“Around 11 o’clock on Friday, February 24th I got a call that my dad had passed away. He lived in a suburb outside of Chicago and had been driving home on a major thoroughfare when he came to a stoplight, he passed out, and his heart basically stopped. The people behind him must have called the ambulance, because they arrived and tried to resuscitate him but they couldn’t. They took him to the hospital, but they couldn’t do it there, either. I guess that’s when the police called to tell me that they had some bad news.
It came as a total shock. We had no way to prepare for it because my dad had been in good health. Within a very short time I had to start calling people to tell them what had happened and start making decisions about what I was going to do. That was challenging. In a situation like that you find yourself connecting with all of the facts rather than your emotions. You start laying them out. Thankfully my wife was there to help me make travel arrangements. I felt like I had to get home very quickly because I have a brother that had been living with my dad and he has diabetes. He’d gone into insulin shock several times in the past where my dad had to rescue him - and now he was there alone. I felt like I needed to get there right away. There were other things to figure out, too - picking up his car and belongings, the whole process of taking care of his estate. I flew out to Chicago that same day. When I arrived in Chicago Sabbath morning the first thing I did was go to the morgue to see my dad and pick up his belongings. The second thing, I think, was to go to the police station and pick up his car.
I learned a lot about my dad in Chicago. He had been retired for a good while - and he had spent a large part of his retirement taking care of my mom because she had Alzheimer’s. I think that really consumed a lot of his time and attention, but after she passed away about a year ago I think he started finding more time to be social and reach out to people - and he really impacted them.
My dad went out of his way to help and inspire people. As I started taking care of his assets - selling his car, things like that - I started encountering so many people along the way that had been impacted by him. For example, the people at the Toyota dealership. He’d had a brand new 2023 Toyota hybrid and when I brought it back in and everyone started finding out that he had passed away, it seemed like everyone there knew him. He had come in on several occasions - not just to do business, but to talk with them. Some of the guys told me that he would talk with them for hours. My dad could be very long-winded, so I kind of felt bad for them! But they seemed to really appreciate him. He had even written a letter to talk positively about their service and everything. One lady that was helping me fill out some legal papers broke down crying when she heard he had died. She started opening up. She told me she had kept the letter he sent their group, but that he had written a letter to her specifically, too, sharing about his relationship with my mom and how much she meant to him. He gave her counsel from his own experience about what it meant to love somebody. She shared that letter with me and I broke down crying, too. The people at the bank cried when they heard. They said he was the best customer they had and they loved when he came in. The head elder at his church said there were things he didn’t talk to anyone but my dad about. Just hearing those things really impacted me.
It was devastating to lose my dad so abruptly, but there were a lot of miracles, too. My brother who lived with him has diabetes, but I think he also has some form of undiagnosed autism, too. He really depended on my dad and has never really lived alone except when he went to college. One miracle is that my dad passed away quickly and not in his home where my brother would have found him and had to deal with that. Because he wasn’t hospitalized long term, there are more resources left to care for my brother.
But my dad had also come back to God just about a year before. It was a very dramatic change. I never in my wildest dreams imagined he would come back. My dad had been very bitter and didn’t talk about God or the Bible in a very positive way. It was hard to have any conversations about those things because they were very one-sided. He was negative toward the institution of the church and just had a very negative attitude. But when my mom died something changed. It was kind of shocking to see because he had been that way for so many years. He started believing in God again. He started going back to church on a regular basis and I think he became an inspiration to many others there. He started going to prayer meeting for probably the first time in his life and was actively participating. He took his faith very seriously.
That was all happening just a year before he died, so it was definitely a miracle. Those things took a lot of the bitterness out of his death, because I could see God’s leading in his life all the way through.
On my flight home I was really wrestling with some of the impenetrable aspects of my dad’s estate - not having some of his passwords or knowing exactly where his tax papers were - and it was creating a lot of fear in me as I tried to be a responsible executor. But I really felt like God spoke to me at one point and said, ‘My angels can do so much more than you can imagine. They have abilities you don’t even know about.’ And just that thought was enough for me to say, ‘You know, I’m going to trust you, God. I’m going to give this to you.’ It filled me with a tremendous amount of peace - like God was going to take care of this. And He is taking care of it. Even though some of the problems aren’t solved yet and I don’t see exactly how they will - I’ve started to see the ways God is helping me through it all.”
Andre Scalfani is the Associate Director of the Oregon Conference Planned Giving and Trust Services Department.