A dying 97-year-old man was joined by loved ones in his hospital room the night before his death to share one last triumphant moment as he sang a gospel tune for all to hear.
For much of his life, Robert Earl Walters was always known as a hard worker who “never stopped” being active, from joining the Army as a radio operator during WWII to changing the motor out of a Toyota at the ripe age of 85. Robert, who “was never afraid to talk to anybody,” married his sweetheart Lorraine in 1942 after meeting her at a dance hall, and they remained together until her death in 1996. The couple welcomed three children.
Robert survived multiple heart attacks, lost much of his eyesight and had to give up driving his favorite red BMW, yet the former carpenter stayed strong in his heart and his faith.
“He was just a good guy—I’m not just saying that because he was my dad, but he really was a pretty amazing guy,” Robert’s son, Rick Walters, 57, tells PEOPLE. “He lived his Christianity, and we went to church ever since I can remember.”
Robert did his best to keep his energetic spirit until he started to feel unwell in early January. When his health continued to worsen, the decision was made to take him to a hospital—something the 97-year-old had a hard time coming to terms with.
“It was very, very hard because they had him hooked up with IV and all the wiring,” Rick, from Bellville, Ohio, explains. “He’d gotten dehydrated, and then he got sick and his heart just couldn’t take it.”
After a few days at the hospital and with things looking dire, the family called in hospice services on January 11.
“The week wore on and they took him off the medicine because it was more or less ruining him,” Rick continues. “We knew it was the end of life.”
As Robert laid in bed with family around him later that night, two old friends, one being his former pastor, came to visit. With his son and the two men by his side, Robert and the trio sang the classic gospel song, “How Great Thou Art,” and it was all captured on video.
The song was a touching and emotional moment during what would be Robert’s last night.
The next morning, just around sunrise, Robert told Rick he was ready to grab his shoes because he was ready to leave the hospital. Rick reassured his father that they didn’t need to go anywhere—that they had everything they needed there—and he let him rest. A few minutes later, after Rick responded to a text from his niece, he noticed there was silence in the room.
“I didn’t hear him breathing. I sat up, put my hand on him, and I checked for a pulse, and couldn’t find one,” Rick says. “I went out and got the nurses, but as soon as he was that still, I knew he was gone.”
Robert—a lifelong Ohioan, born in Mansfield on July 8, 1920—passed away just after 7 in the morning on January 12 at Ohio Health Mansfield Hospital.
The footage of Robert singing was posted to Facebook by his granddaughter, Melissa Walters Moss, and touched the hearts of many.
“Walters sure loved to sing and praise his Lord, even as sick as he was, you can hear his sweet voice sing,” wrote David Danison. “What a testimony!”
Other commenters expressed how the video brought them to the verge of tears.
“Precious memories with this video,” wrote Judy Hines. “I didn’t know him but I cried as I listened to the beautiful music.”
The family held a funeral the following week at Westside Baptist Church, of which Robert he was a member. He is survived by two of his three children, 12 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and 25 great-great-grandchildren. Today, Rick says he is still struggling with his beloved father’s death, but he is at least comforted by one thought.
“I’m a trainwreck emotionally right now, but I’m good, doggonit, I’m good,” he says. “I know where he’s at, and he’s up there with Mom.”