It was forty-three years ago yesterday that Dad died. It’s difficult to believe that I was 25 years old at the time and yet, with many memories of that day still fresh in my mind, it seems like a lifetime ago. Dad fought cancer for more than four years – having been diagnosed the week of my finals in university. I was scheduled to graduate early and Dad found out about his illness during the week of my finals.
My dreams of going on to medical school went out the window that day as it quickly became evident that Dad’s prognosis was not good and I would be expected to support the family after he passed. It wasn’t something new for me. I had been prepared since my earliest childhood to assume the leadership of the family some day. I was the oldest child and that was the expectation when I was a boy.
Putting my own plans aside was something I barely thought about at the time but to be honest, as I look back on those years, it would have been nice to do something more in keeping with my skills and calling. Thankfully, the family business flourished and Dad lived more than four years before he finally died.
I finally was able to pursue my own calling in the early 1980’s when Janet and I moved with our family to Indianapolis. It has been quite a ride since then – both ups and downs. And it wasn’t until I was in my mid-50’s that I really began to enjoy what I do.
But the most important thing that I have thought about throughout the years is whether Dad is in heaven or not. He believed in Christ at an early age but at some point in his journey, he left the faith and as far as I know he never regained his belief in the Lord. At times, I have felt guilty that I didn’t challenge him to renew his faith but then again, I didn’t have as strong a faith as I do now.
I know that God will accomplish His plans one way or another and the timing wasn’t right for me to press him back in those days. I thought all was lost but last year, during a very sad time, my hope was renewed that Dad might just have been heaven bound.
Our youngest brother, Ken, died last year on February 29th, right before everything was shut down with Covid. The day before he passed, Ken said that he had been speaking with Dad and Mom. They are both long gone and at first I wondered whether Ken was hallucinating. But I have learned enough about the dying process to know that it is not uncommon for people to have one foot in this world and one foot in heaven prior to death.
So it is entirely possible that Ken could have somehow connected with our parents. I know Ken was a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior – as was Mom. So if he really did communicate in some way with Dad, it gives me renewed hope that Dad reconciled with God prior to his death. I can’t think of anything that could be more important.
Doug and I were there when Ken passed to heaven, escorted into the presence of God, as we are told in the Scripture, by angels. In fact, he passed away as I finished my prayer that God would welcome him home. It was an emotional day – filled with sadness at the loss of a brother, yet hopeful that my biggest concern for more than 40 years may find Dad seated somewhere in heaven. It gave me more hope than I have ever felt before. Since that day, I have wondered what it was like for Mom (and maybe Dad) to be reunited with Ken for all eternity. Doug and I will miss him here but we will join him some day.
Our verse for tonight is from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul tells his audience, and us, in Romans 10:8-10, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants to spend eternity with us. He will do whatever He can to help make that happen. But in the end, it is up to each of us to profess our belief in Jesus – accepting the gift of eternal life. My prayer, quite clearly, is that Dad made that profession of faith and that I will see him again some day with the rest of our family that has gone before. We love you, and miss you, Dad.
Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…