|A farewell salute from a grandson|
It is a rare man who can live his life with no regrets. My father was not a rare man; he was a common man. He was born into a humble home, received a humble education, chose a humble career, and in the last weeks of his life, because he was a humble man, he expressed regret that he had not been a better husband, a better father, a better servant to his Savior.
But many of us here today see him differently than he saw himself.
On one of my visits to Mom and Dad after I had moved away, as I was sitting at their dining room table one morning eating my breakfast, a German Shepherd from a house down the street came trotting up the sidewalk to wait at the back gate until my dad went out to give him his doggie bone. Just like every other morning, he knew my dad would come. Later, as I stood at the sink washing dishes, I looked up to see a dozen wild pigeons lined up on the fence staring me down through the kitchen window. They were waiting for my dad to scatter seed for their breakfast. Just like every other morning, they knew he would come. Dad also fed many of the feral cats in the neighborhood and even turned a couple of them into house pets. He loved taking care of those animals.
His kindness, however, was not limited to the animals of the neighborhood. Years ago, when my aunt's sister and brother-in-law were killed in a car accident, Mom and Dad took their son into their home for a year while he finished school. When my uncle was out of work, Dad helped their struggling family with money and groceries, and when my uncle died he took care of his widow.
My father was characterized by a quiet compassion and kindness, but what I admire most about him is his faithfulness.
If you were here for our mother's memorial in November, you will have heard us mention that she was plagued most of her young adult life by the disease of manic-depression, now known as bi-polar disorder. When Mom was first hospitalized for the disease, Dad was left with six little children to care for. He looked into getting help from the State but was told that we would be split up into foster homes. It was, for him, an unthinkable solution to his dilemma, so he sent the three youngest to stay for a year with my aunt and uncle who lived a few blocks away. It broke his heart to do it and he carried that anguish with him the rest of his life. I have always honored him for his decision because it kept us together in a way that, otherwise, would not have been possible.
I know that, sometimes, he would have liked to run away from the heavy burdens that had been placed on his shoulders--there are many men who would have--but he never did. He stayed and gave us story nights with a dime store toy under our pillows at the end of it. He stayed and wrestled with us--six to one--on the livingroom floor. He bought the Christmas and birthday presents. He took us camping in the summer, to the State Fair in the fall, snow-tubing on the mountain in the winter and to church every single Sunday. He bought candy at the Sears counter on payday and made us chase him all over the house to get our share, made waxed bags of popcorn with shiny red apples to eat on Saturday nights after our baths while watching Lawrence Welk, made hot cocoa after a day of playing in the snow, and took us regularly to the library. In short, he stayed and gave us a childhood.
The footprints our father has left for us to follow in, are footprints of faithfulness; a faithfulness to his marriage, toward his family and in service to his Savior that has been tested and found to be true. As for those regrets he had at the end of his days, he knows, now more than ever, that there is grace enough in God to cover them all.
I can almost hear our Heavenly Father saying to our earthly one: "Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your Lord."