were better than ever before as he had no longer had the anxiety from trying to breathe, but had relinquished himself to entering the next world. When the nurse would come in he would say, "I am going paradise."

The nurses were so wonderful at the hospital. One nurse in particular, Jarvis, had spent time watching "Pure Country" with my dad and talking about old westerns. His shift ended at 6pm on Dec. 23, but he came in and spent 45 minutes with my dad, talking to him, letting him know what to expect, answering his questions and wishing him joy in his journey. He thanked him for being the ideal patient. He said, "It has been my pleasure to serve you." My dad left everyone feeling better. Then Jarvis turned to me and said, "Your family has never left your father alone. That is unusual. I know you have great love for your dad and I know that is because he had great love for you." It is true.

My sister purchased recordable story books for each of us. It was touching, yet comical, as we all stood around my father's bed, book in hand, recording as he read each page. What a treasure to share with the generations to follow. I was so proud of my dad, he spoke loud and clear and read without error. Even in his worst of times, he knew he was leaving something of great value for his posterity. Now each Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the Savior's birth, we can also remember my father's death and cherish his voice as he reads The First Christmas story.

At 2:00 am we all stood around his bed as he received a blessing. We hugged him and said our final goodbyes. We knew that once the process had begun he would fall into a deep sleep and he would not be able to communicate with us anymore. His final words as the drip began were, "I've never had trouble falling asleep." At 2:30 am on December 24th the iv drip of morphine and the Adavan was given to him. He quickly fell asleep and for the next 9 hours we kept vigil at his bedside. It is traumatic to watch a person die. The body reacts in ways that I was unprepared to watch. What was suppose to be a quick process lasted for what seemed forever. We were told that his heart was so strong it just wouldn't stop beating. As time went on, the oxygen was decreased until he was left with none. Some might think this sounds inhumane. But the oxygen was life support for him. It was the only way he could live...but shortly his body would need more than a machine could provide and he would have suffocated to death. This was his only choice that would not bring gasping for air and fear.

As his body continued to hold on, we played his favorite hymns, we prayed for him, we told him it was okay for him to go. We knew his mother who had died this past August was waiting for him as well as his father. He was excited to see his Grandpa Lee Lindsey and had regularly spoke of him. Different people who had visited him asked him to hug their loved ones. It was surreal to be a part of this process. We watched as his breathing slowed and the pulse in his neck finally stopped. We called to the nurse and she came in, put the stethoscope on this ever loving chest and said in a soft and caring tone, "He is gone." I then said, "Good job Daddy. Good job living and good job dying. You did it." He made a very brave decision and followed through with it. We then had to wait for the doctor to pronounce the same, "I am sorry. He has passed." And then we waited for the mortuary to come and take his body away.

As I left for home, my brain could not think, my legs could not hold my body. I wanted to shout to the world, "Do you know what just happened? Do you know that the greatest man in the world just died?" But I didn't. Even though I held the words in, the sobs could not be contained. I will miss my daddy. I am 45 years old and I realize I may live as long without my daddy as I lived with him. A little girl's daddy should never have to leave her.

The whole day prior to his passing, he wore this incredible goofy grin. He knew that although he was leaving his family behind, there was much work for him to do on the other side. He had faith that his testimony of eternal families was real. He knew that although we would miss each other terribly we would one day be together again.

I love you daddy...and I miss you terribly.