My dad recently passed away on May 22, 2016. He was eighty years old and died in his sleep. Although he had some health issues, his death still came as a surprise to us. I had just seen my dad the day before, and I am so grateful that my daughter and I stopped by that day to visit. As we parted I gave him a little shoulder hug and said, “See you later”. My daughter one-up’d me and said “I love you” to her grandpa. He replied back with “I love you too sweetie”. Those would be the last words either of us ever spoke to him.
My dad was not a perfect man, none of us are. He did a lot of good- both in me and my daughter’s life, as well as the lives of complete strangers. He was very generous when it came to helping those in need. (Just the sheer number of flower bouquets that were sent to the funeral home proved that!) As is the case I’m sure with many reading this, he also frustrated me sometimes to the point where I really wanted to chew him out…but never did. I have carried many of the traits my dad taught me on for the next generation: specifically my love of sports and a child-like, playful attitude. Now, I love kids- but my dad LOVED kids! He never hesitated to brighten a young boy or girl’s day like only he could. My dad told me and my little brother funny bedtime stories growing up- I do the same for my daughter. Yet, I often find myself improving as a father by doing the opposite of what my parents did. Not in a disrespecting way, but as a method of learning from their mistakes so I don’t repeat them.
The week following my father’s death, I was hit with a wave of emotions. Naturally there was grief and loss; but also lingering frustrations, love, and an awe of God’s presence. I cried often that week- both tears of sadness and tears of joy. Three years ago, I had the ability to have one of the rare “life talks” my dad and I ever had. By the end of our conversation, I told my dad I loved him, I forgave him for the things he had done to hurt me, and I prayed over him- the one and only time that has ever happened. Looking back, I now see that as the day God set me free from any “father wounds” I had and allowed me to spend our remaining years together on much better terms.
I will always be grateful for the years I had with him, I know not everyone is as fortunate. I am also so grateful to God for allowing my dad and I to reconcile and for him to see me make something of myself (I wasn’t always on that path). In his last year of life he was able to attend my wedding and several months later, my daughter’s baptism. I even got to spend my 40th birthday with him a month before he passed.
When others ask me about my dad in the days moving ahead, I pray my words will be ones that honor him and glorify God. Regardless of our parents’ failures, God’s Word holds a perfect standard of how we are to honor them. To follow Christ to the fullest is to follow the Word to the fullest as well. I will always love my dad and I thank the Lord for blessing me and my family through him.
I challenge you to dwell on this over the upcoming month: regardless of your relationship with your father, how can you honor him? Is there something that needs to be said while he is still around? What can you do as an act of love to let him know he is appreciated? Or, if your father is no longer around or contacting him is not an option, what can you do to honor, forgive, or set tribute to him as an act of worship to God? Don’t wait! You’d be surprised how a simple, small act of love can move mountains in your life.
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. To learn more about the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org. For more information and ideas of how you can honor your father, visit our website at www.honoryourfathertoday.com.