This week, on June 2nd, marks 42 years since the death of my father back in 1978. And tomorrow, June 5th, is the 42nd anniversary of his funeral and burial. I have written about Dad many times, and how I thought that perhaps he died an atheist, but I have reason to now hope that this may not be the case.
As many of you know, my youngest brother, Ken, passed away on February 29th of this year and it has come to my attention that the day before he died, Ken spent a great portion of the day in “conversation” with our Dad. Now, many folks will attribute this to idle chatter or the ramblings of someone who was close to death and didn’t still have their full faculties intact. On the other hand, I have heard enough stories and witnessed enough in my ministerial life to believe that as people transition from this life to the next, strange things can happen.
A hospice nurse once told me that as people transition to heaven, they no longer have need of being completely grounded in this world. In fact, witnesses attest to the fact that believers can have one foot in this world and one foot in the next world – heaven… Of course, we don’t understand all the elements of the spiritual realm, but perhaps Ken was experiencing the beginnings of life in heaven prior to his physical death.
And what if he “saw” Dad and reconnected with our father after all these years. After all, there is no doubt in my mind that Ken was a believer in Jesus and so he is, undoubtedly, in heaven. Perhaps, just maybe, Dad accepted Christ as Lord and Savior prior to his death and he is, in fact, in heaven as well. And maybe, just maybe, Ken had the chance to converse with Dad prior to passing away on Feb. 29th of this year.
If nothing else, this gave me hope that there is a chance that Dad was a believer when he passed away. I do know that Dad had faith when be was a young man, but that he renounced his faith sometime prior to a surgery he had in Greece or Italy during WWII. He recounted the story many times but I don’t know for sure the circumstances surrounding his failure to belief in Christ after his initial surrender to God.
So, it is possible that both Dad and Ken are in heaven – along with Mom, who was definitely faith filled and a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior. And as I said on Mother’s Day, it is gratifying that Mom celebrated that day with one of her sons in heaven this year. I hope that will be the case on Father’s Day in several weeks with Ken and Dad as well.
Of course, I won’t know for sure until I get to heaven myself – and I am fine waiting for that event to happen. I still have much to do here… But it is comforting to at least consider that someday our nuclear family will be back together. And it is even more gratifying to know that our children and grandchildren are all believers in Jesus and I will never have to worry about whether I will eventually be with them in heaven.
I still appreciate the things that Dad taught me. He passed away when I was 25 and sometimes I wonder what else I could have learned from him if he was still here. He would have been 97 this year so it is possible that he could have still been living now if he hadn’t succumbed to cancer so many years ago. And I am thrilled that I am still around to be a husband, father and grandfather to the rest of the family. I know our children feel the same way.
Janet and I have greatly enjoyed watching our kids turn into the fine human beings that they have become. And we can say the same for our four grandchildren. Undoubtedly, we owe a debt of gratitude to our parents, all of whom greatly impacted our lives and helped us become the people we are today. We just lost them too soon, especially my folks.
It wasn’t always roses growing up in our family. My parents, in particular, were strict disciplinarians. I know that our own children sometimes wish that Janet and I had been more lenient, but that was not to be. And as our kids age, they seem to have a greater appreciation for the way we chose to raise them – not always, but most of the time. And life is good right now…
Our verse for tonight highlights a verse from Hebrews that speaks to the way we were raised. The author of this New Testament book tells us, in Hebrews 12:9-10, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”
My encouragement this evening is that our parents, for most of us, tried to raise us the best way they knew how. And for sure, God has tried to impact us in much the same way. My prayer is that we will accept the discipline of our parents and of God so that we can, indeed, be the best possible versions of ourselves. And who knows, maybe we will be surprised by some of the people we see again in heaven! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…