My father was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime and he made a big difference in my life. He died several weeks ago and I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to him, so I’m writing this instead. Travel with me as I think back over the years.
If I reach way back, I can vaguely remember living on a farm in southern Ontario. I only remember a few things from that, and they are mostly about my mother. But apparently my father had an accident with a farm gate that resulted in him having a very stiff neck and a serious arthritis condition called ankylosing spondylitis.
Ever since I knew him, my father lived in pain. He couldn’t turn his neck. But he persevered and held down a job, and eventually owned his own business. The doctors said he’d be in a wheel chair by the time he was thirty, but only in the last few years of his life did he use one at times.
My parents were very poor, but they tried hard to give my two sisters and I a normal childhood. I can remember my father pitching a softball for us, and taking us fishing. We had a few family trips, but they were rare enough that we still remember them.
My father was especially interested in talking to people about Jesus. He was one of the people who actually walked his talk. He would walk the streets giving out tracts, and I remember a wedding held at our house for a couple that he had led to the Lord. We still consider them as part of our family to this day.
My father also went regularly to a local prison for Bible studies every week for years. There were times that he had to crawl into the house because of his pain afterwards, but I don’t remember him ever staying home because of it. After he had his own business, I worked for him, along with the occasional inmate who was on day parole and needed work. I realize now how he might have worried about me, but those men respected him too much to every be a threat. One of them (I think) did steal his pickup truck once. And another broke into our house, but none of that ever stopped him.
You can imaging the impression this made on me as a teenager when I started to realize what kind of qualities that my father had. I can honestly say that I had a good relationship with my father pretty well all my life. When I stood beside his coffin and thought back over his life, I couldn’t find any bad memories. None. And I tried, but they weren’t there and still aren’t.
I hope that when I pass on, my children will feel this way about me. I fear they won’t, because I know I’ve failed them at times. Probably my father would say the same, but if he did I don’t remember.
We found the poem above with his personal papers. I don’t think he wrote it, because it was with a collection of poems people had given my parents when my youngest sister died at two days old. But it described him so well that we put it on his memory card. The pastor in charge at the funeral read it to the audience of his own accord.
We all knew it was true.