LEWISTOWN – David Parrish’s health journey took him to eternity’s door, where he learned his time had “not yet” come.
Since May 2022, health has been the proverbial roller coaster for him and Charlotte, his wife of almost 56 years, both age 76. They had COVID-19. He had six hospitalizations and four surgeries.
And he was on hospice care.
“In May 2022 we went to a family wedding in Oklahoma. The Thursday after we got home, we found we were both COVID positive, and had to call everyone. He was in the hospital May 14-16, 2022. When he came home he was better.
“On July 9, he went to the doctor in Lewistown in the morning and was fine. That night his blood pressure crashed, and we called the ambulance to go to the hospital. By July 12, his toes turned black (from dry gangrene).
“He was lethargic. One doctor said: ‘I can’t do anything for you. You might live two days,’” Charlotte said.
She and their three adult children – two who are in senior care jobs and one a nurse – tearfully held each other. The children spent the next six weeks with their parents 24/7.
“Another doctor said that diagnosis was wrong. David might have a month to live. On Monday, July 18, he was dismissed from the hospital and put on hospice care.”
David is a musician who taught vocals and/or instrumental music at five high schools. At one school he built a band to full instrumentation from six clarinets, designed uniforms and took them to a third-place district rating. He performed with various music groups, including the Inspirationers, the Show Me Four Barbershop Quartet and the Baptist Missouri Music Men, the latter who toured in El Salvador and Canada. He’s been worship leader for several churches.
The family chose to fill David’s apparent last days with music. In one hospital, 19 people including the Paul Brown family from their Hannibal church were in a room together to share music. The family offered to close the door, and the nurses opened it so others could hear it. David plucked his own dobro, a guitar with metal disks under the guitar bridge.
When they got home, Charlotte, contacted friends to come visit, if they wanted to see him, pray with him, and have pictures taken with them. For six weeks, David stayed on hospice care, needing a Hoyer lift to get out of bed.
Son Charles once took David for a ride around town, using the lift to get him in.
“I was absolutely no help whatsoever. He drug me into the rider side from the driver side. I looked at Charles and asked why I wasn’t driving,” he joked.
There were 18 music groups, some 20 various pastoral visits, over 220 other visitors, and he got over 200 cards in two months at home. Neighbors and family tended the yard, the garden, home projects, and food.
Visitors sang or played, and prayed with him. David, who hasn’t been in a singing voice in 15 years, “kind of sang. It was encouraging and enjoyable. I don’t know how much she paid them to come.”
“We told the hospice chaplain with so many pastors coming, they could use the hospice chaplain for others who didn’t have the support. I never prayed for David to live, I prayed that I wanted him to stay, but it was God’s will. Every morning he was still breathing, I said ‘Thank you Lord,’” Charlotte said.
“I told David I had him for another day. He’d ask who was coming to visit that day. If there were no one, he asked if she didn’t need to call someone.”
David said, “I eventually understood things weren’t going to end yet. I called a family meeting. I said If I’m not going to die, I will try to live. God gave me the where-with-all to straighten up and die right.”
On Aug. 25, David went off hospice care and was put on home health care.
“I would be a bad reputation for hospice, if I lived,” David said.
“(Our daughter) Angela said home health care was here to help him live, and hospice was here to help him die,” Charlotte said.
In late August, bladder spasms led to a trip to Hannibal Regional Hospital. Blood clot surgery was done Sept. 8. Daughter Julie made it possible for David to be accepted at a nursing home and put in a zero entry shower so he could come home.
David rehabbed in a nursing home until Oct. 5. Blood clots resurfaced, David had surgeries on Oct. 7, 8 and 9. A filter to prevent blood clots was removed after two other surgeries in the last surgery reluctantly approved by David.
Awakening from the last surgery, David looked around the room: “I thought I’d be in Heaven,” he said.
Charlotte said, “I said ‘You’re stuck with me.’ God’s not through with you yet.”
He returned to a care facility until November 11, back to home health, and eventually home without home health. He still has lingering, but not critical, health issues.
“Over and over the right people at the right time were where they needed to be, and we were quickly able to get into appointments,” Charlotte said, attributing God’s grace.
By mid-November in 2022, David walked with a walker and had thrice been to their Hannibal Church, Calvary. He began driving again by Thanksgiving. One of the children scheduled a visit almost weekly.
“God has answered prayers even before prayer,” Charlotte said.
David added, “God did a lot of things for us we didn’t deserve. If God takes me home, it’s still a miracle.”