I had the honor of officiating my Dad’s memorial/funeral service on Saturday May 1, 2021. The following is the message I shared with those in attendance.
Early in the week I had written out what I thought I wanted to say today, but at 4 o’clock this morning I woke up thinking about dad. I got up went to my dining room table, bawled my eyes out for a while, and then re-wrote some of what I wanted to share with you about the man I call Dad. The problem wasn’t with the words I had chosen, they were all true. The problem was that there simply aren’t enough of the right kinds of words for me to share that will capture who this man was to me. But pictures can speak thousands of words.
From my earliest memories as a human being, the chief desire of my heart was to be with my dad. I wanted to be near him. When my dad walked in the room, in my eyes he didn’t just light up the room. No, he lit up my heart. Life circumstances frustrated this desire to be with him. From the time I was 5 until 11 years-old it was every other weekend. But wow, every other Saturday morning was my favorite time of life, because I knew I was going to spend the weekend in the presence of greatness: my dad was coming to pick us up and spend the weekend together.
I know I don’t truly know all of the ways that dad shaped me as a human being. I do know that from the time I was a little boy I wanted his approval. I wanted him to be proud of me because he was my hero.
Even after I grew taller than him, I’ve still always been looking up at him.
So, when I met the love of my life and the time came for me to choose my best man, I don’t recall there being any debate about who my first choice was going to be. I mean, they must call it “best man” for a reason. So, I chose the best man I could think of…the man I always wanted by my side…Here are some words that describe my dad:
Hard Worker – Dad had, in my mind, an unrivaled work ethic. He told me that my grandpa instilled that in him. He worked from the time he was 11 years old until Parkinson’s would no longer let him. So, naturally when I went to live with him at 11 years old he began instilling this work ethic in me. Whether it was delivering newspapers or washing dishes at the restaurant, my dad made sure I was busy.
Spontaneous – Sue summed it up best over the weekend when she was holding his hands and said, “These hands have gotten me into so many messes.” Whether it was quitting his job of almost 20 years and moving the family to Georgia and going into the trucking business or buying a restaurant or remodeling a house, dad’s spontaneity allowed him to take risks that others wouldn’t take for fear of failing. But dad never seemed to fear failure.
Strong – His strength was demonstrated in so many ways, but maybe none more than the way he dealt with Parkinson’s. I never got the impression that he let Parkinson’s define him or defeat him. Not even in his last days. Dad didn’t make excuses. He met life’s challenges head on and with strength. It’s not that he never lost, but that I don’t know that my dad ever gave up on anything. He was a fighter.
Family Man – You look at all of these pictures on the wall and in the video and there is no doubt that dad loved his family. He would do anything for any of us. It didn’t matter if we got ourselves into a mess or did something that he didn’t agree with, he was there.
Funny – Dad loved to laugh and had a great sense of humor. A lot of times though his humor came out in the things he did…like walking around the house in his underwear and refusing to put pants on even when we had friends over…or chasing my sister’s boyfriend down the street with my baseball bat in his underwear in the middle of the night. Dad even managed to find humor in his Parkinson’s.
Teacher – I’m not sure he would describe himself as a teacher, but he sure taught me a lot about life and how to live it. Oftentimes he taught me through his positive example, but then at times he would tell me, “Son, I didn’t do that one right.” That’s the mark of a great teacher – one who can admit when he got it wrong and had to correct his work. I’ll never forget some of his lessons like, “Son, if you’re going to do something, do it right” and “Son, that mouth of yours is writing checks your butt can’t cash.” (Yeah, he said that to me A LOT!) I’m going to miss our weight loss challenge we had going on, which he totally won. He was so proud of the fact that he was losing weight and that all those years of working that “snickers bar and a diet coke” weight loss plan was paying off.
For all of these reasons and so many more my Dad will always be my BEST MAN! I’m going to miss him. I thank God for the gift that was my dad. He was a gift.
In my estimation there were 2 people that dramatically changed the course of my dad’s life. One was the Savior that he and I share, which I’ll talk about in a minute. The other person that changed his life was Martha Sue. As the song goes, God blessed the broken road that led him straight to you. Dad had some broken roads, but when he found you he found his soulmate. If there’s one over-riding lesson I think we can learn from my Dad and Sue it’s this: Love Overcomes. For nearly 40 years your love was tested in many ways and it overcame. Sue, thank you for loving my dad so well!
