Monday, December 14, 2015

Dear Dad

All the merry-hearted sigh…
Isaiah 24:7 (excerpt)
Dear Dad,
It’s been 41 years.  Hard to fathom.
December 14, 1974 wrecked my world when your faith suddenly became sight.  After your funeral, I walked away from the Christian faith.  At least I tried to; thankfully, God wouldn’t let me leave.  Despite a very challenging 10 or so years in the wilderness, He kept wooing me back with situations & with people (one of whom put this ring on my finger 31 ½ years ago).  So here I am, a walking, talking Christian who takes our shared faith very seriously, albeit one who’s still flawed & imperfect in so many ways.  Amazing grace indeed!
I’ve served our church in a few ways these past 26 years.  I even teach in our College Bible Fellowship now!  (You’d have called that “Sunday School”)  Unlike you, nursery work didn’t fit me.  But I LOVE teaching college students about the Gospel on Sunday mornings.
Dad, my life is great, despite myself.  I’ve blown it so many times in so many ways, but as you know better than I, God’s grace & presence are incredible.  I can’t wait to experience that fully there with you.
I’ve been missing you HARD for 41 years now, Dad.  As a guy wrote in a song some years ago, “I would give anything I own just to have you back again.”  But as true as that is, I’m equally certain you wouldn’t come back given the choice.  And looking through a glass darkly (as Paul wrote), I see that requesting your return would be NOT the best for you, just because of how indescribably awesome Heaven is.  Your arrival there didn’t improve Heaven nor make it sweeter.  But your departure sure made this world less so. 
Today—and every day—I’ll just be thankful for you & the life you lived & the faith you demonstrated before me for 15 ½ years of my life.  
Thanks, Dad, for giving me more “Daddying” in 15 ½ years than most get in a lifetime. 
Thanks for showing me how to love one woman & cherish her & honor her.  Thanks for working hard for your customers and for your family.  Thanks for having so much fun, and for bringing your family along for the ride.  Thanks for the ping-pong matches & pool games & basketball coaching & tennis matches & games of catch in the yard & card games & board games.  (I’ve never been able to switch hands & hit a tennis ball left-handed like you did, which is unfortunate since you may recall that my backhand was not great in my playing days.)  Thanks for being a good friend to the Hays & Huddleston families.  Thanks for the fishing trips to the pier on Okaloosa Island and the hunting trips to Central Alabama and the water-skiing lessons and the times sailing in the Bay behind the house.  Thanks for buying me my first-ever album—Peter, Paul, & Mary’s In the Wind—thereby launching me on a deep & abiding love of listening to a lot of types of music.  My two children inherited that love of music by the way. I still have that album by the way; it’s framed & in my home office.  Thanks for buying me a saxophone and getting Charles to give me lessons.  Thanks for being a “band parent” on all those Friday nights at Choctawhatchee HS.  (& Thursday nights at Meigs Jr. High too)  Thanks for all the travel, both the long trips like our Europe & Alaska trips—I’m still in awe that you drove us around Europe and that we drove all the way from FWB to Alaska & back!—and the weekend and nearby summer camping trips to Rocky Bayou & over to Pensacola.  Thanks for spanking me when you did; I definitely deserved more of them.  Thanks that it hurt you every time you had to give me one.  Thanks for tearing up when Jim or I would threaten to run away from home like knuckleheaded little boys sometimes do.  Thanks for laughing with us.  Thanks for letting us see you cry on occasion.  Thanks for teaching me to cherish family heritage and to thoroughly enjoy time with extended family.  Thanks for showing me how to honor your Mother; I’m working on honoring mine like you did yours.  Thanks for working in the three-year-old nursery all those years; I’m still astounded by that.  Thanks for honoring your pastor and church, & thereby showing me how to honor mine.  Thanks for being well ahead of the curve in terms of race relations.  Thanks for modeling excellence in business and grace toward customers and suppliers.  And everyone else, for that matter.  Thanks for giving me my first job with an actual paycheck.  Thanks for making us come help with inventory at the store.  Thanks for playing with Jim & me when you’d come home after work.  I still can’t decide whether that was more for Mom’s sanity or simply because you enjoyed time with your boys; I’m pretty sure it was both.  Thanks for the fact that your coworker Gabe would instantly cry when Mom, Jim, or I walked into the office supply store even 15-20 years after your passing.  That speaks volumes about what kind of boss you were.  Thanks that my family name is well-respected in northwest FL 41 years later not because of me, but because of you. 
Thanks for printing the poem “The Little Chap Who Follows Me” on the back of every business card you ever gave out for Madaris Printing & Office Supplies.  41 years later, I still get chill bumps—and a few tears—pulling your business card out of my drawer & reading it again (which I just did).  “A careful man I have to be…a little fellow follows me…”  Jim & I still follow, Dad.  I hope—I really hope—you’d be happy of how the last part of that poem looks in our lives: “I’m building for the years to be, the little chap who follows me.”
I love you, Dad, and miss you very hard.  Especially tonight, looking at the lights on the Christmas tree the night before the 41st anniversary of your homegoing.  I’ll be fine, Dad; really I will..but not today.
The Gospel that you believed & lived is the same Gospel Jim and I believe & live.  Jim & I speak often of the hope of Heaven; for you it’s no longer hope.  It’s reality!  As another song says, I can only imagine.  But one day, I won’t have to imagine it any more.  And I won’t have to long for another chat with you, for we can sit by the waves on that heavenly shore & talk.
I can’t wait!
Thanks again, Dad.  See you soon!
p.s. – There’s a new guy there named Jimmy.  He’s just been there a couple of months by our time.  Would you please thank him for filling in some of the gap in my soul left when your faith became sight?  I called him Papa, and I am missing him pretty hard this Christmas season too.  He raised your younger daughter-in-law Lisa, and he had a HUGE impact on me & on his other son-in-law these past 35 years.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces…
Isaiah 25:8a

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