A song by the group Mercy Me generated a familiar mix of sadness and joy. This will be my fifth Father's Day since my dad went to be with his Heavenly Father. The lyrics from "Finally Home" hit close to home:
I'm gonna wrap my arms around my daddy's neck
And tell him that I've missed him.
And tell him all about the man that I became
And hope that it pleased him
When I finally make it home
My dad made a difference in my life. I have learned that you will make a difference in the lives of your children. Children listen only sometimes. But they are always watching. My dad probably never realized how closely I was watching.
Paul Burchett was a good man. Not a perfect man. Kindness was his calling card to everyone around him. The last time I saw my father he left me with a memory that will stay with me till I join him in eternity.
My last visit with Dad was a roller-coaster of emotions. He had made a remarkable and inspiring comeback from a devastating stroke and brain injury. I actually got to talk to him on the phone! It was a moment so special that I will always be grateful to God for a chance to hear my dad's voice one more time. But by the time I got back to his bedside a few days later something had begun to go terribly wrong. He was less responsive. The words came sparingly and with difficulty.
Nonetheless, when I walked into the room Dad's eyes came alive and he grabbed my hand with an intensity that clearly communicated that he knew me. He stared at me and would often flash that special smile. But his words were few---mainly simple responses to my questions.
Our family had encountered one difficult employee at the hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, she was going to be responsible for placing Dad into what we hoped would be successful rehab. She had done nothing helpful and she had done that with a bad attitude. I was frustrated. I looked at my sister Sherry as I held my father's hand and said, "We don't have to take that crap!" To my surprise, out of that shell that was my dad came a very clear and loud response: "I taught you that!" That was the last complete sentence I heard from my dad.
"I taught you that."
My father taught me a whole lot more than standing up for myself and others. He taught me that all of God's children are to be valued, that everyone is important and deserves to be treated with dignity.
He taught me the concept of grace. When I was in junior high I somehow managed to establish "credit" at a hobby store. I ran up a debt that was monumental in those days. When Dad found out I was terrified, but he taught me that grace means unmerited forgiveness for obvious guilt. He taught me what forgiveness looks like, and what it means for someone to pay for your sin when it is undeserved. I got a little foretaste of how a few years later Jesus would pay an even more overwhelming debt for me that I could never pay.
Dad taught me that humor is a gift from God. That laughing at life and especially at yourself makes it a whole lot easier to deal with daily frustrations. He taught me that you are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.
You taught me a lot, Dad, and I will be forever grateful. God's Word consistently paints an image of God as our Father. Many people struggle with that picture because they can only relate to an angry, dominating, or selfish father. I thank God that I was blessed with a father who gave me a clear image of how I can relate to God as my Heavenly Father.
It is a comfort to know that I did not "lose" my dad five years ago. I know exactly where he is. Perhaps that is the greatest blessing you can give your children this Father's Day. The knowledge that my dad loved Jesus and was ready to die was an incredible comfort for me and those he left behind. Having a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father is a great gift to give your children on this special day.