Yesterday I saw the picture of you and I that was taken last year on Father's Day. It brings tears to my eyes. It brings back memories of your mother when she developed the illness that you now have. I can honestly say I hate the disease of Alzheimer's and all its symptoms. The dad I knew and loved is gone. The dad who was boisterous, full of zeal, social, and so alive to life and people.
I just want you to know, dad, the disease doesn't make me love you any less. It only makes me look forward to the day we can visit again in heaven and you'll be free of illness forever.
Today, as we're headed to Father's Day you've been on my mind. I find myself walking back over the days of my youth and cherishing each moment that I had with you. I never realized when I was in my carefree youth how much I'd hold on to those moments in the future and go back over them again and again--like looking at precious snapshots that captured that moment in time.
I remember my birthday party in Lake St. Clair, Michigan. We lived above a garage very close to the lake. It must have been my 4th birthday. There was a little porch on the roof with fencing around it and we had my birthday out on that porch. I remember your acting silly and blowing on the noisemakers. It was a sweet memory of being the center of attention with my daddy being the one that was giving me all the attention that a second born could crave!
I remember the time you were laying in a windowseat reading your newspaper when I asked you to pray with me that I wouldn't go to hell. You laid your paper down, knelt down and prayed with me. I don't remember what you prayed--I do remember how much I loved my dad for calming my fears. While living in that same house I stood in the church you pastored and after hearing a guest speaker preach on Calvary I reached up and took your hand, prayed and asked the Lord to come into my heart and save me.
I remember prayer being a major part of our lives. You led us in prayer about almost everything--or so it seemed. One night you had us down by the couch praying for milk because we didn't have any. Our prayers were short and to the point. I thought yours wasn't ever going to end. While you were praying there was a knock on the door and to my amazement there stood our school principal with a gallon of milk under each arm.
"My parents cows gave too much milk today. Could you use some?"
"God heard my dad's prayers, He heard my dad!" Prayer has always been a major part of my spiritual health and I think it's no mistake that your prayers being answered probably laid the foundation to that part of my life.
I remember a night you gave me a good hard spanking and I was thinking in my head, "I hate him. I hate him!" Then after it was over you said, "Now come here, honey." and you wanted to hug me and tell me you loved me. Those hateful thoughts instantly changed to, "I don't hate him. I don't hate him."
I remember your taking me on a "date" with you. Isn't it strange how every detail of something like that sticks in our mind? I know the exact spot where the little corner cafe sat where we stopped to have a soft drink together. It was a greasy spoon cafe on Highway 67between Albany and Muncie, Indiana. I felt so big sitting at that counter with my dad. After that you took me to a store and bought me a Bible story book. I kept it for years and years and somehow it got lost in one of our moves. But if it ever shows up I remember writing on the front flap the date. It was a memorable night for a little girl to be with her dad.
I remember the hikes we took when we lived out north of Parker. As we marched down the road you would make us do cadence marching to the words:
"You had a good home but you left-right, left-right...
you had a good home but you left-right, left-right, left-right, left!"
We would end up under the bridge sitting on the cement shelving cooling off, swinging our legs, and seeing who could spit the farthest. (Why do I remember that Kristi always won?" :)
I remember you taking the time to talk to us about dating lost boys. You gave me a magazine from Back to the Bible that followed the life of a young woman and her letters to one of the preachers. First, she was going to change him, next he promised he would come to church with her after they got married, and then the sorrow of their married life when he became a drunkard and a wife-beater. I was thoroughly convinced and that was one sin that held no temptation for me. Your spending time to show me the Bible and give me someone's testimony had a lasting impact on me.
I remember my tumultous teen years when I felt I could not get you to understand me. I read a book by Richard DeHaan about teens that greatly affected me. However, I couldn't seem to get you to discuss my teen troubles. I wrote you a long letter and left it on your car seat. When I came out of work that night you were waiting in the car and we had our talk.
I remember calling you from my home after I was married and had four kids to tell you how sorry I was I didn't honor you more and obey you more. I was sorry for hurting your ministry by being a rebellious teen so many times. I was heart broken and you told me I'd been forgiven long ago for anything that had hurt you. I was so distressed over it that I kept calling you and you finally said, "Now Tami, the cat's dead. Go bury it and don't leave the tail out so you can keep checking it to make sure if it's dead." Those words often echo in my memory and I often have to repeat them to myself when I need your wise advice once again.
I remember calling your house to talk about spiritual things and you always had the time. You always stopped what you were doing to talk to me. When I went through the deep, deep valley of depression you kept telling me to "Look up--not in.". You would quote scripture and remind me that if I looked in it would get dirtier and darker but if I looked up it would pull me out of the darkness.
When I had a terrible week you and mother packed your things and came over to stay with me. I remember you laying your hands on me and praying for me over and over. Each time you did that the depression would ease. What love a sacrifice.
I remember asking the Lord to please not take you and mother from me because I knew you wouldn't fail to pray for me when others did. Shortly after that she went to heaven and not too long after that Alzheimer's began claiming you. I have made it without you on the other end of the phone but I haven't made it without hearing so many things you've said and taught going through my mind and being so thankful for the dad I was given.
Dearest dad, what a wonderful legacy and heritage you bestowed on me. You weren't perfect, you actually were impulsive, quick to move, slow to listen and you didn't fit the manuals that have been written on how to be the perfect dad. I remember during one of my rebellious times (and after focusing on your imperfections) I decided I was going to show you by going into total rebellion. I took a walk and as I walked around and around the block fussing and fuming at you I knew beyond any doubt you had David's perfect heart. With all your heart you desired to please and obey the Lord and to the best of your ability you were fathering us in obedience to the Lord. I couldn't follow through on my threat once I admitted that.
If I had listened to you and obeyed you I wouldn't have many of the scars I do have. I can't think of any advice you gave me that wasn't absolutely true. I just didn't like your delivery and used that as an excuse to sin. Any place you didn't "measure up" Christ would have filled in the empty spots. It wasn't your failure--it was my failure to fully depend on the Lord to meet my needs.
I wish you could read this and comprehend how very, very much I love you and how grateful I am for you. You truly are a modern-day spiritual hero, one of the giants we should try to emulate and follow their footsteps. I have often asked the Lord for your fearlessness in witnessing and your total unawareness of what negative things people thought or said about your love for the Lord and your Christian life. I also covet the zeal you always had toward the Lord's people and the Lord's work. Thank you so much for being my dad.
Since you can't read this I want to honor you before others and let the whole world know what a wonderful dad I have. I love you, daddy!
Happy Father's Day!