Earlier this week, on June 2nd, I quietly remembered the death of my father 37 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. A Friday, Dad died of pneumonia – one of the many complications of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer in the bone marrow. He lived a little more than 4 years after his diagnosis – which was almost unheard of back in the mid seventies. He was diagnosed back in 1974 the week before I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago. My plans for medical school went out the window and I started working in the office to try and hold the pieces together while Dad started chemotherapy.
His initial diagnosis indicated that the cancer was rather advanced and we thought he had about 6 months to live. Fortunately, he was one of the few that went into remission and lived more than 4 years and three months after his initial diagnosis. And while I thought that I was prepared for his death, it’s never the same when a parent actually dies. But I have already written extensively on the subject of my father, save one important detail that I find myself pondering this week.
That is to say, to the best of my knowledge, Dad was an atheist. When he was a young boy, he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, according to Grandma – but sometime in his life, he rejected his belief in Christ. He went to church with us and attended Sunday school, but I don’t think he believed in God. Back in those days, my faith wasn’t as strong as it is now, and on many occasions I have wondered if things could have been different if I had been a witness to him. But that didn’t happen and Dad, as far as I know, died without re-establishing his relationship with Christ.
I have beat myself up about the whole situation and that is pretty much in the past – I just didn’t know any better back then. And I remember Grandma wondering what heaven would be like without her son in heaven with her. I admit I have wondered about that myself.
But the thing that is different this year is that I actually woke up early on the morning of June 2nd and found myself praying. I don’t even think I was fully awake – I was in that half-awake almost dreamlike state that it is tough to recollect. But I was praying – praying that by some miracle that God had accepted Dad into heaven. Now there is always the chance that in his final moments, Dad rekindled his belief in Jesus, but I won’t know that during this lifetime. You can bet that it is on my list of questions for God when I finally get to heaven.
And in all the years that I have wondered about whether Dad is in heaven, I don’t think that I have ever asked God to consider letting Dad spend eternity with Him. I think I will be disappointed if he isn’t there when I arrive in heaven. Hopefully, Dad took Jesus up on His offer, the verse for tonight that is from the Gospel of Matthew, We are told, in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” My encouragement this evening is that God wants each of us to rest in His presence. My prayer, especially his night, is that Dad is in heaven and that your loved ones who have already passed away are also there. After all, salvation is the most important thing you can ever have. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…