As March first is dad’s birthday I was touched to have the tribute which I wrote for him published in Keys to Living this past month. It has been almost nine years since dad stepped across the threshold into heaven but I am posting this as an encouragement to anyone passing through a time of grief or struggling in their relationship with a parent. The good news is that God is the perfect parent and helps us even when we don’t know that He is near:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
Dad never had the chance to take me fishing or hunting. We never went to the beach together and he never taught me how to ride a bike. In fact I had seen my father only twice before the day where we met face to face at family court room and a judge decided our future.
The judge’s ruling came with a signature on paper but building a relationship without the experience of years together was a battle. As a confused and often selfish teen I fought regularly with Dad about my long hair and the Vietnam War. But miraculously, six years later; there was Dad with Amy, my step-mom at my wedding. Just a year later they returned to hold our first-born son Chris and again two years later for our youngest, Ben.
As the boys grew older we shared picnics and church pews. Wonderfully we found that all the things we never had the chance of doing, we did together with Chris and Ben. We chuckled at Dad’s slow driving, silly jokes and gentle answers but we admired the faith that kept him going through years of caring for Amy as Parkinson’s slowly robbed her mind, and strength. He turned down outside help, because he felt that it was both his duty and privilege. Later after she passed into God’s presence, we couldn’t understand but had to accept that he chose to live alone. Alone, he never missed his church where he served as head usher and his well-worn Bible was continuously filled with notes and Bible study outlines.
When I wondered how he could do it all, I recalled a day he told me of a day during WW2. In his duties with an artillery battery. He explained that his duty was to calibrate the trajectory for each shell and on that morning as he checked over his coordinates he discovered to his horror that he had made a terrible mistake. Just as the gun was getting ready to fire he realized that the target range was far short of enemy lines and that American GI’s were in his gun’s sights. “Wait!” he called out, and the gun was not fired. Precious lives were spared. How strange that in the middle of war, Dad’s favorite memory was that he was able to save lives.
All of us miscalculate many things about life. Dad has helped me to discover that it is okay to own up to our own weaknesses and failures. Today my hope is no longer based on having a perfect situation or family. Today I sit in his chair and live in the house that once was his home and I am learning to trust in the Savior who guided Him safely home; recalibrated and right on target!