“Help me!” my mother cried out late one night. “Dad’s sick!”I rushed to their room and found Dad writhing on the floor, awake but unresponsive. I called for an ambulance; soon the attendants came and whisked him away. At the hospital, we learned that Dad had suffered a severe stroke. The nurses attached him to tubes and machines while Mom took care of all the forms. The first one she signed authorized the doctors to do everything possible to keep Daddy alive.Dad fell into a coma that lasted over two months. When the insurance money was gone, Mom used their retirement savings to pay the bills. At 57, Dad was too young for the new Medicare program, but he was eligible for a small SSI stipend. As soon as Dad awakened from his coma, Mom transferred him to the Veterans Hospital. Paralyzed on his right side, he suffered from severe aphasia. Though he couldn’t talk, he could sing and count a little. (To our dismay, he could also swear.) As time passed, Dad realized he would not recover from his stroke. At first he was angry, but soon he evolved into a variation of himself. His intellect was intact, and his wry sense of humor helped him cope with a changed world. His old zest for life continued to shine through the shadows of his new existence. After an August wedding, my husband and I settled far from family. Meanwhile, my mother planned for the day when Dad could leave the VA. Together, Dad and Mom still harbored the dream of living in Avalon on Catalina Island. Our family had enjoyed living there for a time in the late forties. Unfortunately, their nest-egg had all gone toward hospital bills. My mother did not give up. She got a job that allowed her to be with Dad in the evenings. Two years later, Mom put a down payment on a tiny summer cottage in Avalon. They moved to the island as soon as escrow closed.A few months later, we visited and saw that my mother had put up insulation and hung sheetrock, textured and painted the walls, re-glazed the windows, and installed safety bars throughout the house so Dad could get around more easily. Using her old treadle, Mom had made curtains and slip covers for everything in the house. She had planted a vegetable garden, and somehow, she had even acquired an electric wheelchair for Dad so he could get around town. Dad was an outgoing man who could say “One, two, three!” so many ways that those three words became his personal language of friendship. For 23 years, Mom took care of Daddy with love and devotion — and that is a tidy ending to the story of my parents. But looking back over those years, I feel there is a more important story to tell. Up to the time of Dad’s stroke, I had yet to face the death or serious illness of a loved one. Realizing how severely disabled he had become, I wondered if Daddy was actually supposed to die that night. By authorizing the doctors to use any means to save my father, had my mother interrupted God's original plan? The answers to these challenging questions came slowly. My folks were happy in their island home, though their daily routine was surely different than what they had anticipated in the years before Dad’s illness. Mom’s sun-streaked hair gradually gave way to white. She still swam in the bay, and every day she walked to the cove to “make sure the ocean was still there.”When my father would holler, “One, two, three, Millieeee!” from anywhere in the cottage or the yard, Mom was there to help. She might laugh and holler back, but she was always there. They lived a good life together in their cozy home until death separated them. Daddy died in October 1992, and Mom passed away quietly the next fall. My folks were loved and admired by all. Lolo and Frank sang the old songs on the pier with Dad; neighbors dropped in often to visit and play cards. Most afternoons, Dad could be found sitting in the front pew of our lovely little island church. Housebound in his last years, Daddy still had daily visitors including his pal, Mike, who brought the Holy Eucharist to share. My own children are now compassionate adults in part because they grew up knowing and loving their Grandpa Bud just the way he was.Who am I to question God? It is clear that Dad was meant to survive. Not only did my folks value every moment, their day-to-day living enriched the lives of others. “Bud One-Two-Three” was an inspiration to many, but that was not his role in life. Daddy was simply a good man, a good father and grandpa, and a good husband. My mother was the quiet strength that held everything together. When I think of how the life path of my parents meandered off their planned route and into the beautiful wild woods of uncertainty, I am awed by the power of God. My parents were grateful for the gift of life itself. Sustained by faith and love, they accepted each day as a precious opportunity to savor the world around them — a world created by God, the Father of all. They understood almost immediately the lesson that took me decades to master: that our Father knows best.Martha Ashleigh is a parishioner at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, Avalon.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0614/fathersday/{/gallery}