The Day Dad Cried…
I didn’t grow up in a family that easily displayed their emotions. I don’t ever remember my father and mother holding hands and, in fact, never even saw them display any kind of emotional closeness. Well, that is except for the annual peck on the cheek that my brothers and I witnessed on Christmas morning as Mom acknowledged her presents from Dad as we all opened our gifts.
I think that came from the fact that neither set of my grandparents displayed any kind of emotion, either. In fact, when Dad was little, he told us that his own father wouldn’t even come out of the bedroom on Christmas morning to open presents – I guess he was kind of a curmudgeon. I think Mom and Dad did the best they could but it was clear that they just didn’t know how to display emotions – and back in the 1960’s it really wasn’t accepted that there should be such public displays.
I also have to admit that, especially in the early years of my marriage to Janet, it was difficult for me to show any kind of emotion. As the years have passed, though, I find that I care less about what other people think and I find great enjoyment in holding hands with Janet as we walk down the street; or help one another when one of us is in need. I have never asked our kids whether they thought we were a demonstrative family, but I think I know what they would say – that we could do better in that department.
But I digress… It was 55 years ago yesterday, on January 13, 1966, that my paternal grandfather died. He suffered from dementia and was living in a nursing home after it became too difficult for him to stay at home with Grandma. Somehow, he wandered away, without a coat, caught pneumonia and died several days later. He was the first of my grandparents to pass away and since we didn’t live very close to them, I didn’t know Grandma and Grandpa as well as our cousins did.
I know that Dad loved his mother, but I never really heard him profess his feelings for his Dad. Even though they worked together for years in the same family business, Dad didn’t really spend lots of time with his father and spoke far more about one or two of the other male role models he was fortunate to have worked with.
On January 14, 1966, we went up to the funeral home with the rest of the family to view Grandpa’s open casket. Whether it was the sight of his deceased father, or the fact that Dad’s nuclear family was all there, Dad broke down and started sobbing… I had never seen my Dad cry – ever – and here I was invading what was very clearly an intensely private moment. I remember Dad pulling out his handkerchief and wiping the tears from his face. He just couldn’t stop crying. I even remember the way his two older brothers reacted. His oldest brother left the room – he didn’t want to see his father laying in a casket. And Dad’s middle brother was rather stoic and was clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation. Of course, I don’t know how either of my uncles mourned in private.
But Dad’s emotions were evident… he was heartbroken at the loss of his father. I was stunned – I didn’t expect this – and I started crying as well. It’s not that I was close to my grandfather, but I couldn’t belief the waves of grief that my own father was experiencing and I don’t think I have ever witnessed another human being so overcome with the loss of someone – before or since. As you can tell, I still remember this event as if it happened yesterday. It has followed me throughout my life…
Since then, I have lost my other three grandparents as well as Mom and Dad. Last February 29th, Doug and I even lost our youngest brother, Ken. So here I sit, recalling this anniversary every January 14th, even though it is more than a half century ago.
As we try and celebrate life at funerals, many times there is deep sadness as we realize the loss that we have experienced. Something inside tells us that life will never be the same and we grieve. But God tells us that eventually, this won’t be the case. In our verse for tonight, the apostle John tells us that God has a plan that will change all that. In fact John tells us in his book of Revelation, in Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Another of John’s verses is probably more familiar to most of us. He tells us, near the end of Revelation, in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
When the promises of God play out in the new heaven and new earth, we will not experience sorrow. The old things will have passed away and God will make everything new. My encouragement tonight is that God knows that we suffer losses in our lives – but we have His promise that we will experience great joy with Him. My prayer is that we will celebrate the lives of the people we lose until we are reunited with them in heaven. And that’s another reason that we need to make sure that we are right with God and that we have accepted His gift of eternal life. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…