Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fly to Jesus (Eulogy Written for my Dad)

There is a poem by Linda Ellis that I have always liked, and I would like to share it with you.

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

The numerical difference between the numbers on both sides of Dad’s dash isn’t as long as we would have liked it to be, but Dad sure filled that dash.  He was so many things to so many people – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a pastor, a friend and an inspiration to many.  

A husband – Mom, you have been amazing, and I have such admiration and respect for you.  You have cared for Dad, have been by his side, and have shown him the depths of your love.  I am truly grateful for the ways in which you have taken care of my father and made his last days happier.  You have been devoted to making him more comfortable and have made it your mission to ensure his happiness in being surrounded by family and friends and to honor his wishes.  It’s hard to think of Mom without Dad, Linda without Wally, and that is a tribute to the bond and the love that you shared.  You were like one going through life hand in hand, even until the end.  I pray that God gives you the strength that you will need and that God will put His hand in yours and let you know how loved you are and what a blessed wife and woman you are.  Proverbs 31: 10-12 tells us " A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

          A father –I have to tell you that living with dad was a lot like living with God.  It seemed like he knew EVERYTHING, and what he didn't know, my sisters told him.  We didn't just get punished or a speaking to for our wrongdoings, we got sermons and Bible verses to read and learn and figure out how they could be applied to our particular transgression.  Parents always say that there is no textbook on how to be a parent, but my Dad used the Bible as his textbook for life: how to be a good Christian, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father, etc.  I still haven't found in the Bible where it said "Thou shalt not wear make-up until you are 16" or "Thou shalt not get your ears pierced until you are 18", but it must be in there in some form.  Dad has instilled in me and my siblings many of his own characteristics.  Some of us love basketball and football the way he did, although none of us have mastered the excited gesture he would do when his team was winning.  Some of us are stubborn and will debate to the end when we believe passionately that we are right.  Some of us are calm and listen the way he did so many times.  All of us are helpful and will rush to help when we are needed.  All of us love each other and although we don’t say it often enough, it is an unstated truth, and we are extremely loyal and would do anything for each other, even fight someone when we thought they said something bad about a sister.  We like to joke and kid each other, and sometimes in doing so, we hurt each other’s feelings.  We like to discuss who Dad’s favorite is, and though we have come to the conclusion that we all have had that coveted spot at one time or another in our lives, I must remind you that I will always be #1.

          A grandfather – Our children will have many memories of Grandpa and others that we will share with them as they grow older.  Grandpa used to like to hold the babies, particularly when they were fussy and soothe them with his sweet rendition of The Old Rugged Cross.  They always stopped crying, and we’re not sure if it’s because it was soothing or because they wanted him to stop singing.  Grandpa enjoyed cheering on his grandchildren at their baseball and softball games, football games and hockey games and enjoyed sitting in the audience at school concerts and band performances.  Grandpa liked when they were mischievous as he would smile a little mischievously himself and say, “This is fun because they are your kids.”  Grandpa made everything a little extra special just with his presence, and he loved you all so much.

A pastor – Grandpa works for God. That was the best way to explain Grandpa’s job to our children.  A few weeks ago, we sat in this very church as about 300 people gathered to share what my Dad’s Christian service has meant to them.  What a beautiful tribute to a man who spent his life sharing what was once shared with him – the love of God for us.  For 41 years my dad was a pastor.  He started 2 churches – one in Southbridge and then one in Dudley and then went on to pastor 2 different Worcester churches and then to have a pastoral role here at Faith Baptist.  And people came that day, not only from those churches but from community projects that he worked on and boards on which he served.  Dad touched people and left an impression, not only by the words preached from the pulpit, but by the godly life he led.

A friend – Looking around at all the faces here today, it is such a tribute to the person Dad was, to see all of you, some his parishioners, some his friends or both, as those went hand in hand with Dad.  Every single one of you has touched Dad’s life in some way, the same way that he has touched yours, and we are all richer just for having known him.  Dad loved his family and friends, and the times that he spent with all of you were treasured by him, especially when they involved coffee or potluck dinners.  And I thank God for all of you, for your prayers, your love, your concern and your friendship over the years and during this journey of Dad’s. 

         What an inspiration Dad has been – his strength and his faith will not be forgotten.  During his run with cancer, Dad often said, “How can I use my cancer to reach others for Jesus?” and when I cried that it wasn’t fair and questioned why, he told me that God had a plan.  We may not understand it or see it, but we are not to question God’s plan for us.  And how many of you got the medical updates my parents would regularly send where on more than one occasion, bad news would be followed by a pep talk from Dad or Mom with a Christian message and/or Bible verse.  How amazing is that!  Dad exhibited a faith and a hope that inspired and spoke to many.  So yes, Dad, you used your cancer to continue to reach others for Jesus.  

1 comment:

  1. Beth, this is so beautifully written and heartfelt. I love that I can read it in your voice, and I love that you stayed true to yourself. Loving. Sweet. Funny. I didn't know your dad, but I can only imagine that he was something special, as he raised YOU. Sending you lots of hugs and all my love, wishing I could do it in person. xoxoxoxo