I thought I would write you just to follow up on the conversation we had the other day. I told you how much I loved you and how thankful that I was for you. I also told you how I couldn't have asked for a better father. I meant everything that I said, but even though I knew that you were leaving, I guess it always comes sooner than we expect, and that's just what happened. So, let me say a little more that I didn't get to say the other day.
Thanks for being a model of a man of integrity to me. You always showed me to be consistent and to always live as the child of God that I claim to be. You were always honest and truthful, even when it wasn't the easiest thing. People might have looked at you funny when you showed that integrity, but I was looking too, and you showed me a lot. Thanks for standing up for your convictions. While we didn't always agree, I am thankful that you stood for things and that you did it with grace and integrity.
Thanks for caring for Mom. I know that you always struggled to find the right words to say, but your words were more right than you realized. You relied on cards and letters to say things that you felt like you couldn't say face to face, and Steve and I have found more and more examples of just how much you loved Mom. Thanks for always striving to be a better husband and for admitting your shortfalls. I know that things at the end were hard, but you had been through an awful lot and I don't fault you for being tired.
Thanks for showing me that my call to ministry was from God and that people's opinions of me shouldn't sway that. You never considered yourself an eloquent preacher yet you preached with determination and focus. You never considered yourself a brilliant man, but the size of your heart made anyone forget that (even though I don't think it was very true.....Dr.!). You pressed on despite the many obstacles that you faced all along the way. Over the course of 40+ years in ministry, you took your fair share of licks, but you continued to press on. Over the course of 9 years in ministry, I've taken my own share, but I am constantly reminded of you and it helps me to push on.
Thanks for being transparent. You were always honest with me about what you saw as your shortfalls. That's not something that you encounter every day and I have done my best to use you as a model. While I never idealized you, I always thought that you were pretty special. I remember the compassion that you showed when Grandma was sick and you broke down at the kitchen table because it reminded you of all that you had been through with your own mother. Thanks for not hiding your tears, they spoke to me in volumes that have left an indelible mark on my life. In fact, when we said "good-bye" to you at the cemetery, your grandsons and your other son came around me when I shed tears of my own. Thanks for giving me permission to cry in life's difficult situations.
Thanks for being forgiving. I remember when I hit the house with the car on my 15th birthday. When I confessed that it was me and not Steve's friend, you simply said, "You're a jerk, go to bed." That line has gone down in our family folklore and I expect it will continue. I also remember when someone bought tainted grape juice from the CVS next to your church and some people got sick during communion. Police investigations finally discovered that the bottle was tainted by a disgruntled employee. Instead of meting out justice on him, you offered him the same forgiveness that we have received through Jesus Christ, even calling the employee's mother and offering words of comfort and encouragement to her. You were forgiving to a fault sometimes, even when Mom thought that you should have spoken up more, you took the same approach that Jesus did, humbly receiving what was thrown at you without opening your mouth in defense.
Last week, I read a note that you had written to me just a few months after my first son was born. You said that you hoped that I would avoid some of the mistakes that you had made. Considering all that you came from and all that you had been through, I think that you did a pretty good job. Like I said to you, I could not have asked for a better dad. You always showed me unconditional love and, even though it was slightly embarrassing, thanks for kissing me good-bye every time that you dropped me off at school, even into middle school and high school. I can only hope that my boys allow me the same luxury. I am so thankful that I never wondered whether or not you loved me.
Well, I could probably write a whole lot more, but I'm going to close now. Thanks again for all that you did. I look forward to telling my kids all about their grandpa and how much he meant in my life. I did my best to always tell you how much you meant and you did the same thing for me. Thanks for always telling me how thankful you were for what I did for you, especially towards the end. I always wished that I could do more, but I thank you for understanding.
I will miss you until I see you again. I'm glad to know where you are, but it's hard not picking up the phone to call you, hard to not be able to hear your voice. I've got a few voicemails from you that will have to suffice for now.
Enjoy the rewards that you have earned and the gift that you have received by grace. Give Mom and everyone else hugs for me. I'll look forward to the day when I can tell you all of this face to face.
I love you!