If you know our Dad, whether for a few years, or for a very long time, you know that he is a man worthy of being honored. He is the kind of man in short supply today. When people speak of the crisis of fatherhood and the inability of men to make and honor commitments, our Dad stands as an example of a man who honored his commitments as a husband and a father and did it with great love, which he often found impossible to express in words...
One of the nights last week, after sitting with Dad for a few hours at McKay-Dee Hospital, after we had made the decision to bring him home for his last days, I went for a walk. Before heading back down the hall that led to the room where Dad was being cared for on the third floor, I stopped and watched people coming and going through one of the main doors. I saw young couples leaving with newborn babies, people in leg and arm casts, anxious looking parents, spouses, friends, and children, as well as people who were seriously ill. While it was beautiful in a way, I thought about how industrialized and antiseptic life and death have become. It occurred to me then that Dad came into this world in the home of his Grandma Batchelor and was going to leave it from his own home. This is the kind of thing I would routinely point out to him. I can see just how he would respond had I been able to share this with him: he would have appeared to shrug it off as insignificant, but he would agree that it is the way to come and go...
It is not just important, but absolutely necessary to point out that death is not the end. God is our beginning and our end, as St. Augustine passionately observed many centuries ago: “You us made for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions Book I, Chapter 1) In the book of Revelation, John writes that he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (21:3-5a- ESV). Indeed, the great work of God is bringing life from death and hope from despair. Eugene Peterson observed that “When nothing we can do makes any difference and we are left standing around empty-handed and clueless, we are ready for God to create. When the conditions in which we live seem totally alien to life and salvation, we are reduced to waiting for God to do what only God can do, create.”
Picking up the same passage from Revelation, John heard a voice telling him “[w]rite this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (verse 3- ESV). Christ then says to the revelator “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (verses 5-6 ESV). Up until the end, Dad was thirsty, which is why we gave him water, ice chips, and that last popsicle he enjoyed so much; the one he held to his chest and jokingly said, “Mine,” when I tried to help him with it. But if we’re honest and true to our own hearts, in touch with what really desire, we’re forced to acknowledge that we’re thirsty, too and for something more than water, ice, popsicles and sodas. In John’s Gospel Jesus asks the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well for a drink. She is surprised that a Jew would ask a Samaritan, a people with whom the Jews of Jesus’ day shared a mutual dislike, for a drink and he replied that if she knew who she was talking to she would ask him for a drink. She quickly pointed out that he had nothing with which to draw water, to which Jesus gently replied, referring to the water from the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman responded as anyone would, saying, “give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:7-13- ESV).
Being the son of his mother, Isabelle, Dad grew up listening to and, from an early age, reciting poetry. A week ago Wednesday, when things were not looking good, but there was still a slim chance they would turn around, Dad wanted to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even the little ones. Given the circumstances, it was a lovely evening. As I gathered my children, kissed him and told him I was taking them home and that I would be back in the morning, he took my hand and recited Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Eldorado:
After finishing the poem, he kept holding my hand and said in a whisper, “You don’t have to go anywhere to find it,” then tapping his chest over his heart, he said, “It’s right here.”
Excerpts from my remarks at my Dad's funeral.