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Memories of Dad…

It was 46 years ago today, June 2, 1978, when Dad died. It was a Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. and I was in route back to the hospital, returning there after driving home in the late afternoon to pick up Janet. We were on the tollway, Route 294, on the west side of Chicago traveling north to Lutheran General Hospital where Dad was an inpatient. Casually, I turned to Janet and announced that there wasn’t a rush as Dad had just died… I don’t know how I knew, but I did… I noted the time and, sure enough, when we got to the hospital, they confirmed that my announcement to Janet was at exactly the same time that Dad passed away.

We entered his room and said our goodbyes before they removed him. We had said everything that we had to say to each other and I had a clear conscience about how things had gone earlier in the day. Dad’s cancer had re-occurred a week earlier. He had a choice – live 30 days and then pass away; or take an experimental drug that could put him in remission again – but if it failed, he would be gone within a week. Yep, that’s the plan he decided on and he lasted exactly one week.

I had been trained more than four years to take over the business and even with all that training, I remember the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness that I had when the time came for me to actually take over. When we finally arrived at the funeral home, we entered the rear of the room and each time I took a step toward the front, I experienced a weird sensation. Almost like lights turning on in my brain… Dad’s teachings came back to me and by the time I was standing in front on his casket, my brain was on fire recalling the thousands of things that he had taught me the previous four years. I was as ready as I ever would be to step up for the family.

I am the oldest child and I had been raised in such a way as to make sure that I took care of my mother and younger brothers when the time came. The time was now…. I remember how Dad used to love to play with Kristin who was almost three when Dad died. Jill has no memories whatsoever – she was only six months old. And Andrew wouldn’t be born for another three years. My, how time has flown by.

Now Kristin, Jill and Andrew are all middle aged with their own careers. Jill and Kristin have families and last year, Janet and I celebrated fifty years of marriage. We have endured health crises, periodic financial setbacks throughout the years and have been fortunate enough to travel a good part of the world.  Yet, I still balance bank statements each month the way Dad taught me. I still trim the iris around Memorial Day while listening to the Indy 500 with Andrew as Dad with me and I still practice many of the other things that Dad taught me.

I’m sixteen years older than Dad was when he passed away. He only made it to 55. And Mom and Dad only had 30 years of marriage together. Doug and I buried our youngest brother, Ken, four years ago; something else that I really never thought would happen. So now Doug and I are all that is left of our nuclear family.

I’m grateful for the time that I had with my father, even if it wasn’t long enough. I have friends in their sixties and early seventies who still have one or both of their parents. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But the lessons I learned and habits that I developed are still with me – and I am grateful for that. In fact, I have tried to pass them on to our children.

Our verse for tonight comes from King Solomon and his book of Proverbs. He tells us about mothers and fathers in Proverbs 23:22-25, when Solomon, the wisest man on earth, tells us, “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!”

I certainly want to believe that Dad and Mom would be proud of the way that Doug and I have led our lives. We both have families and have maintained the ethics and sound thinking that we learned from our parents. Of course, there are things that each of us could have done better. But we still have each other and we complement one another. My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to remember the great things that we have been taught by others throughout our lives – especially if we were fortunate enough to have some good role models. My prayer is that Dad is safely in heaven, in the presence of God, having been reunited with Mom and our youngest brother, Ken. Furthermore, I pray that Doug and I have many years left to celebrate as brothers. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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