His final days were also beautiful because I was able to spend time with Dad's brother and sisters, most of whom I hadn't seen in several years. My Dad's siblings all strayed from the faith when they became adults so honestly, we didn't spend much time with them growing up because we didn't have that much in common. My Dad's brother and oldest sister have returned to the faith in the last few years and it was such a pleasure to talk with them about the fact that we will see Dad again one day when we all get to Heaven. Dad said throughout the last year that he has no idea how people who don't have faith in God make it through cancer treatment. The support of our church family has held us up not only the last year, but specifically these last few weeks. The last four days of Dad's life, my parents house was filled with not only family, but friends from their church and the Amish community that Dad became close to after he retired and started his Amish taxi service. The Amish came and sang hymns, and brought food and provided the meal for our family the night of Dad's visitation. They lined the outside of the church wall as the hearse and funeral processional left the church. The image of these simple people in their black suits and dresses paying their last respect to a man they so admired is something I will not forget. Dad was an Elder in his church and also lead several mission trips to Peru. He helped with the youth group for years and many young people stopped by or sent messages to Dad in those final few days.
|My Sister Kelly and Dad working construction at a Children's Home in Peru|
|Dad with some kids in Peru|
|As one life was ending, another was just beginning|
My father was a veteran of the Vietnam War, a fact that he rarely relayed to people. He never wanted to talk about that time in his life and would only say that people treated all the veterans coming home from that terrible conflict very badly. I was cleaning out some things a few years ago in my parents garage and found a plastic bag with a small case in it. I opened it up and found a Bronze Star medallion. "Dad," I said, "This is a Bronze Star." "Yeah," he said. "They were giving those things out during the war." And that's all he had to say about that subject. Dad did not want military honors at his funeral until the last few months. The VA has been tremendous throughout Dad's fight with cancer so he finally agreed to let us have military honors at the graveside service. The funeral home director suggested we have the active military do the honors (not retirees) and I'm so glad he did. The reverence that they brought to the service was unbelievable. I looked over at the funeral home director after the service man presented the flag to my mother and he was weeping. I realized this man has been to dozens, maybe even hundreds of funerals but to see a serviceman kneel before a widow and utter those precious words is something that should make every American weep. I asked Matt to video that part of the service as I knew it would be something we would treasure always.
Finally, we were able to video several clips of Dad talking about his life. Most are too private to share, but I did post this one because it's Dad relaying what was the most important thing to him, in his own words.
So many times in the last 2 weeks, I've want so badly to call Dad up and just hear his voice again. Each morning, I've want to just go back to bed and pull the covers over my head and not face another day without him. But I knew I couldn't. Dad's words to Praise God have echoed each day in my mind. Plus I know that Dad would never approve of me wasting a day. He was not one to sit around and do nothing and I have so many memories of our time working side by side on projects big and small. I'm so grateful that we had the time together that we had. I'm so grateful that we was there to walk me down the isle 13 years ago and that each of my children have been able to get to know him. I'm grateful for a father who knew he was not perfect but also knew he served a perfect God. So we cling to these memories as we walk through dark days of grief. But within each of those dark days, the light of Christ shines through and reminds us that though we weep for a time, our joy with last for eternity.