The other Person that dramatically altered the course of my dad’s life was his Savior, Jesus Christ. In 1986 my dad made a profession of faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior when he repented of his sins and believed that Christ paid the penalty and victoriously rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. My dad’s deepest desire was to see Jesus come, just like His disciples and all who love His appearing.
Take heed, watch and pray. For you do not know when the time will come.—Mark 13:33
The scriptures are faithful to tell us of the future, but friends, it is our responsibility to decide what happens in the uncertain days that lead up to that certain future. The Bible faithfully and truly predicts that death will come because death is a result of sin and sin is a reality for all of us. What it doesn’t predict is when death will come. In Mark 13 the followers of Jesus want to know the time of Jesus’ coming. Jesus tells them that it is not their business to know when is the time of His coming, but it is their business to prepare and be ready for His coming. Likewise, it is not our business to know the sum total of the number of our days on this side of heaven. It is our business to be ready for the certainty of what is to come. Should Jesus tarry in His return death will come to each of us just as it did to. Should Jesus return before our death the end result is the same, we certainly will meet our Creator and give an account to Him.
You’ve certainly heard the adage that says, “There are two certainties in life: death and taxes.” Well, I would agree that without a doubt half of that saying is very biblical. Death is certain because sin is real and so is the holy God, our Creator.
I suggest to you that the greatest uncertainty of life might just be the uncertainty of how many days we will live.
1. THE FACT OF LIFE’S UNCERTAINTY
Two related facts draw our attention:
1) The certainty of death.
Death is inevitable. We are born to die. The Bible teaches us that our end will come.
2) The nearness of death.
We all must die soon. How soon we cannot tell.
Some are called to account in the midst of their everyday life. My sister-in-law died in a car accident when she was 20. It is very doubtful that she woke up the morning of June 7, 1990 and thought, “This might be my last day.” She was taken suddenly. On the other hand, dad suffered nearly 20 years with Parkinson’s, a disease that over time sapped his physical abilities, but not his spirit.
So, the lesson that we learn from life and from Jesus’ words is this: we know the certainty that we will each one die. God has numbered all our days. But we don’t know that number. So, this uncertainty hangs over all of us. What are we to do with that uncertainty?
2. THE DUTY OF LIFE’S UNCERTAINTY
Jesus gives us this command in this verse: “Take heed.”
Friends, heaven is not a foregone conclusion. Many are heedless and unprepared to die. This heedlessness arises from—The absorbing nature of earthly riches. Idleness. Ignorance. Heedlessness will cause you to miss heaven. It will land you in the place of torment. Friend, don’t die in your sins. It doesn’t have to be that way. Take heed unto your soul! Let my dad’s decision to trust in Jesus Christ speak to you today. Consider the Savior he believed in and looked for. To take heed means to take care of the condition of your soul.
How does one do that? Cast your faith-filled gaze on Jesus, the Christ and believe that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life and receive Him as your Savior. His pardon from sin is both FULL and FREE. The pardon, forgiveness, is only received through faith in the truth that He is the spotless Lamb of God who, though He was not a sinner, suffered sins penalty which is death. He gave Himself over to death as a gift of grace to anyone who would look to Him and live.
He offers each of us a trade: He takes your sin and gives you His righteous perfections in return. It’s like a banking transaction. We each have a humanly insurmountable amount of debt that we owe to the God of glory against whom we have all sinned and fallen short. You go into a bank and you probably have some money in your account. But you go into heaven’s bank and none of us has a penny to our name. But we do owe a debt that we cannot pay. So, in this transaction you become right with God. We can’t get to heaven without Christ’s perfection. But you can’t buy His perfection, nor can you earn it by your own goodness. You must come poor in spirit, humble in heart, recognize that in the banks of heaven you are utterly bankrupt and cast yourself on the mercies of the God who loved you so much that Jesus paid His life’s blood to pay your sin debt in eternities bank. We can’t be heedless and receive His life and forgiveness. We must take heed.
In 1986 when my dad heard again the good news that Jesus saves, he took heed to his soul and put his faith in Jesus to forgive his sins and to give him eternal life. Jesus has done what was necessary to satisfy God’s wrath against sin, but you and I must take heed and trust Him so that we don’t fall into the judgment of God. God is now extending the invitation of mercy and that invitation is this:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” Isa. 55:1, 3a
Because my dad trusted in Christ as his Savior, he didn’t lose Sunday afternoon, he conquered. Dad was listening for the trumpet call, but Sunday, he beat the trumpet. Because he knew Jesus he didn’t lose, he simply graduated. What about you? Are you ready?