“…the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.” John 20:4, 5
The year was 1995, when the words of the above verse took on a whole new meaning for me. My wife came from the front door to meet me, I had been away on business; she felt saying it quick would be easier. “Your dad died” are words you’re never prepared to handle. Two floors up and I didn’t take a breath all the way to the top. I stood over my desk and just held on to it. My son was right behind me but I didn’t know it. He walked into the room, wrapped his arms around me, and I began to sob.
During the time I was away, there was a Christian brother on the job with me, we had great fellowship and prayer together. My desire was for greater death to self, the flesh kept getting in the way of serving God, so we prayed about it. When my wife came to the door and said what she did, the heart fell out of me. Only God can answer prayers, and when He does its with perfect timing and perfect love. It may not feel that way but it is.
My father came to Christ at the age of 62. He had been a religious man, shot during the war, and while laying in a ditch he told God, let me live and I’ll serve you. He lived, and he lived what he knew. After getting saved he served in the church for twenty years. However, for me there was always this nagging 2% doubt of within me, that perhaps he was not a true believer. That doubt tore at my soul during the funeral and for the coming year. It took me two days to walk into the room where he was laid. I know that the God of all the earth will do right, and my trust is in that great and wondrous reality. I have peace in God, a peace that passes all understanding now.
That summer we didn’t visit my parents in time, but not without me writing a letter to my dad and then calling him to talk about it. I called it A TRIBUTE TO MY DAD. I performed the funeral ceremony, and I read my letter.
A TRIBUTE TO MY DAD
The earliest recollections that I have of you dad, serve to give me a sense of security, that make me aware that I have been the recipient of an unfailing love. You have always been a rock of stability, a wise man with a kind heart and an unswerving conviction. You are and have been a model of models, of what manhood is all about.
As I dip into the recesses of my mind, I see pictures, isolate moments in time, each one saying how much you have cared for me. You put the finishing touches on our basement floor, just as you did everything to take care of our home. The time you came home and became angry and destroyed the cave of snow that we built, because you were afraid that as small as I was, I might get buried and suffocate. The many times that I suffered with stomach pains, never short or unkind were you. But always wiling to give a rub on my belly and whisper a caring word that made it all worth while.
When you became a father for the second time you were getting on in years, so I grew up with a very mature figure for a dad. As a child of the great depression you know hardship. As a soldier of world War II you stared death in the eye and understood fear and courage. Dad you are a hero in every sense of the word. No man with a heart like yours wants to fight, but sacrificially, as with so many others, you were willing to lay down your life for a very worthy cause.
Sacrifice is a good word to describe you dad. Never looking for a word of appreciation, you gave to our family, and when you were done giving, you gave some more. You struggled in business but never gave up, because we needed you. I can’t remember hearing you yell at my mom, I never doubted your love for her, and no doubt that made me more secure in your love for me. If I could be half the father and husband that you have been, I will have achieved greatness as a human being.
You were a friend even though being wounded in the war made it a little difficult for you to get around. We never played baseball together because you couldn’t run, but I knew that you loved the game and would certainly play with me if you could. Once when you were about fifty we went to a batting range; you took the bat in hand and stepped up to the plate with real style. When you hit the ball it was clear you had done it before on many occasions. Your love for the game was contagious, and it balanced off your undaunting approach to hard work, and doing all the things that would make all our lives as good as possible.
All the years that I was growing up you made it clear that you wanted me to be, in your words, “A professional man.” I think that in your mind a professional man earns more respect, it could not have been a concern for money, because you never put that first. In fact, many times you told me, “When five o’clock comes, I turn the key in the door.” You always put your priorities in order. Yes you had to make money but you would not put financial success before wife and children. Professionalism is good, but by example you taught me that true greatness is not what you do, but what you are. Putting others first, especially the family was your first priority. You set the priority and by it I came to know what was important.
The greatest thing that a dad can do is to model the God who by means of the creation is father to us all. When I got older, passionate, and extremely self willed, I put myself in a position that turned my entire family against me. My commitment won me the respect of my uncle, but even when things were at there darkest you never became angry, never had a harsh word, and could only say, “I will see you through this.” Unconditional love exemplifies the God who died for us, while we were yet sinners. That type of love you exemplified perfectly. For this especially, I would like to say, thanks dad, you are the greatest.
Many years have passed since I was a child, and now I have nearly grown children of my own, and still you continue to be there whatever the need might be. As a grandfather, you provide the same unswerving love and eagerness to serve with both council and finances. You have away of lighting up a room and making the most serious occasions easier, with your quick whit and even temper. Patience, mercy, kindness, long-suffering, grace, and meekness are all the characteristics with which you have lived your life. A long fuse and a willingness to help is so typical of you, dad.
I would like to say that I have always appreciated or even showed appreciation for the love and kindness that you have showered on me, but that would be a lie. Thank you may be enough for a present given at Christmas, or a shoulder to cry on during some trial, but how do you say thanks for forty years of caring, for all the giving, and all the sacrifices without ever really wanting anything in return? If I could give you the world and everything in contains, I would; but it still wouldn’t feel that it was enough. With hand raised high, I salute the greatest man that I have ever known, great in character, and a deep sense of morality, great in sacrificial and unconditional love, great in setting his priorities of family first and himself second. Here is to you dad, the greatest man I know.
Your humble son,
Even now he brings tears to my eyes. Here’s to you dad!