Monday, August 26, 2013

My Dad

Tomorrow I'll be headed to South Carolina to wrap up things with my dad's possessions there. As a result, I've been thinking about my dad a lot once again. Its actually been difficult to do that with everything else that has happened since his death - leaving our home, leaving our church, my grandmother's death. These are all things that need to be grieved in their own right. As a result, they have made it difficult to grieve the loss of my father the way I need to. As difficult as I know this trip will be, there is part of me that welcomes it as an entry point back into the grieving process that has been stunted but remains just as necessary. The words below are what I shared at my dad's funeral back in June. 

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to say about my dad here today. I’ve pondered how to put into words who he was. What was his defining quality? What am I most thankful for about him? What will I remember most? I’m sure that many of you would think of his warmth and friendliness, his ability to strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone about anything, his free and joyous laughter. These are things I will remember as well.

But as I thought about what it was I would remember the most about him, I realized it was one very simple but profound thing: his love for me. My dad loved me with a tremendous and unconditional love. Whatever I did, he was proud of it and he made sure he told me he was proud of it. And not just as a kid either. Even as an adult, my dad was always telling me how much he loved me and how proud he was of me as a husband, a father, and a pastor. He was always there for me, always rooting for me, always hoping for the best for me even if it wasn’t what was best for him.

In some ways, that may seem a small thing and I confess that at times I may have even taken it for granted. After all, these are the kinds of things that good fathers are supposed to do. But then I remember that we live in a world where good fathers are in short supply. In this world where fathers are often absent or distant, mine was always present. In this world where children often strive for their father’s love and approval, mine lavished his willingly and graciously. In this world where a man might choose to do all kinds of other things, where he might choose to pour his energies and passions into a million other “more important” tasks, my father willfully and joyfully chose the humble task of loving his one and only son, of pouring everything he had into me.

By doing that, he gave me what may be the greatest gift of all. He gave me an earthly image of our heavenly Father: a Father who is always present with us and one who is always lavishing his love upon us. In his love for me, my dad embodied the love of a God who could have quite literally poured his energy and his passion into a million other things but who willfully and joyfully chooses the humble task of loving his sons and daughters.

If that is who God is, if we are right to call God “Father” as we Christians do, then I am tempted to believe that perhaps the way my dad spent his life was no small thing at all. Perhaps it was a far greater accomplishment than our world usually acknowledges. Mother Theresa is often quoted as saying something along the lines of “Don’t aspire to do great things. Only aspire to do small things with great love.” My dad isn’t one who will be remembered for any great accomplishments. He’s just another guy who loved his son and brought joy to the people around him but I believe it is in those very things that he has given us a glimpse into the very heart of God. I, for one, will be forever grateful that my dad did small things with great love.


zenda said...

I so truly agree with your letter and he was very special to all and to me he was my baby uncle, only 2 yrs older than me. Thanks for sharing your letter. Love, Zenda

Anonymous said...

I went to church with Gene for years when we were growing up. He was always friendly and nice to everyone. I am so glad he was able to visit WV this past year and see some of his friends. He was very proud of you and your family. He mentioned you a lot and you were very blessed to have had a father like him in your life. Thanks for sharing your letter. Pam

Anonymous said...

I was "the new kid" my junior year at FHS and your Dad was one of the first to welcome me and make a nervous and anxious teenager feel at ease in a new school. I have never forgot his kindness. I do look forward to seeing him and his warm smile some day. Linda Simmons Given