Sunday, September 16, 2012


8:00 am, yesterday morning. I was awakened by the "marimba" ringtone on my iPhone. It was my wife, Lorie, with a completely unexpected call.

Friday a week ago (September 7), Lorie received word that her father, James F. Carlisle, Sr. had been admitted to the hospital. An EKG revealed that Jim had had a silent heart attack earlier in the week. They did a heart cath, removed a blockage, and put in a stent.

My father-in-law was very active. He and Marty, my mother-in-law, played golf 2-3 times a week. He sang in the choir, served on tons of committees, and helped with all kinds of projects at church. "Dad" and "Mom" traveled extensively. In July they did a river cruise in Europe. Then in August they went to the beach with my family, and then went again with Lorie's brother's family. On top of all that, he spent hours and hours in his shop carving highly-detailed decorative duck decoys.

Dad kept up a schedule that would wear out a much younger man!

So he would probably have to slow down a bit once he left the hospital -- but he was expected to recover almost completely. That's what the doctors thought. That's what we all thought. He improved with each passing day. Every time somebody would ask me, "How's Lorie's dad?" I would say, "He's getting better!"

This past Friday (September 14), he was doing so well that he was moved out of cardiac intensive care to a step-down unit. He was scheduled to be moved to a regular room the next day.

Through all of this, Lorie had been staying with her mother in Winston-Salem. They had been switching off staying overnight at the hospital with Dad. Friday night they felt so good about his condition that they both went home for a good night's rest.

And that was the night he died.

When the phone rang yesterday morning, I was completely unprepared for what Lorie told me. Around 4 am that morning, Jim was feeling cold. He asked for a warm blanket. The nurse brought him one. Then he said he was having trouble breathing. They brought him a breathing treatment. At some point during that breathing treatment his heart began to slow down. And then it stopped.

The doctor told Lorie later that a blood clot may have made its way to the lungs. Or maybe the damage from the heart attack was more than we knew. The EKG on Friday showed that the heart attack probably occurred on Tuesday. That was the day Dad mowed the lawn. On Wednesday, he went over to the church and set up tables and chairs for 200 people. On Thursday he didn't feel well. But it wasn't until Friday that he called the doctor.

I saw Jim last Sunday, a week ago today. He looked really good. Awake and alert -- completely himself. Laughing, joking -- but also saying meaningful, important things.

I had no clue that this would be the last time we would speak to each other on earth.

Ever since that phone call yesterday morning, I've been walking around in a misty-eyed daze. I've been blessed with two wonderful fathers. But now one of them is gone.

Jim Carlisle was a remarkable man. Extremely intelligent, amazingly talented -- and one of the friendliest human beings you could ever hope to meet. Everybody loved him. I know that sounds like a cliche -- but believe me -- he was that rare human being who engendered nothing but deep love and respect from every single person in his sphere of influence.

I want to tell you all about my father-in-law, but it's getting late... So I'll just give you one quick example of who he was. In 2010 he and Marty celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They told us that they didn't want a big party. Instead, the gift they wanted from us was to allow them to take us on a trip to Switzerland!  Lorie and I, Lorie's brother Jim (Jr) and his wife Kim -- Jim paid for all of us to spend a week touring around Switzerland. It was a very special place for him, and it meant a great deal to him to show it to us. At one point in the trip he said to me, "Now that my children have seen this, everything is OK" by which he meant that his showing us that place was something he had to do before he died.

I'm so glad he did.

The obituary in the Winston-Salem Journal is well-written, but it doesn't do him justice -- no obituary could -- but some of the entries to the guest book give a glimpse of who Jim Carlisle was. Click HERE to see it.


  1. What can anyone say ...but my prayer is that God wraps his big arms around your broken hearts.

    1. Thank you, Sherry. Just knowing that you read this post about my "dad" helps a lot. I want everyone to know what a great guy he was.

      And thanks for your prayers.