Dad has been gone for a few years now, and I still miss him. Dad was a big baseball fan and always enjoyed it when I could call to tell him how our son had done in his recent game. Now I have a grandson who plays baseball pretty well. Several times I've started to pick up the phone to call Dad when my grandson had an especially good game before remembering I can't do that any more. He would have been proud.
Our mother had a stroke several years before she passed away that caused some serious problems on many levels. Dad chose to keep her at home and care for her needs even when they were pretty overwhelming at times. He taught me much about faithfulness and commitment during those years.
For much of my growing up years we lived on dairy farms which meant a lot of hard work for all of us. Small dairy farms did not provide much in the way of material possessions, but we learned the value of hard work and how to live well with little. A large garden provided much of our food in the summer, raising strawberries and picking wild blackberries gave us delicious fruit in season and jellies throughout the year, chickens provided the eggs we needed, a few hogs provided the pork, and of course we had plenty of milk to drink. Even towards the end of his life Dad could still work circles around me. If he ever complained about having to work so hard I never heard it.
One day as a small boy I went with Dad to the bank. I don't remember if he needed money to put out that year's crops or if he was buying more cows. What I do remember is that the banker gave him the money. I'm sure there was paperwork involved, but the only thing I remember was a handshake. I left there amazed that Dad could go into the bank and they would loan him money on a handshake. Later I needed a short-term personal loan to help fund a mission trip I was taking. While talking to a loan officer another officer in the bank who knew my Dad and me stepped into the room and said, "Give him whatever he needs." My mind went back to that day when I went with Dad to the bank, and I was thankful for his reputation and integrity and resolved to always live the same way.
Operating a dairy farm didn't make it easy for Dad to go to church a lot when I was growing up, and I don't remember a lot of "God-talk" in our home. Mom took us to church almost every Sunday, and Dad went when he could. Years later as a pastor I had the privilege of ordaining my father as a deacon of the church I pastored where he served for several years. It was one of the high points of my ministry.
Early one morning I went to a hospital where Dad was scheduled for heart surgery. I prayed with him in his room before the attendants came to get him. A nurse came in asking if he was nervous. Dad said, "No. The doctors think this surgery will be successful and I'll feel better than I've felt in a long time. If not, I'll be with Jesus. Either way I'll be OK." As he was being taken back to surgery I stopped and said one last time, "Dad, I love you." He squeezed my hand and said he loved me. He did not leave the hospital.
There are five of us kids, and each of us have our own memories of Dad. He impacted our lives in many different ways, but each of us feel fortunate to have had him as our father. I look forward to seeing him again.