My Dad was a good man. Not a perfect man. Kindness was his calling card to everyone around him. The last time I saw my father he left me with a memory that will stay with me till I join him in eternity.
My last visit with Dad was a roller-coaster of emotions. He had made a remarkable and inspiring comeback from his devastating brain injury. I had talked to him on the phone! It was a moment so special that I will always be grateful to God for a chance to hear my Dad's voice one more time. But by the time I got back to his bedside about 10 days ago something had begun to go terribly wrong. He was less responsive. The words came sparingly and with difficulty.
Nonetheless, when I walked into the room Dad's eyes came alive and he grabbed my hand with an intensity that clearly communicated that he knew me. He stared at me and would often flash that special smile. But his words were few…mainly simple responses to my questions.
Our family had encountered one difficult employee at University Hospital (in Columbus, Ohio) and unfortunately, she was responsible for placing Dad into what we hoped would be successful rehab. But she had done nothing helpful and she had done nothing with a bad attitude. I will confess my frustration. I looked at (my Sister) Sherry as I held my Father's hand and said, "We don't have to take that crap!" To my surprise out of that shell that was my Dad came a very clear and loud response…"I taught you that!"
Yeah…you did teach me that Dad. And you taught me a whole lot more. You taught me that all of God's children are to be valued. That everyone is important and deserves to be treated with dignity. I remember you coming home from work and going to a place much like this funeral chapel to pay respects to the family of one of your employees. I didn't get that. I was selfish and wanted your time. I get it now.
You taught me the concept of grace. When I was in junior high I somehow manage to establish "credit" at a hobby store. I ran up a debt that was monumental in those days. When you found out I was terrified…but you taught me that grace means unmerited forgiveness for obvious guilt. You taught me there is a difference between mistakes of ignorance and willful wrongdoing. You taught me what forgiveness looks like….and what it means for someone to pay for your mistakes when it is undeserved. I got a little foretaste of how Jesus would pay a debt for me that I could not pay later on in my life.
You taught me that humor is a gift from God. That laughing at life and especially at your self makes it a whole lot easier to deal with daily frustrations. You taught me that you are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.
You weren't perfect. You worried a little too much. But as I often told you, you freed me of that burden because I always knew you had the worry part covered. We had some issues to work out. But we did…because I loved you and I knew you loved me.
You taught me a lot Dad. And I will be forever grateful. Perhaps most importantly, you taught me what it looks like to be ready to die. You taught me how to put your family at ease by clearly and consistently letting us know that you were ready to meet Jesus. You taught me what an incredible difference that knowledge makes to those who love you at moments like this.
God's Word consistently paints an image of God as our Father. Many people struggle with that picture because they can only relate to an angry, dominating or selfish father. I thank God that I was blessed with a father who gave me a clear image of how I can relate to God as my Heavenly Father.
There are two ways you can honor my Dad. First, take care of your eternal destiny today and share that news with those who love you. And make peace with anyone and everyone that you hold bitterness and anger toward. I would encourage you to leave this place and deal with those issues today. You do not know if you have a day, a week or a year, I never dreamed that my phone conversation on December 19th (2003) would be my last real time to talk to my Dad. But when I got the call about his changed condition I felt peace in my heart. I knew my Dad was sure about how I felt about him and I knew how he felt about me. I stand here today with no regrets. Everything that I needed to say to my Dad had been said. And I knew that he was ready to meet Jesus. Nothing would make my Dad happier than you following his example and make those same commitments today.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.