4 Thoughts As I Say Goodbye to My Dad

Today marks five years since my father died. I reread what I wrote in the days that followed, and had two thoughts. One...I still feel exactly the same way. Two...Someone needs to hear this. Maybe for the first time. Maybe again.

So...here you go...

As I write these words, it has been ten days since my father’s battle with cancer came to an end. I got the call at 7:10am on Friday, April 1st (no joke).

“We lost him.”

With those three words, the battle was over. We knew the end was coming. We had known since last June. Now the end was here.

He died sleeping peacefully in his own bed. (The way we all dream of going.)

He died mercifully. (Only a week earlier the doctor said the tumor had likely spread to his brain.)

He died happy. (After all, the last thing he ate was one of my wife’s chocolate chip cookies.)

As you might imagine, there is a vast array of emotions passing through my heart and mind.

Don’t worry, you are not about to read a blog-post-turned-6000-word-journal-entry. While there has certainly been a lot of feeling, there has also been quite a bit of thinking.

Thinking about how he lived life…and how I want to live life. Thinking about the parts I want to emulate, and truth-be-told, the parts I don’t.

You see, my relationship with my dad was, well, complicated. The first couple decades were close and wonderful. The last couple decades were…as I said…complicated.

In these last ten days, here are the thoughts that have bubbled to the surface of my mind (at least so far):

Play with your kids…a lot.

Many of my fondest childhood memories are of playing soccer. Every season – until junior high – my dad was also my coach. We would often stay late and kick the ball around. He would not only coach us. He would play with us.

Soccer. Tennis. Swimming. Ping Pong. Board games. The “Alphabet Game” on road trips. You name it. We played it.

I am striving to be that kind of dad to Sarah, Caleb, and Hannah. Coaching soccer (or basketball or baseball). Playing backyard volleyball or badminton. In fact, just last week, we were in the car and played the Alphabet Game.

It is so easy to forget to play.

Teaching, comforting, disciplining, inspiring, and providing for our children is important. So is playing. 

Work really hard…but remember to enjoy it.

In many ways, my dad worked too hard. That’s a topic for another blog post. For today, I want to learn from how he worked.

He deeply, authentically enjoyed his work.

It showed in the way he talked about work. It showed in the way he succeeded at his work. Even more so, it showed in the way the people who worked with him – and for him – enjoyed their work.

He worked hard, he celebrated the people he worked with, and he had fun. We should all do the same.

Make sure your faith is yours…not your parents’ (or anyone else’s).

Another phone call I remember vividly came on February 13, 1992. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it was the phone call that kicked off the year when my family fell apart.

What I thought was bedrock…was not. What I thought would always be there…eroded away over the ten months that followed.

When I received that phone call, I had been a youth pastor (my first “real job” out of college) for a whopping two whole months!

All I can say is I am forever grateful that Jesus solidified His place in my heart over the few years prior. If my faith was tied only to who my father was, I wouldn’t be who I am today (and you wouldn’t be reading this).

Too often we put more faith in the person who led us to Christ than we put in Christ himself. When that person’s faith falters, so does ours. If they walk away, so do we. And Jesus weeps.

Don’t ever wait to do the important stuff…ever.

As I said about several hundred words ago, we knew this day was coming. We just thought it was coming several months down the road.

I’m so glad I didn’t wait to visit.

A long weekend in November. Another trip in January, this time with my lovely bride, Kari. In fact, this picture of the three of us is the last picture I have of my dad.  

I only have it because I didn’t wait.

What are you waiting to do? What words are you waiting to say? With whom are you waiting to reconcile? What forgiveness are you waiting to grant?

Please – I beg you – stop reading and go. Go do it. Say it. Reconcile. Forgive.

After all, tomorrow you might get a phone call…

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