Today would have been my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 86 years old. I always believed firmly that he would live at least into his nineties, so on this date each year I feel as if someone and something special were stolen from my brothers and me. We each missed out on wise counsel that might have spared us pain, but even more so I have missed his presence in moments of pain and doubt. He was our father, and mentor. I miss him. He taught me faithfulness, enthusiasm, and love. He died thirteen years ago, from the horror known as pancreatic cancer. Dad, six inches taller than me, had seemed so healthy and strong. He lost eighty pounds in seven months of wonder. Those months we’re terrible, yet they were amazing. Cards written with love and gratitude flowed on daily from across the nation. A steady stream of visitors stopped by to wish him well, to pray, to ask for guidance one more time. Dad got to say goodbye, and we learned how his life had helped others. Dad had been a grocery cashier, a soldier, a high school teacher. For forty-eight years, he had preached about Jesus and for more than fifty years he had been married to our mother. Before I was born, they grieved together when my older brother died two days after he was born. Dad gave me glimpses of his grief at that loss, glimpses that helped me persevere when my older son died. Dad wanted his sons to believe as he did, but he did not want us to believe just because he did. He and I disagreed from time to time, but he lived, loved, taught, and mentored in a way that laid a foundation for faith that could endure if I built upon it. And when he spoke his last words to me two days before he died, he said with a sly grin, “See you later, son.” I miss him, but I look forward to that reunion.
God, thank you for the years of guidance and leadership you gave me through my father. In times of pain and loss, his faith and example motivated me to persevere. He served with an exuberance that I struggle to match, yet I hope that when my life ends, I will meet it with the confidence he did. He ran his race in a way that inspired me to follow him as he followed Christ. Thank you again, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.