As most of you all know, my father passed away earlier this month. I’ve said that this was my first father’s day spent without him, but really, it wasn’t. As I’ve mentioned before, my relationship with him was rocky at best, and I didn’t see him often at all until the last couple of years before his death, and even then, it was only once every so often. I have several father’s day cards stored away in my room with notes in them that I had planned to have given to him but they were never delivered. I remember him having a box full of cards from us kids in his trailer that he had several years ago, and how much they meant to him, and I look back on those cards with great regret, thinking I should’ve done more, tried harder to express how I felt about him. He loved his children, that much I know for certain. I’m much better at posting Biblical studies and sermon notes and etc, far better than I am at posting emotional, personal things, so please bare with me.
I knew that my father was getting very close to death’s door a long time ago. I’ve spent years thinking to myself..this could be the day he dies. I’ve visited him in the hospital more times than I can remember, thinking there’s no way he’s leaving here alive. But he always left. For awhile, I grasped onto a bit of hope, thinking that I could somehow convince him to get sober, to go to a rehab center, get help. Like I could somehow be enough for him to quit cold turkey. But he couldn’t. He didn’t. My father was a very bad drug addict, he battled addiction for longer than I’ve been alive, and there was only one hope for him. Not love for his life. Not love for his children. But a love for God. At the end of his life, he did tell me that he was saved. I went to his hospital room, convinced that he was going to be dying that week, and I brought my Bible and a book, and I prayed with him, and I shared the gospel with him, and with tears in his eyes, he prayed with me. He told me about his recent near death experience and told me that he’d felt God’s presence, and that he had been saved. I brought him a Bible which I now have back in my possession, and he read it. When I retrieved it after his death, he had written some notes; most of them very random, and some of them so messy that I could barely read them. He was not in his right mind, but still…he read it. He had half-written notes poked into different books of the Bible, a few bookmarks, a few dogears. So I take comfort in that, knowing that he had the Bible and he had a way to read it. Whether or not he was truly saved is something I struggle with, and I imagine it could be a struggle I deal with for the rest of my life here on earth.
My father was 58 years old when he passed away. He left behind four children who would have done anything, given him anything, in order to have seen him sober. He left behind a daughter who would have given up nearly anything to have had him in her life as a true father. Who has suffered this father’s day, knowing that she can’t call him and hear his voice. A daughter who has so many regrets popping up in her mind, so many thoughts running through her head…what should I have said? What could I have done better? Was I a good enough daughter? Did I show Jesus’ love to him? Did I do things right?
The sermon this evening was titled “When Dad Dies” given by Pastor Clarence Sexton at Temple Baptist Church. I sat on the pew, my mother in between me and my oldest brother who also struggles with addiction (and has been clean for over 7 months, praise God.) and he told us the title of the message, told us the scripture, and shared his own personal stories about his father. About how it felt to have lost a father at a young age. We talked about Joseph, who had to bury his father. (Genesis 50) I sat on the pew tonight and I cried. I cried over my father. Over the guilt I feel for so many things. But I also felt a relief. I was able to share the gospel with him, and the last few meetings were positive. The last few conversations I had with him were positive.
Pastor Sexton talked about death; perhaps not the typical Father’s Day sermon (he told us that he’d never preached on this before.) but something I needed to hear. Something my mother and brother needed to hear. I’d like to share a few of his points and write about what these things mean to me, as I’ve experienced the loss of a father. I’d like to be real, not hide or attempt to sugarcoat my feelings. Death is raw. Death is sad. But it doesn’t have to be, for Christians. Death is something that happens to all of us. We all have an appointment with death…so let us be realistic about it and know what we need to be doing in order to prepare for death, not just our own, but the death of a loved one. Let us be living like tomorrow is not going to be happening for that loved one, or maybe, it won’t happen for ourselves. Let us live and practice forgiveness, let us give out grace and love, and remember…we will die the same way that we live.
1.) Know that Death is coming to all of us.
