We laid my father to rest yesterday. Finally, closure on a long and painful illness.
It's pretty surreal to carry your father to his final resting place. A gray casket draped by a flag from the University he loved (Wittenberg), after a long but fitting service that featured music by choirs he trained and conducted and solos by him that included "The Lord's Prayer" and "How Great Thou Art". It was impossible not to sob. Dad sang The Lord's Prayer at our Wedding, and yesterday's service concluded with all of us joining him in the chorus of all four stanzas of How Great Thou Art. How fitting to hear him sing, one last time, and to join in praise for the One he served and sang about his entire life.
I'm stunned by how hard this is. I was warned, but didn't get it until I was on this side of it. "Losing a parent is really hard" the survivors said. "Wow". I didn't know how hard.
Three weeks ago I spoke at "Hope for the Holidays" for the funeral home that served our family. Littleton and Rue (www.littletonandrue.com) holds an annual service for the families they've served. This years service was Nov. 19th. I shared that my father was in hospice. Nine days later I joined the ranks of the survivors I spoke to.
What's so hard about this? The finality, obviously. No more phone calls, visits, "I love you dad", "I love you and I'm proud of you, son". No more actual conversations and experiences, only memories.
I shared the following at the funeral.
"Did you ever know a man to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run as fully as my father? His was a life dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of his namesake, John Wesley (John Wesley Williams) who exhorted all he influenced with the following, 'Do as much good as you can for as many as you can, as well as you can, as long as you can'. Many of you have been saying that JW was a great man. Part of what made him great was that he believed that each of us was born for greatness too, and he dedicated himself to exhorting us to fulfill our God appointed destinies even while he was fulfilling his, which included him calling us forward to our own unique greatness. On behalf of our entire family, I thank you for coming to honor and celebrate my father's life and to enjoy the fabulous music God made him to make, one last time." And then I read Psalm 100.
I'm glad the service was long; almost 90 minutes. But it wasn't long enough. As each part of the program was concluded it was clear that dad was going to stop singing, and there would be no more, at least not in this life. We have the recordings, and they are marvelous, but we'll have to wait for the beginning of our own adventure in eternity to see and enjoy him again.
It's helpful to write. And thank you for reading.
Sleep in Jesus, dad. i love you. Jeff
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