Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,


This is Loren Mark and Varrin writing on behalf of the Swearingen family.  On Sunday evening, November 18, 2018, at 10:18 pm, our dad Virgil died peacefully at home on the living room couch, surrounded by his loving family.

A viewing of the body will be held on Sunday, November 25, from 2-5 pm at:

  • Farewell Funeral Service
    660 W. Locust Ave., Ste. 101
    Fresno, CA  93650

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Monday, November 26 at 11 am at:

  • Riverpark Bible Church
    7500 N. Millbrook Ave.
    Fresno, CA  93720

Virgil’s body will be laid to rest at a private burial attended by immediate family on Tuesday, November 27.

In lieu of flowers, a donation in Virgil’s memory may be made to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association or to another Christian organization of your choice.

We appreciate your prayers and offers of help.  We are now ready for phone calls at home if any of you wish to talk.  If you are able to text or email first, that would be best.  Please text Edi at (603) 203-4593 or send an email to edi@sugargroup.net to coordinate the best time.


We thought some of you might be interested in knowing more about Dad’s final days and weeks of life, and time spent together with his family.

Around October 1, Dad started noticing a rapid decline in his physical condition, such that each day there were more everyday activities that would cause him to be out of breath than the previous day.

On October 15, he had three episodes of distressed breathing, in which he experienced a sense of panic due to not being able to get a full breath of air.  That night (early morning October 16), Mom drove him to the Kaiser Emergency Room, where he was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease.  This was followed up by several medical appointments in the following days.

After reading the notes that Dad sent and talking to him and Mom on the phone, Varrin and Mark each began considering possible times for a family visit.  Varrin & Edi and their four kids started planning a visit for a few weeks around Thanksgiving, while Mark originally planned to visit around Christmas time.

As it happened, Varrin was already scheduled to fly into Fresno for two work trips in early November.  After Varrin’s observation of the progression of Dad’s condition during the first of those work trips, Varrin suggested to Mark that a visit at Thanksgiving rather than Christmas would be “highly advisable.”  Consequently, Mark also decided to visit for the week of Thanksgiving and began trying to arrange for his two sons Garrett and Samuel to come from Australia at the same time.  Garrett just turned 18 a few months earlier and was able to participate significantly in flight scheduling, applying for a new U.S. passport, and other travel arrangements.  Unfortunately, Samuel was not able to visit at this time.

Late Thursday night, November 15, Varrin, Edison, Erin, Elliott and Violet arrived from New Hampshire.  On Friday, November 16, Varrin and his kids enjoyed having breakfast with Mom & Dad.  Most of Dad’s day was spent on the computer showing Varrin how to help Mom with various tasks through the end of the year, which we now know was timely and will be of great help.  We savored a home cooked meal together and wonderful conversation.

Mark got to the house late Friday night after everyone else had gone to bed.  At the time he arrived, Mom & Dad had woken up and Mom was just starting to help Dad get out of bed.  Mom and Mark helped Dad walk slowly from the bed to the sink before using the bathroom and going back to bed.

At about 4 am Saturday morning, November 17, Mark left the house and drove to the San Francisco airport to pick up Garrett, whose flight from Sydney arrived at about 7:30 am.

Later that morning it took many hours for Dad to get out of bed and get dressed. Before coming downstairs Mom, Varrin, and Dad decided together that he would not attempt to come back upstairs again.  At one point Varrin sent a text message to Edi (still at home in New Hampshire) and to Garrett (who was in the car with Mark driving from San Francisco back to Fresno), saying that Dad was making his way downstairs for breakfast and that this would be a “one-way trip,” meaning that he would not be able to get back up the stairs again.

Mark and Garrett arrived about 1:15 pm.  For the rest of the day, we all worked hard to take the best care of Dad that we could and to enjoy our time visiting.  Dad was alert and talkative all day and was able to enjoy the time together.  He asked questions and told the kind of stories that many of you have enjoyed hearing him tell over the years.  The attached photo was taken after dinner that evening.  Dad enjoyed a hula hoop light show put on by Erin, as well as hearing some of the messages of love and prayers sent from many people by email, text message, and on Facebook.  By the time we all went to bed Saturday night, it was clear that Dad would not be able to make it church the next morning, for the first time in a very long time.

Beginning very early Sunday morning, November 18, Varrin, Mark, and Mom were up helping care for Dad.  Although he was aware and communicative, his ability to do anything at all physically, even change positions on the couch, was declining noticeably hour by hour.  At breakfast time, we decided to have each of the grandchildren come one at a time to say any final thoughts while Dad sat on the couch.  He heard, understood, and said a few words of acknowledgment and thanks to each one before they made their way to the breakfast table.  Much to the surprise of all of us, he then asked to join us at the table for breakfast, which we all greatly enjoyed, including Dad.

Given his rapidly accelerating decline, Varrin arranged to change Edi’s flight schedule to arrive one day earlier, late Sunday night instead of Monday night.  Edi hurried to the airport in Hartford, Connecticut, and made her way to Fresno, receiving regular updates as she traveled.

At lunch time, we planned to eat in the living room so that Dad would not have to be moved from the couch again, but while we were getting our food ready, he pointed toward the dining room to indicate that he wanted all of us, including him, to eat together in our usual location.  However, by that time he was so weak that it took great effort and some assistance to drink just a few sips of V8 juice and a few sips of water, and it was a struggle for him to say just a few words.

After lunch, his remaining time was spent on the couch. He sat up a few times with significant help.  Dad knew that Edi would be arriving later that night, and at least some of us had the intuition that he may have been fighting to stay alive long enough for her to see him one last time, but in the end they missed each other by just a few hours.

Around dinner time, we laid him down on the couch for what would be the last time.  He drifted in and out of sleep and was able to respond to questions with a weak nod a few more times.  Eventually his breathing and heart rate slowed down.  We were able to observe his pulse by watching the side of his neck.  At 10:12 pm he calmly took his last breath and at 10:17 pm his heart stopped beating.

After tending to some formalities, Varrin picked up Edi from the airport.  Edi, as well as all the other family members present, had some time with Dad’s body, which had now completed its divinely appointed purpose.


Thank you all for your prayers and friendship with our family. We know that Dad’s influence on all of you was significant. His influence on us has been immeasurable. He continued to share the gospel through his very last day alive on earth.  Our hope as a family is to carry on that godly Christian legacy to which he devoted his life.  Amen.

With love and prayers,

Loren Mark and Varrin on behalf of the Swearingen family