Fay Hansen died on a warm June night in 1980. He was recovering from his second coronary bypass when he had a fatal reaction to the morphine administered to him for pain. He felt his heart go wild, then collapse in on itself. One minute he was struggling vainly to quiet his racing heart, panicked and afraid; the next moment, overwhelming peace and relief wiped away the terror. One minute doctors and nurses were fussing and fretting, trying to stabilize him; the next, the room was full of old friends and relatives in white.
Fay saw his father first, smiling in the warm, loving way he always had. Fay realized then that he had died in the frantic moments that his heart was out of control, because his father had departed life nearly a half century before.
“You’ve come for me,” Fay thought as he recognized familiar faces of friends and family who had died many years before. “I am through with this life.” It was an overwhelming peace that enveloped Fay, a wonderful relief from the pain that was his constant companion.
“Are you ready to go?” Fay’s father asked him.
The thought of leaving the pain, the struggles behind seemed so inviting that Fay wanted with all his heart to say “Yes.” But something nagged at him. There was something that was not yet done.
“Haven’t you forgotten something?” Fay’s father asked gently. Fleeting thoughts of all seven of his children raced through his mind. Six were married with families of their own. His youngest daughter, Ann, although unmarried, was doing well and was active in the Church.
With instant clarity the nagging feeling of what was left undone overwhelmed Fay. If he left the earth at this moment, what would happen to his youngest son, Will? This son had been given the name of his grandfather, the big, kindly man standing before Fay. Although Will was a good man, he had become estranged in a subtle way from the rest of the family.
“Will has chosen to shut us out,” Fay told his father. “I can’t do any more to reach him.” Fay looked in vain among the crowd for the wife who had died nearly twenty years before. He could see old friends from half a century before, his brother, his cousin. However, he could not see his first wife among the individuals in white.
“Your son needs you,” Fay’s father gently reminded him.
Fay thought of his youngest son, Will, who was so like the grandfather whom he had been named after. He was kind, thoughtful, reserved, and very friendly. Somehow he’d drifted away from the family, and did not feel an integral part anymore. There was no outright break from the family, but ever since Fay had married (a second time) to Donna, who had eight children of her own, Will had gone his own way.
“Are you really ready to leave this earth?” Fay’s father asked him, his eyes searing Fay to the soul. “Are you ready to leave things as they are at this moment?” As much as Fay wanted to shrug off the pain, sorrow, and struggles that had been his life, he knew that he’d be leaving work undone. And Fay was not one to shirk away from duty.
“But what can I do to unite my family?” Fay asked. “What more can I do that I have not already done?” Fay’s thoughts bubbled up like a pot boiling over, but as they struck the tall man facing him, they fizzled and evaporated. Would Fay be happy if he left things as they were that day? No. He knew—as tempting as the prospect appeared—it wasn’t right.
“Can I have more time? Can’t I try again to find the way to strengthen my family?” the thoughts came unbidden to Fay’s mind as his father smiled back at him with a joy that filled the room. Suddenly the room full of people dressed in white vanished.
Overwhelming pain enveloped Fay like a damp, heavy cloth, smothering the peace he’d felt so recently. Voices and noises scattered the lingering remnants.
“I have a heartbeat,” a woman’s voice cried triumphantly.
Fay tried in vain to capture again the fleeting image of his father smiling in the old familiar way, but it was gone.
“Fay, you old rascal,” he recognized the intensive care doctor calling to him from afar. “You sure gave us a good scare that time.” Reluctantly Fay opened his eyes to the familiar hospital room.
“We almost lost you that time,” the nurse said, smiling, her stethoscope pressed against his aching chest. “Your heart became arrhythmic and went out of control. But you’re back.”
The constant pain shrouded Fay until he prayed for the oblivion of sleep. But he couldn’t lose the urgency that there was something important he needed to do. Something he couldn’t forget again. Several times during the recovery which had been only temporarily halted by his anaphylactic reaction to the morphine, Fay almost forgot what he still had to do. Several times when he felt it had slipped away from him, he’d open his eyes and see two white figures standing by the window. They would smile at him, and again he would feel their love reach across the room to him. He would then remember his son, Will, and know that he, too, must reach out in love to him.
When his wife, Donna, arrived and heard about the incident wherein Fay had died, she clucked over him like a mother hen. Fay then shared with her what had happened to him during the frantic few minutes he had been clinically “dead.”
“There is something important I need to do,” Fay explained. “We haven’t been all together as a family for years. It is important that we do so.” Two months later Fay’s seven children and their families gathered together in Mueller Park for a short reunion. Will and Lois laughed with the others and the family drew closer than they had for a long time.
Surprisingly, that was not the end of the story. There was another chapter that did not come out until 12 years later at another family reunion—this one at Fish Lake in Southern Utah. At a family testimony meeting Fay and Donna testified of our ancestors love for all the family. The story was told of the night Grandpa William Hansen came and reminded Fay that his “son” that needed him.
Then Dale, (Donna’s youngest son) asked if he could tell his side of the same story. Tears shown in his eyes as he explained that at the time of Fay’s “death,” Dale was serving a mission in Argentina. Donna’s younger children had accepted Fay with open hearts when he had married her. Surprisingly, Dale had grown closer to Fay than to his own father. When Dale left on his mission, he had been concerned about Fay’s health, which wasn’t very good. Donna had promised to keep him informed of any problems. Soon afterwards, Fay underwent his first coronary by-pass, and Donna had sent a telegram to Dale. The message about Fay’s surgery and recovery took so long to reach Dale that when the second coronary by-pass was scheduled; Donna decided not to worry him until it was all over.
Dale, however, didn’t need a letter or telegram to know that Fay was very ill and that he might die. One day in June 1980, Dale had awoke from a vivid dream wherein he saw saw Jenny, Fay’s deceased first wife, and others waiting to welcome Fay into the spirit world. Dale recognized Jenny though he had never met her in this life, and knew that she was eagerly awaiting Fay’s arrival.
The fear that Fay would die upset Dale so much that he asked his companion to join him in a special fast and prayer. Dale pleaded with the Lord to spare Fay. He explained that he had just learned to appreciate Fay as the father he’d never had before then. He cried that he still had many activities—fishing, hunting—that he wanted to do with Fay. During a long, anxious day Dale and his companion worried and prayed. That night Dale received a feeling that the Lord had heard his plea and that Fay would be spared.
It was very late that evening, (not weeks later, as before) when Dale received a telegram that told him that Fay had had another coronary surgery. Donna explained that although there had been some problems, Fay was recovering. Dale was never told that Fay had died after the surgery, or that he had experienced a visit from his father while he was clinically dead.
On that starlit night around a campfire in 1992, tears flowed as Dale recalled the experience he had endured at the time of Fay’s “death.” He shared his immense feeling of gratitude that his prayer had been answered; that Fay had been spared because “his son” needed him.
Which son needed Fay that night when his heart stopped? Perhaps both. Only Fay’s father knows—and he can’t tell us.