Someday the silver cord will break
And I no more, as now shall sing
But oh, what joy when I awake
Within the palace of the King…
How often I’d hear my father belt out those beautiful words at the top of his voice, bellowing along with the baritone of Tennessee Ernie Ford on the phonograph. The scene was typical of my boyhood home. Early Sunday morning—long before any of his children were willing to rise—our Dad would be hard at work, polishing 7 pairs of shoes for church. He’d “set up shop” on the cellar steps with the basement door wide open, that Pop might hear the music from the parlor stereo and sing along, as he toiled away. At his side—from smallest to largest—the shoes would be positioned on every step, seemingly “walking” up the staircase, each awaiting its turn to shine. One by one, Mom and her 5 kids would awaken to this sweet symphony, wandering through the kitchen to the top of the landing, where our gleaming Buster Browns were soon ready to be claimed.
Fast-forward some 4 decades, and we might polish our shoes once or twice a year, ‘round my house. It’s a task that ranks somewhere south of clearing out the downspouts on the old “to-do” list! But what might have seemed a mundane chore to most, was something very different to my Dad: it was an opportunity to serve. Such thoughtful gestures were how my father said, “I love you.” Dad’s was a generation of men largely unwilling or unable to offer a fond embrace, or an encouraging word. Instead, their love was conveyed through their hard work, their fine example, and their good name. I hope my Pop knew that—no matter how he tried to communicate it—I “heard” his message of love, loud and clear.
The silver cord finally broke for my father on September 17th. Our sovereign God—in His trademark fashion—seemed to “turn the tables” in Dad’s last weeks. The strong, faithful servant that so often carried and protected his family was rendered helpless and fully dependent by the cancer that ravaged his body and brain. Suddenly, my mother and her 4 remaining children were afforded the privilege and responsibility of seeing to our father’s every need. It was a tiny, but significant opportunity to say “thank you” for a lifetime of love and care. Before Dad slipped away, I was able to confirm with certainty that he had received the precious, free gift of new life in Christ. Weak as he was, it turns out, my father finished strong. I’ll see him again for sure, and will have an eternity to show Dad just how much I love him.
Maybe I’ll start by shining his shoes.
Some day, ‘til then I’ll watch and wait
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright
That when my Savior ope’s the gate
My soul to Him might take its flight.*
*Saved by Grace, Fanny Crosby/George C. Stebbins, copyright public domain