Dad went to be with Jesus 7 years ago today. The following highly personal post is the tribute that I had hoped to give at his funeral. Unfortunately, a severe strep throat kept me from speaking that day. I hope Dad's children and grandchildren will read this post, and perhaps spend a moment or two in quiet reflection, in honor of a good man.
"When the gates of heaven opened Sunday afternoon, and Dad walked through (for the first time in over two years, he walked!), I believe Jesus was there with His arms wide open, saying "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
When I think about his life, I think about all the ways he served during his time here on earth. First and always, he served God and God's church. From the time in 1945 that he received his call to ministry, he was God's willing servant. He served in several small churches through the years, and was always obedient. When God told him that his work in one town was done, he moved on to the next spot God had prepared for him. When God prepared slightly larger churches as his next assignment, he served there, too, even though that was outside of his comfort zone. In every church, there were people he led to the Lord, people he counseled, and people he just encouraged with his pastoral calls.
Dad also served his country. He served in the European theater during World War II, arriving in France on something like D Day plus 44. There, he faithfully did his job as a soldier and a radio operator. His hearing was damaged in an explosion that sent the jeep he was riding in through the air, but Dad resisted applying for veteran's benefits. His explanation was that the country didn't owe him anything, but he owed his country more than he could every repay. Dad was part of a generation of heroes.
In every community he ever lived in, Dad always got involved in community events. He was frequently a member of the Lions Club or the Kiwanis, or both. In one town, he served as chaplain for the fire department. In another, he was an on call chaplain for the military, and he was supposed to go to a missile silo in case of nuclear attack, to counsel and support the underground heroes who would have survived an initial attack from the enemy. This was during the Cuban missile crisis, and we lived on the west coast. The enemy we were all worried about was the USSR. In most places that he lived, he was part of the American Red Cross in one way or another. And he absolutely loved serving as a scorekeeper for some of the high schools in some of the towns we lived in.
Finally, Dad served his family. As a young man, he was anxious to join the service and fight for his country overseas. However, his father developed cancer, and Dad reluctantly accepted a deferment to stay behind and care for his father during his final illness. Shortly after that, his mother had a serious heart attack, and once again, Dad put his plans for military service on hold while he nursed her back to health. It was late 1942 before he was free to join the army.
Down through the years, he worked hard to provide for his growing family. Our family never had a lot of money, but Dad provided us with things much more valuable than money: values, faith, and an attitude of caring about other people.
Then, as he retired and thought his days of family service were winding down, things happened. A daughter and her four children moved in for the better part of a year, and Dad enjoyed being a very active Grandpa to those four children. Another time, a grandson stayed with his grandparents for several months, and again, Dad was pleased about it. When his youngest daughter was killed and his son in law was in poor health for years, he was thrilled to be able to help with two more grandchildren. Even when his health was failing and he and Mom ended up moving in with my sister, Sue, I remember him trying to help with little things like setting the table at mealtime.
So Dad, I want to echo the words of Jesus and say, "Well done". We will miss you, but we'll cherish your memory until we meet again."
There are a lot of things I could add to this tribute, but these are the memories and thoughts that I had at the time, and I've changed nothing in posting this. I still miss Dad, of course, but I cherish the memories, and I still look forward to that reunion some glorious day.