Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Man Who Led Me to Christ Died This Morning

My 86 year-old father passed away this morning.

It's 5:30 in the morning and I'm up after receiving a call from one of my three older brothers.

It was swift for Dad. A few days ago he had a stroke that left him permanently unable to talk or swallow. When asked if he wanted a feeding tube, he indicated "No" via a hand-squeeze.

Without the ability to swallow the doctors said his lungs were filling up with his own mucus and saliva.

I went to bed last night knowing I would be attending a funeral soon.

Since my mother died when I was 18, this now leaves me without any parents.

Weird though, Im not sad or emotional....not yet. More relieved.

No surprise this life event has turned into a blog entry. After all, this entire site is dedicated to the topic of single dads.

I suppose you could say my father was a single dad, at least for a few months... until I left home for college.

I learned a lot about what not to do from how Dad handled being a widower. He married too soon after Moms death (less than a year later). Then he moved away from all of us to an obscure place that held no connection to us as a family. When Mom died there was nobody to keep our family rooted together. My brothers and I and Dad all drifted apart. Dad rarely asked questions about my job, my wife or my children. He was happy to see us, but most visits were miserably boring and un-relational. My four children never got to know him on an intimate level. He never sent them birthday cards or Christmas gifts. Their lives are lacking a potentially awesome relationship, because of his inability to know how to reach out, but they don't even know that. So it's okay.

On a positive note, Dad was the one who led me to Christ when I was only 6. He encouraged me when I felt God called me into ministry as a young man. He was the one who initiated sending me cards of encouragement during my divorce. He really stepped up there, for a season.

He told me once, that he was so glad I wasn't anything like my three older brothers. Im the creative/artsy one. He affirmed me for being different, despite a family that was largely unsupportive of creative endeavors. His words from that day still ring in my heart, "I was so glad you were different from my other sons. I was hoping for a boy like you." 

Dad was older by the time I was born. He seemed tired, sometimes grumpy. He never threw a ball with me or taught me who to work on my car. But I had the privilege of having a dad who was generous with his money. He would often take entire families from our church, out to eat. I had better things than my brothers had growing up.

Dad. I'm gonna miss you. You weren't perfect, but you loved God and led me in my early years as I learned to walk out my Christian faith. Now you are in heaven. I wonder what you're doing right now during your first hour of eternity. Are you walking with Jesus? Kneeling at his feet? Hugging Mom?

Your body is restored to a sinless state. What does that mean? Do you look anything like a human? Did you get your toes back that were lost to diabetes? Are you younger than me now? We can only guess at some of these things.

Love you Dad. I'll miss you. It's not really a goodbye, because I'll be there with you one day. In your own words to me as you tucked me into bed as a child, "See ya later, alligator."

"After while, crocodile."