It is hard for me to believe that it has been 18 years since I’ve seen my dad. Prior to his passing, I traveled from my home to be with him for nearly a week while he was in the hospital. After the week, I returned home to my family, Dad was released from the hospital and then he unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. While I was overwhelmingly sad, I also felt a relief for him. He had lived with extreme and constant pain for nearly 35 years. He was released from that pain, but with losing him, my pain was just beginning.
Dad was a man that some described as the “strong, silent type” or a “gentle giant.” While he had no medals, no title, and no money, I would describe my dad as a hero. By his life and example, he taught lessons that made a life long impression on me.
Here are a few of those lessons:
- Don’t complain about your circumstances. When I was two years old, my dad was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just like his dad before him. My grandfather dealt with his pain by being bitter and hateful to everyone around him. My father learned from that and never made his pain a burden on others (Philippians 2:14).
- Appreciate what others do for you. Walking, getting up and down from his chair… so many things that we take for granted were hard for dad to do. When Mom or anyone else did something for him, he was always appreciative. When my sister or I baked sweet treats, he bragged on us and made us feel so appreciated (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Education is important. My dad had to drop out of high school in the 9th grade to help support his family. While he never completed a formal education, he was a life long learner. Every Monday night after dinner, he would go to the public library to check out stacks of books. He had a special interest in history, Louis L’amour westerns, and the Bible (Proverbs 18:15).
- Follow truth and not the tradition of your family. When my sister was born, my parents decided that they wanted her raised in church, but they were not sure where they should go. Dad’s family had their beliefs and my mom’s family had theirs. When dad’s mother-in-law began sharing her faith with him and his mother shared hers, dad examined what they said against what the Bible said. Ultimately, he discovered that what his mother-in-law was saying was biblically correct. His mother was hurt, but dad knew that all that matters is what the Scripture teaches (John 8:32).
- You can overcome your upbringing. Dad never talked about his dad or family to me. I knew he loved and respected his mother and sister, but he was silent about his dad and some other family members. While doing genealogy work in the past few years, I discovered some reasons. Stories of physical abuse, verbal abuse, and alcoholism surfaced. Dad wanted nothing to do with that way of life (Philippians 3:13-14).
- Family needs come before your own needs. My sister remembers the summer she started school. My parents wanted her school experience to get off on the right foot. Though they had very little, they bought her 5 new school dresses, underclothes, socks and shoes. She remembers feeling so rich with all her beautiful new dresses. A little later while sitting in church, she saw dad cross his leg and mom tapping him to put it down. What she saw was the bottom of dad’s shoe that was worn completely through with his sock showing. While my sister sat there feeling so rich, she was keenly aware that dad had the shoes of a poor man. Giving the best he could for his little girl was more important than his own needs (Philippians 2:3).
- Bible questions deserve Bible answers. When I was in high school, I started doing my own Bible reading and study. Before I went to bed, I would read chapters and make notes on passages or words that I didn’t understand. The following morning before school, dad would be at the breakfast table. There I would ask my questions from the previous night’s study. Dad didn’t feel the need to make up an answer just to look like he knew it all. He studied the Scriptures daily so that he could give me Bible answers to my Bible questions (1 Peter 3:15).
There are so many children growing up in homes where the father is weak, disinterested, abusive, or completely absent. I realize how truly thankful I am to have had a dad that loved my sister and me, adored our mother, and most importantly loved God throughout his life. He made me feel important and as if I could do anything. He showed me what kind of man I would want to marry. While I would never want to bring him back to the pain and suffering he experienced in this life, I am very much looking forward to the reunion we will have one day!