I wish I could tell you this morning all about the amazing dad that I grew up with. I wish I could tell you about what an upstanding citizen he was, and about how respected he was in the community. I wish I could tell you about his great service for the Lord; about how he preached and taught and lead in prayer in church as we worshipped together. I wish I could tell you how he sacrificed everything for his children, and about all of the wonderful memories that I have with him from my youth. I wish I could tell you how he was always there for me, and that he was my rock to lean on and my soft place to fall when my heart was broken. But I can't tell you any of those things.
My dad. He grew up in the hills of West Virginia during the great depression. He was one of eight children, and his first home had a dirt floor. He had a cigarette dangling from his fingers and a mouth full of whiskey when he was just a young boy, along with most every other boy raised back in those hills. But he had a sweet, hard-working momma who loved her boy, and somehow he managed to graduate from high school.
Soon after, he met a young girl and they married. The events of their courtship and that wedding day are not clearly known by me, but I've seen pictures of two children who married, and the bride was wearing a navy blue suit. Soon after, as they both turned twenty-one, their firstborn daughter arrived. They named her Barbara, which means a stranger. During the next six years, times were hard. Another daughter was born in the midst of those days. Sad times. Sometimes violent. Violence initiated by another. And then, he was gone.
Oh, not completely gone at first. He would come and go. There are a few memories. A few good and some very bad. And another sister was born. But soon, he was gone forever. Or at least forever from my childhood.
I was that firstborn daughter. And although my early memories were few, one in particular haunted me when I became a teenager. I was very young, maybe four or five. My mom and dad were there, but I don't remember my little sister being with us. We were in a huge church-like setting, and I remember the singing and preaching. At the end of that service, my mom went away. I remember my dad wanting to go, too. But I was scared and I remember crying and begging him to stay with me. And he did.
When I was eleven, I trusted Jesus and gave Him my heart. You can read my testimony here. And soon after, God began working on me, molding me into what He wanted. He had been doing that since birth, only I didn't know it then. But a memory was stirred. The memory of that church service from when I was so little. What if that were a Bible preaching service? What if that had been an invitation to accept Christ's wonderful gift of salvation? What if I had prevented my daddy from getting saved? That thought weighed so heavy on my heart. I had no one to ask, and I didn't tell a soul. But it was a burden that I held deep within my heart.
When I was in my mid-twenties, my own daughter was born. I had married a young preacher, and life was good. But the burden that I held in my heart for my dad burned on, and I decided to try to find him. I needed to let him know about his precious grandbaby. And I needed to tell him about Jesus. By God's grace and through His leading, we were reunited. It was one of my first big lessons in answered prayer. The prayer that I had prayed so many times as I anguished over my dad's salvation.
Years before, as a young girl prayed alone, God sent someone to knock on my dad's door. He was living in another state at that time. And my dad invited that man with a Bible into his apartment. That man, who's name I'll never know here on earth, lead my dad to Jesus. And I knew that God loved me very much to do that for me!
My dad and I had a wonderful relationship for many years. He had remarried, and I loved my step mom to pieces. She loved the Lord, and they were in church. She would sit and watch and listen as my dad and I talked for hours, and I would see her shake her head out of the corner of my eye. I always knew what she would say if we stopped talking long enough to ask her what that meant, for it was always the same. She marveled at how much alike we were, having so little contact when I was young. It was true. I marveled at it, as well. They adored my children and were wonderful grandparents. We spent a week with them every summer.
I was there for my dad when she died. No man has ever mourned for a woman like he did for her. I stayed with him for a while, and we became very close. He shared secrets from his heart, and they were so precious to me. He had enormous struggles and fought addiction for the rest of his life. But I can tell you that he was one of the sweetest and finest men that I've ever met in my entire life, and I'm forever indebted to the Lord for allowing me to know that.
God called him to heaven five years ago. I spoke at his funeral. People didn't know what a fine man he was. Even his family. They didn't know. But they did when I was finished speaking. And they couldn't believe that those five wonderful young adults who loved the Lord and sang at his funeral were his legacy. My kids. His precious grandchildren, who loved him dearly.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you so very much today!
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