Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Final Triumph by Ruth Smith Meyer
“Oh, I’m sorry!” —a perfectly normal response to someone who just told you her father has died. It happened over and over when my 100 year-old dad died two days before Christmas—and still does.
It is hard to know how to reply to these dear people. I usually say, “Oh no, don’t be sorry! This is what we’ve been praying for and we’re rejoicing!”
Callous, you may think, but let me explain. He was a good father in many ways. Throughout his life, his central focus and burning passion was to follow Christ and live for him. He was an avid reader and enthusiastic learner all his life. He encouraged his children and young people in the churches he pastored to do the same and think for themselves. His children weren’t handed everything on a silver platter. Seldom did he buy small treats for his offspring, but if we asked for a book, he did his best to provide one.
He had his flaws and limitations, too. Among them: I longed to hear him express his love, but he was unable to do so. That inability left a gaping hole in my own life.
As we neared adulthood and began to act on his advice to think for ourselves, he sometimes found it difficult if we didn’t reach the same conclusions he did. He and I had some heated discussions that resulted in us hurting each other. Our visits became filled with tension and intense debates as we differed on how to live our lives in Christ.
At one point, God revealed to me that I should begin expressing my love for him. At first it felt almost phony, but as I obediently continued, I recognized that his inability to express his love was an impediment in his life, stemming from his own experiences. My attitude shifted to empathy and then greater love.
Each time we visited, I gave him a hug and told him, “I love you.” Each letter I wrote, I finished with a few happy memories of him or expressed thankfulness for one of his traits. For a long time, it seemed it had no effect on him, but subtlety it was changing me!
He was already in his nineties when he began to ask when I was coming to visit. The next time I did, he exclaimed with great joy, “Ruth!” when I walked through the door. That time, my hug was returned and he assured me, “I love you too!” Those were words I had given up ever hearing from his lips.
In the years since then, each time I visited, I spent a lot of time sitting, holding his hand, talking to him and singing some of his beloved hymns. What joy as his strong bass voice joined mine. What beautiful fellowship we enjoyed. We had both lost our mates and that, too provided a mutual understanding of the emotions such loss brings. When I found another dear man to be my husband, he rejoiced with me and expressed it often—“I’m so glad for you!”
When his slowing heart and lack of oxygen reduced the ability of his mind, he still prayed and preached and planned for meetings where he could proclaim the gospel and bring other souls into the fold. He often voiced his longing to go to heaven. In the last months that wish became his hearts dearest desire. We longed for his release from his earthly fetters. The morning of my mother’s birthday, he quietly let go and his face relaxed in utmost peace, while his spirit returned to his Maker.
So, yes! Don’t be sorry! We rejoice for that final triumph for the dear man who gave his life in God’s service and parented us well.
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