My dad’s gone now. He died almost three years ago but he was missing long before then. No, he wasn’t an absent father who left his family. Those guys are part of the “biggest losers on the planet” group. My dad had Alzheimer’s. He didn’t know any of us when he died. This was especially hard for my mom. They were married for 68 years. During the last few years, his disease robbed her of the opportunity to share memories of life together with him.
Mom said some of their church friends asked her what he’d done to make God punish him in this way. Really? I don’t think God works that way. Yes, He allows trials in our life because they strengthen our faith. And He disciplines us when we sin. But He doesn’t punish us for sin. Punishment for sin happened when Jesus died on the cross. All our sin was punished then.
My dad spent most of his adult life serving in the church. He was an elder, deacon, church board member, high school youth group leader and he started the Awana program at our church. This was especially memorable for me. I was just a kid and fully enjoyed destroying the church basement during “game time”. I remember my dad, a kid in his own right, laughing as he watched us having a ball. At dad’s funeral, his pastor took me aside and told me in all his years as a pastor, my dad was the only person who ever went to the church board and reminded them it was important to give the pastor a pay increase. After all, he had a family too and the bills didn’t get any smaller each year.
By the time I realized he didn’t know me anymore it was too late to say the things I needed to say. Sure, I was an obedient son, and thanks to my wife, I “honored my father and mother” by writing tributes to them. Kathy and I traveled to Texas where the Chicago “snowbirds” spent winters and took my folks and several of their friends out to dinner. Just before dessert arrived I read the tributes. It was one of the most emotional and difficult things I’ve ever done. Somehow God gave me the voice and composure to get through it. My parents beamed with joy as I read.
But I need to tell dad I’m sorry for the times I was impatient with him as he struggled to find the right words to say. I need to thank him for being selfless and doing whatever he could to fix my car, the furnace, air conditioner, and anything else that needed a loving, caring, “handy” father’s hand. He would have done anything for me and often times I took him for granted. I’m sorry dad. Please forgive me.
I stood by his bedside in the nursing home the day he died. I asked everyone to leave the room so I could talk to him. There were no Hollywood endings. He didn’t suddenly wake up, look at me and speak my name. He didn’t squeeze my hand. He lay there struggling to breathe and I cried as I asked him to forgive my ingratitude and to thank him for being my dad. God doesn’t make mistakes. My dad was exactly what I needed and I know he was the best dad he could be. I just wish he’d been there at the end. I love you dad. I’ll see you again.