We all have an appointment with God. Whether we are saved or not, death is inevitable. I pray that everyone reading this is saved and on their way to Heaven, but I understand that realistically, that may not be the truth. We need to realize that there is no escaping death, so we have to live like tomorrow may not happen. We need to be living in a way that we would be proud of if we were to die. What kind of legacy would we leave behind? And then, there’s the other scenario..the one that made me think more. If a loved one, whether it be your father, or a friend, or a cousin, or an aunt…if they were to die tonight, would you regret your last conversation? Would you look back on how you treated them and have to live with that regret for the rest of your life? We need to be treating others like they are on their last day, because they might be. I look back on some times with my father, I remember the way I spoke to him, the way I talked about him, the way I ignored him…and I feel so thankful because God allowed him to pass away when we were at a good place. Not after an argument, or after I had been treating him so terribly.
We are all getting closer to death..so remember this whenever you have your next interaction with that person that you are struggling with. You may be visiting their grave before you get a chance to make amends. It may be too late.
2.) Know that God has already conquered death.
Are we living in a way that proves our God has conquered death? If we are saved, we know that, regardless if death comes now or later, God has already beaten death. We are safe in His arms. We don’t have to feel discouraged when we think of death if we are saved, and if we are saved, we need to be telling others about this. That death doesn’t have to be an end..it is a beginning. Death is a victory if we are in Christ Jesus.
I can’t escape or beat death. My father couldn’t. You can’t. But God already did.
3.) Have concern for the living.
We know that there was nothing that Joseph could’ve done for his father. He had died, there was no bringing him back from the dead. So he did what his father asked him to do before his death, and he made sure that he was not buried in Egypt. He fulfilled his last wishes and spent time in mourning. He wept. The Bible used these words, he wept, in a couple different occasions, and we know that these are very meaningful words. Joseph was a strong man, no doubt, but he wept over the death of his father. Surely, he looked back on things, perhaps like I have done, and he had regrets. He had good memories and bad ones. He wished he could’ve had one more moment with his father. He wished he could bring him back for just a second, just to hear his voice. Just to see his face. But he couldn’t change the situation, so he took care of things and did what his father wanted done.
We can’t change things once death has occurred. We can’t fix things with those people. If they are in Heaven, they are at peace. They hold no grudges. But we can’t apologize to them and make ourselves feel more at peace when they are gone. So we need to have a concern for the living. While these people are still here, make sure that you are treating them in a Godly way. Before you neglect the relationships, think of how you’ll feel if you are standing at their grave. Will you regret things? Will you weep knowing that you should’ve acted differently?
Don’t carry hurt feelings to the grave. Don’t let words remain unspoken. We are not guaranteed another day, so live this one like it will be the last. Say what you need to stay. Apologize for things that you are being convicted over. These people may not deserve the forgiveness in our eyes, but God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. Love them in a way that points to Jesus.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to remember all of those hurt feelings that they created. You’ll want to remember every single hurtful word, you’ll feel those words like a knife in your back. You’ll want to remember every bad thing they have ever done to you so you make yourself feel better about your actions..but remember, any hurt we could possibly face is nothing compared to Calvary. And Jesus forgave them. He spoke to them with kindness. He treated them with love. He gave them grace, even at His death.
Take it from a girl who lost her father far too soon. A girl who thought that she would have no regrets. A girl who, less than a year ago, wanted to remove her father entirely out of her life so she didn’t have to get hurt anymore…then she was reminded of Jesus and what He did for those who didn’t deserve it. She was reminded of the pain that He put Himself through because He loves us. Treat people in a way that would give you peace at the grave.
Be thankful for your father, regardless of who he is. Pray for him. Love him. Treat him with kindness. Because when he dies, you’ll wish you could take back every mean word. Every negative thing ever done or spoken towards him, and you’ll wish you could hear him again. Tell him how you feel. Tell him about Jesus one more time. Have one more conversation.