Thursday, August 11, 2016
As I write this morning it is still dark; it has rained through the night, just as it did last year on this day. Last year I awoke to find that our little dog Wellie’s hind legs had become paralyzed. Shortly after that I got the call from my brother Thom that our Dad had graduated to the Church Triumphant.
When big things happen in your life, especially on the same day, you remember that day clearly, and with an intensity of emotion. I don’t know how more oddly-connected two events could be – the death of my father joined in my memory to a dog’s health issue. But there are some similarities.
There is pain
While our vet assured us our little fur-beast feels no pain, the look of bewilderment on his little face that morning, and the growing sense of loss was unmistakable. Perhaps the harsh reality of seeing a little animal suffer helped prepare my heart for what was to come just moments later, when I would hear the words that Dad had passed.
There is also patience
My father was not a patient man. He could get excited about the prospect of getting something accomplished in an intense way that was so focused all else had to be put on-hold. You could see it in his eyes, and it always meant you could get on board or you could stay behind! Sometimes it took great patience just to be around my Dad; navigating his energetic ways caused patience to develop in those who knew him well.
Our little Wellie’s paralyzed legs have forced him to slow down. And I have had to re-learn patience as I help him up and down stairs, and do the mundane tasks that were taken for granted before.
There is perseverance
Wellie is not a little dog to be denied! When it is supper time he lets you know with that stare and incessant barking, right in your face! He maintains his “space” and will not be pushed aside. He still plays, loves and licks you on the ear lobe when you pick him up. He knows the family routines and is always willing to lead the pack when it’s time to go, dragging his little back legs behind. These are important issues to a dog.
My Dad also paid attention to the important things. He loved my Mother and his sons fiercely and faithfully. He loved and served God with whatever lot God placed in his hands. Even in his nineties Dad could be seen in the halls of the local nursing homes limping along with his cane, visiting the “old people” (as he called them), bringing the joke-of-the-day and a smile to each room.
My father was a man of perseverance, overcoming his depression-shortened education with a lifelong thirst for learning. He would make the most of his annual vacation time by visiting historic sites in the United States.
Perhaps what I will remember most is Dad’s integrity, a character strength which balanced-out his impatience and perseverance. Somehow this ordinary man had an extraordinary impact on those with whom he shared this life.
One story my Mother told me was how Dad worked his way up to foreman’s assistant at the aviation plant during World War II. He supervised a dozen workers. After the war the need for planes eased up, and with it came layoffs. One day the boss came to him with the list of people Dad would have to give notice of termination. One of those men had a large family, and had been a faithful employee for years. My Father tried to reason with the boss that the man shouldn’t be on the list. Another employee, a young girl had only recently been hired; it was only right that she be let go. She was living with her parents and the economic hardship would be less than someone with so many depending on his paycheck. The boss refused; Mom said they later learned it was because he was pursuing her romantically. When Dad found this out he refused to fire the man with the family. The boss said, you either put his name back on that list, or put your own on there in his place. And that is exactly what he did!
At times I have been faced with ethical decisions, and it is my Dad’s integrity, placing faithful commitment to doing what’s right above career, money or comfort, which helped build in me a moral compass based upon kingdom principles. Whatever sense of character I possess, my Father was a Godly teacher that led me to the well.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!