Encouragement from the Word

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"
III John 1:4

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Life Well-Lived...A Tribute to my Father

Today is the 4th anniversary of my father's death of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was the the person I most admired and an invaluable example of Christ's love to me. I would like to share with you an article I wrote shortly after his death. I pray that it will inspire you and perhaps, in some way, strengthen your walk with the Lord.

A Life Well-Lived...A Tribute to my Father

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” Proverbs 22:1

 My father’s funeral was not like anything I could have ever imagined. There were over 500 people in attendance, many of them standing in line for over an hour to give us a hug and words of condolence after the funeral. We stood there smiling and nodding as a lifetime of friends and family paraded by, reviving fond memories of our childhood. It felt surreal as my mother, brothers and I stood there receiving words of comfort and thanking people for coming. Could my Dad really be gone? Was that lifeless body in the casket really him? Or would Dad come bouncing up to us any moment with a cup of coffee in his hand wondering what all the fuss was about? In fact, we knew that since my Dad was a Christian, he was already in heaven sitting at the feet of Jesus, free from pain and full of joy! But still, we couldn’t help but grieve for the one we missed so deeply. So, we stood there in the receiving line, tears brimming in our eyes, as our friends, neighbors, Sunday school teachers and childhood playmates passed by, each one expressing what an impact Dad had made on their lives.

From the time that we found out  my Dad had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, my mind would sometimes drift to what this day might be like. But, I couldn’t think of it without crying.  The whole idea was heartbreaking .The fact was, my Dad and I were like “two peas in a pod”. We had similar views on so many issues, political, spiritual, and cultural. I also have a personality much like my Dad’s… easygoing with a positive attitude most of the time, but yet, opinionated when it came to something we were passionate about. We always seemed to be on the same side of any family discussion and had the same persistent way of arguing a point. Dad was my friend, my mentor, my spiritual advisor and my inspiration. I remember spending many hours during high school and college talking with him about life as we walked around a little lake in our neighborhood. I’ll never forget those special times.

Dad began his battle with cancer back in 1998. For ten years he went through radiation and chemotherapy, trying some of the latest cancer drugs and seeking treatment at several cutting edge cancer centers. He handled the cancer treatments incredibly well and continued to take his yearly hunting trips out west with his brothers where he would out-hike his younger siblings through the rugged mountains hunting for elk and big horn sheep. My Dad believed in hard work and he continued doing physical labor until the very end of his life, which came ten years after he was diagnosed. He was 80 years old when he finally lost his battle with cancer.

From the size of the crowd at the funeral you would think that my Dad was a man  of wealth, power and influence. The funny thing is…he was just the opposite. He left this world with a very modest amount of money from his real estate business and had never been in a position of political influence. So why did he have such an impact on so many people? It’s simple. Besides being the ultimate “people person”… my dad lived a life of service, love and compassion for others. Dad always lived as though people and relationships were more important than material things and tried to impart this bit of wisdom to us, as well. He would never hesitate to stop and help a “down and out” person who needed food or clothing. Or to help a widow who needed work done around her house. Of course, his ultimate goal would be to share the gospel message with them. For he knew that the answer to any problem could be found in Jesus Christ and that a relationship with Christ was every man’s greatest need.

My Dad had a love for the gospel and a burden for the lost. He witnessed to many people over his lifetime and I’m sure was greeted at heaven’s gate by many of them. For the last 15 years of my Dad’s life, he was involved in Gideons International, a ministry whose mission is to see that God’s Word is distributed both locally and around the world. This ministry truly became his passion in his later years. He especially loved traveling to the various churches in the area to speak about Gideons and raise support for the ministry. My Dad even went on a mission trip to Columbia when he was 75 years old. One of my most treasured possessions is a picture of Dad handing a Bible to a Columbian man on the street as he shares the gospel with him via a translator.

My Dad was a wonderful father and gave us a happy and fulfilling childhood. He and Mom took us to church where we were involved in Sunday school, choir, missions programs, youth group, etc. Dad was a Sunday school teacher himself for 50 years and also served as a deacon in our church.  He was always there for the programs, plays, band concerts and sporting events. He spent years as a Little League coach and Scoutmaster. I also have fond memories of having my Dad escort me onto the football field as I was crowned homecoming queen at my  high school.

My Dad led us in family devotions as we were growing up and this was always a special time for me. I remember once when I was about nine years old and Dad had to go to the hospital due to chest pains. He sent a note home from the hospital for me that said, “Beth, please keep up with our family devotions for me while I am in the hospital. I love you. Dad ”. I remember crying as I read the note and then feeling so special that he had given me that important job. I treasured that note and still have it today.

Both my children and my brothers’ children have been greatly impacted by their grandfather, as well. While he was alive he spent lots of time with them hunting and fishing, building tree houses, getting haircuts and just riding around town. My children still talk about times when they were with their Grandpa as he handed out a tract or told someone about the Lord. They’ve also seen him help needy people on the side of the road many times by handing them money or giving them a ride. 

My father had an aeronautical engineering degree but ended up spending most of his working career as a real estate agent. He decided early on that he would much rather be out interacting with people than sitting at a drafting board all day. Even in his career my father was not out to “make a million bucks”. He was a conservative, honest businessman and again, put people first. I remember at the funeral, someone who had bought property from my Dad years ago remarked that my Dad was “the first honest real estate salesman he had ever met.” That was quite a compliment…although, I know there are many godly and upright real estate agents.  My Dad was certainly a man of integrity.

There is a verse that comes to mind when I think of my Dad and how he lived his life. It is Micah 6:8 “He has shown thee, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Years ago I actually adopted this as my "life verse" as well.

In the last few weeks of my father’s life as I thought of the actual funeral, I didn’t know how I could possibly get through it without completely breaking down. Well, not only did I make it through…I read a eulogy that I had prepared. The original plan was for my husband, Eric to read it for me because I couldn’t imagine being able to read it myself. But, God did an amazing thing on the morning of the funeral. When I woke up that day I began to pray to God for strength. I knew my mother would need me to be strong for her and I also felt that the eulogy was written from my heart and I was the one who could best convey to the crowd my feelings for my Dad. I felt an incredible calmness, peace and strength that could only have come from God. I knew then that I would be able to read it. The funeral was amazing. Dad’s pastor did a wonderful job of capturing who Dad was and what he was all about. My brother, a Marine Colonel at the time, spoke about “finishing well” which my Dad certainly did! And I was able to get through the eulogy without breaking down. I shared the gospel the best that I could, as I know Dad would have wanted. Many people told us what a moving ceremony it was and what a great testimony it was to my Dad’s life and to the Lord.

What is a life well-lived? It is a life that brings honor to God…a life that puts others first…a life that makes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ a priority…a life that passes on a Christian legacy to the next generation. We have but a moment to make an impact in this world…let’s make it a positive and meaningful one so that others may learn from our example and so that when we stand before the throne of God, he will say to us “Well done, thy good and faithful servant”.

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