My father died on January 15, 2013 at the age of 74, a little over a year after being diagnosed with cancer. I wrote this about him and used it as the basis for my tribute to him at his funeral.
I had a great dad.
When you’re young, every little boy thinks his dad can do anything. But, as I got older I realized that in my dad’s case it was true. He was one of the most talented men I’ve ever known.
The Lord gifted him with a mind that could figure things out and I never knew him apply himself to a problem or something that needed fixing or something he wanted to build where he didn’t figure it out.
The variety of things he learned to do over the years is amazing. And not just to do them, but to excel at them. He learned to repair watches and became the one at his office who fixed the mechanical time pieces they used during that era. After watching the farrier shoe horses at my grandparents’ barn, he thought “I can do that” – and he was right. And so he learned to shoe horses.
He also learned photography even winning a couple of contests. He built a darkroom in our basement when I was a kid and learned to develop his own film. He learned to build furniture. We still have a beautiful doll cradle he made for our daughter when she was small.
After he retired he pursued a life-long dream and learned to fly an airplane and most recently he learned how to reload ammunition. And every one of these things, with the exception of flying a plane, he taught himself.
Even more than his talent, however, was the way he used it. Sure he enjoyed all these things but there was more to it than that. He saw his skills as a way to serve others. In fact, I think that’s the way dad showed his love to others best – through acts of service.
I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I asked him to help with some project whether it was a home repair issue or a pinewood derby car for the boys, he would always make time to help.
Over the years we’ve installed at least two hot water heaters, two dishwashers, a stove, a microwave, a toilet, put up wall paper, painted, tiled a back splash and installed ceiling fans and crown molding. In fact the last thing he helped me do was work on some crown molding for our upstairs bath. We needed some decorative molding boxes for the corners and he said “don’t go buy them; they’ll cost you $8 or $10 each. I’ll just make you some.” And he did and they were nicer than anything I could have bought.
And, not just for me. My sister could tell of the many times he helped her and her family as well. He also did this for people in the extended family, for friends, anyone who needed his help; he was willing to use his God-given talents to help others. This is one of the many ways he was a godly example for my sister and me and for his grandchildren, whom he loved dearly.
He was also a godly example in the way he treated my mother. For almost 53 years he was a faithful husband, generous and loving, caring for her in sickness and in health until they were parted, just as he promised. His biggest worry in his final days was not for himself but for mom. He told me several times while he still could “look after your mother.” And of course I promised him that I would.
So like I said, I had a great dad.
But more important than that, my dad had a great Savior.
Dad loved the Lord and he loved the Word of God and he loved to teach the Word of God. His hope was not in the things of this world but in Christ, the One who created the world. And because of that, even though we’re sad and we grieve, we don’t as the Apostle Paul said; grieve as those who have no hope.
The evening before he died, I was able to sit by his bed and read to him from the scriptures. I don’t know if he was able to hear me but my prayer is that he was and that he was comforted by the words he knew so well. The last passage I read to him is also one of the last in all of scripture – Revelation 21:1-7:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Dad has overcome. He has finished the race.
I love him and I’ll miss him – especially the next time something around the house breaks – but I’m so thankful for the years God graciously gave me with him and for the knowledge that one day, because we serve the same Lord, I’ll see him again – in a place where nothing is ever broken.