“Wash your hands, quick!” Mom gasped.
“Cross your legs!”
“Hurry! The baby’s coming!”
Dad came running into the room with his hands still sopping wet just in time to catch me as I made my entrance into the world. It was in Daddy’s hands that I took my first breath. That was the first moment of twenty-six years spent with the most incredible dad I could have ever imagined or hoped for, and a lifetime of beautiful memories. Although I will make a feeble attempt, words are simply inadequate to express what my dad truly meant to me.
I have never met someone with hands as strong as my dad’s. They were not strong without reason, as he was also the hardest-working man I have ever met. He never sat around with nothing to do, but always had a never-ending list of jobs to accomplish. He expected his children to do their share of the work around the house as well. If our pets hadn’t eaten breakfast, neither could we. “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, he would always tell us. We learned at a very young age how to clean the bathroom, pull weeds, pick rocks, fertilize blueberries, dig postholes, and the list could go on and on. He would be out there with us, teaching us and helping us. If we forgot to put our tools away or close the gates where the horses might get out, he would get us up when he got home, no matter what time of night it was, to finish the job. It was by the guidance of my dad’s hands that I truly learned work ethic and responsibility.
Dad was not all about work, although sometimes I felt like he was. He also taught me to play and have fun. Sometimes we would go snow skiing for family vacation. In the summer we would get the canoes down to the reservoir and go to the nearby islands for the afternoon, during which time he taught me how to steer. He taught me how to saddle and ride a horse, how to build a fire on our camping trips, how to identify the trees on our hikes, and how to live each day to the fullest. It was by the example of how my dad used his hands that I was taught to love and appreciate genuine, edifying fun.
Even though I was his fifth and last child, Dad still had enough love for me. He expressed his love in so many ways, even though it was not always perceived as love at that time. He was ready to discipline when necessary, ready to give a hug when needed, and he always had a listening ear and a word of wisdom. There were times when personalities would clash or feelings would be hurt, but he was always ready to say “I’m sorry” and make things right. Dad’s hand, whether in discipline or affection, taught me the value of true love.
Dad was the most self-sacrificing, unselfish person I have ever met. He went far beyond what was required of him. He was always ready to buy food for the homeless man on the street, give a job to a friend in need, or help a student through school. Dad’s hand of generosity taught me the truth of the words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
Dad wasn’t one of the most theological people with all the right answers, but somehow I have never known anyone to be a more faithful missionary than he was. Dad gave literature to everyone he met, regardless of the situation. Mission stories always thrilled him to the core and we got to go on our first mission trip as a family when I was nine. No matter what, we always had family worship every morning and evening, besides which he would daily ask if we had spent quiet time with our best friend, Jesus. There are innumerable people who share about God, yet not many who truly know Him for themselves and live what they preach. My dad made mistakes and was definitely not perfect, but he was what I consider to have been a true missionary. Because of what he did with his hands and not only his mouth, he instilled in me the same longing to be a missionary.
I was privileged to be one of those caring for my dad during his last couple months of life. Although it was two of the most difficult months of my life, I would not trade them for anything. Sometimes he would be in tears due to the pain of the cancer in his bones, but when asked how he was doing, his response was always, “praising the Lord.” When all that was left of him was bones with skin stretched over them and he was racked with pain, his primary concern was still for those around him. He hated for us to have to care for him when he was so used to being the one helping everyone else, yet he never failed to express his appreciation.
Eventually he got to the point where he could barely respond to us verbally; his breathing got faster and heavier. Then the hospice nurse told us it wouldn’t be long. Dad had been such an integral part of my life. How could I let him go? The night before he died, we all gathered around his bed and sang song after song. After one of his favorites I asked, “Dad, wasn’t that beautiful?” and I noted a slight nod of his head.
In the wee hours of the morning on October 22, 2014, we again gathered around Dad’s bed. He was gasping for each breath; it seemed like an eternity between each one. Intense pain flooded my heart. Yet at the same time, I had peace. I knew Dad was right with God. I knew the promises in the Bible—that my dad would sleep and that he wouldn’t know anything until the second coming of Jesus, when all of the dead in Christ will be raised from the dead and will meet in the air those who are living righteously. I took Dad’s hand. I resolved in my heart that day by day, with God’s help, I would live up to all Dad taught me, all that he dreamed for me. I would be among those who would meet him in the clouds at Christ’s soon coming… Dad took another small breath. It was followed by silence. His heart was no longer beating. What a privilege that Daddy was holding me in his hands when I took my first breathe, and mine were among those holding him when he took his last.
|Some things never change!|