In October of last year, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. He passed away 3 weeks later, on November 1st. We had a memorial service for him shortly after his death, here in Texas where he had lived for the past year and a half. And, we just returned from a second service in California, where he grew up and lived the majority of his life. I was amazed (though not really surprised) by the sheer number of people who came to both services. The faces and families represented spoke to the enormity of the impact that my father’s friendship, example, and teaching had on so many lives.
I am so thankful for each person who took the time to come (and for those who wanted to, but couldn’t)… For each tearful hug… For each memory shared… And, especially, for each prayer said on our behalf over these past few months.
I had the privilege of sharing a little bit about my dad at both services:
“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” ~Proverbs 20:6-7 (ESV)
Over the weeks and months, as people learned of my dad’s illness, and death, I have had the opportunity to read so many kind words about him. People have commented on his kind face, his joy, his wisdom, his loyalty, and his love for others. But, the greatest joy and comfort in this time has been seeing and hearing so many people talk about his godly example, his faithful testimony, and his sincere love for the Lord… To see him the way others saw him, and to know some of the great impact that had on so many lives is a real privilege.
But, as his daughter, they were seeing the man that I always knew.
I have had a number of excellent teachers in my life. But, I was blessed to have had one of the very best as my own father. Throughout his life…
- He shared his love of hockey and Disney.
- He taught me how to make, and appreciate good coffee.
- He encouraged my love of books and learning.
- He sharpened my critical thinking skills.
- He exemplified what it means to be a godly man, husband, father, and grandfather.
- He allowed me to see that the church wasn’t perfect, and wasn’t made up of perfect people…but he showed me how to love them anyway.
- He diligently studied God’s Word, and consistently pointed me to the truths of Scripture.
- And, above all, by his words, and by his example, he taught me that the most important thing in this life, was to know, love, and serve my Lord and Savior.
In college, I had a professor who once called cancer “the kind killer.” I have spent years wondering what he meant, and I think I am finally beginning to understand…
Looking back, some of my favorite memories were conversations with my dad. We talked about everything…and nothing. And, our last real conversation was no different. Not that you ever really want a last conversation with your father, but mine was everything I could have hoped for…
Because, we talked about his favorite things…
- His joy in getting to see his oldest granddaughter follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.
- His oldest grandson’s increasingly toothless grin, as he shared another fascinating animal fact.
- How much he loved hearing his 5 year-old-granddaughter’s excitement in her new-found ability to read.
- His youngest grandson’s eagerness to be helpful.
- And the way his youngest granddaughter smiled, and snuggled up against him while he read to her.
He told me how much he loved his grandchildren, and how he wished that he could continue to watch them grow up. (And, while he will not be here to see it, I hope and pray that someday they will understand the precious legacy that he left them.)
We talked about hymns, and the influence and impact of music in the church…today, and throughout the course of history.
We talked about our churches, and how he was hoping that he could start feeling better, so he could get more involved in the life and community of his church.
We talked about my mom…and how much he loved her. Theirs was a sweet picture of enduring love and friendship…for better or worse, until death.
And, this…this is where I see the kindness and mercy of God in my dad’s illness. He gave me one last glimpse into my dad’s heart…
In what could realistically be considered his “last words” to me…He referenced John 13:14, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” My dad spent our last few moments together teaching me, one last time. He shared what he had learned about serving others, and how in doing that, we emulate Christ. Then, we spent our last few moments together just talking about Christ.
That last conversation will be one I will always treasure.
If you knew my dad, or ever sat under his teaching, then you will know that he was famous…or maybe infamous…for his “Agree/Disagree” teaching method, in which he would calmly challenge his students to consider all sides of the issue at hand with the simple question, “But, what does the Bible say about it?” I know that countless others (from Home Bible Study groups and Adult Sunday School classes, to Awana Varsity and Scholarship Campers, and his Houston Christian High School students…and probably beyond) have benefited from his thought provoking teaching and questioning through the years, but, let me tell you, he perfected this technique on his own kids.
So, when my mom called to tell me that my father was with Jesus, my first thought was, “How completely appropriate for my dad to end his life here on earth, by leaving the rest of us with the ultimate “Agree/Disagree” conundrum.”
…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Had the Lord allowed my father more time here on earth, I am absolutely certain that it would have meant “fruitful labor” for him, because he would have continued to teach and serve…his students, his friends, his church, and his family…just as he had always done. And, I don’t think anyone would disagree that for him to remain in the flesh was more necessary on our account.
But…the Lord chose to take him…much sooner than any of us would have liked, or imagined. But, without a doubt, for my dad to be with Christ, is far better. Truly, for him to live was Christ, but, to die was only gain.
My dad’s greatest desire, always, was that Christ would be honored, whether by life, or by death.
This world lost an amazing husband, father, grandpa, teacher, and friend. And, I can think of no more fitting epitaph for my dad than the words of Matthew 21:25:
“Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master.”
For those who were unable to attend, as far as I know, neither service was recorded or streamed. But, if you would like to watch, here is the slideshow of my dad’s life in pictures that we shared at both services:
I’m having some difficulties uploading the video so people can see it…I’ll keep working on it.