My earthly father passed away om February 13, 1998. Certainly I miss him very much. He never had the chance to meet my youngest one, or my wife Mary Anne. He wasn't there for high school and college graduations - he missed a lot, and we missed having him there.
I have written about him a few times in the past. HERE is the story of his illness and death due to cancer. HERE is a little about him on Memorial Day. HERE is a blog I wrote to remember him.
I had the honor of speaking about my dad at his funeral. Due to his illness, we had some time - some good time together. The Lord gave me a wonderful perspective of his life. There were a lot of not so good times, so seeing the Lord's hand - actually using my dad's life to show me His character was surprising.
As I stood at the little podium in a Brattleboro funeral home; my daughter Erin giving me a pinky hug, here is what I said.
I know most of you know my dad as Bob, some of you know him as Robert and a select four of us call him dad. Dad was a very unique and interesting man. A man’s man, a veteran, a fisherman with a fish story or two, and a compulsive tinkerer. He was talented mechanically. Bob, Bob could fix almost anything. He just needed a Sunday afternoon and a can of beer or two. He could run an electrical switch, solder a pipe joint, fix the sink, and put a fan belt on the car. He was a man who loved his machines. The boat, the ‘65 Mustang, the lawn tractor, and in his later years his 30-06, the chain saw and his pool. He had an endless love for machines. He had a similar love for football and baseball.
Although he held people at arms length, he had many friends. Most of them loved his kind of quiet gentle nature. When he retired from his first job in the seventies, I was there and everyone cheered him on. Everyone loved him. As an adolescent I had the customary trouble most kids have. My Dad and I were at odds from time to time. Most of the time he just let me be me.
Although he never said it, I found out he was proud of his children. It seemed he might even be more proud of his grandchildren. There were a lot of things he never said. I remember the first time in my adult life he said, “I love you son.” I was 33. I know there were times when he felt it, but he never said it. He kept so much to himself. It was part of who he was.
He was quite a guy though; he watched me fail over and over in life and never said a word. He would just ask if I saw the Patriots play last night. When I did succeed he told everyone he knew. There were so many times when someone would say “your dad is so proud of you.”
I guess at every funeral we spend time repeating the fond memories that we have. And I confess, I have a few of those my self. The day dad took me fishing without my brothers, the time he took us to the Fireman’s Carnival - and there was the water skiing and motorcycles. He helped me with my cars. He came to my wedding and never missed sending the girls a Christmas gift. Even this Christmas, there were gifts with his name on them.
I hope that you all have fond memories of my dad. I have one more. I remember how mad I thought he was going to be when I broke the neighbor’s window. Dad did something that surprised me, he paid the neighbor the price of the repair and never mentioned again. That was a way that he showed me his love.
So as we remember him today I want to tell you about the last few months we had together. They were more special than the all the years before.
When we got the first news of his illness I came to
with my two daughters. We didn't know how bad it was but we wanted to make some memories just in case. My 6-year-old Vermont Erin wrapped up her favorite plaque to give him. She used lots of paper and tons of tape. She even had to help him open it.
She had him read it to her. It was about God and his love for us. Shortly after that time dad gave his life to Jesus while my brother Lee was at his bedside. I was at the beach praying for him and a message came over my pager. It said DAD DARTMOUTH HOSPITAL BORN AGAIN. That was on June 27,1997 at 3:42 PM. As a Christian I believe that being born again is essential for spending eternity in Heaven. At that moment my relationship with dad changed. Every time we spoke he told me that he loved me. He came to spend a week with us down on
Cape Cod. We watched football and baseball. We had lunch together on the harbor. We went to the beach and watched the waves. He told me that my mom was a good friend and his wife was a good woman.
We talked about love and fear, faith and hope. He came to church with me and it didn't fall down. He went forward for prayer and he told me how much better he felt after. We talked and held hands. We laughed together. He tried to help me with my new home. “You know I would have done it that way” he said looking at some rough wiring in the newly framed second floor. He said he was proud of me. And those girls he said. Quite a hand full?
A few months later my mother brought dad to church
where Lee and I played music together. After Lee preached the sermon Dad came up for prayer. Again he told me that he felt better. After that we had lunch and talked and he teased the grand children. A few more months of calls and I love you’s and then the news of the last months of life. Springfield
As I prayed that morning around 5:30 AM God told me that he was not going to heal my dad. He told me that he wanted dad’s death to be sign to his family that He is real. God wanted you all to know that He loves you and that my Dad was to be in heaven with Him. He also wanted me to take a minute and pray with you all. If you’ll bow your heads for a moment I’d like to do that...