As family and friends know, my prolonged blog silence was prompted by the sudden and unexpected death of my dad on April 8, 2010. While vacationing with my mom in Maui, my daddy went home to be with his Lord. We miss him terribly, but are so grateful for the confidence of his salvation. Below is my tribute (from his memorial service) for a great man, and the best dad a girl could ask for. I look forward to seeing him again.
They say that experience is the best teacher. In the last week, I’ve learned a lot about grief. One of the first things you do is try to define what was lost. You think of words and phrases, memories and occasions that help people understand exactly what is now missing in your life. As we have grieved the loss of my dad, five words have come to my mind time and time again: faith, family, fun, fan and freedom. For me, these five words describe my father and help others understand the nature of our grief.
The first thing my dad would want people to know about him is that he was a man of faith. My dad loved His Savior and he strived diligently to do the things that God had called him to do. It pained him deeply whenever he faltered because he always wanted his life to be a great representation of Christ. My dad spent countless hours memorizing Scripture so that whenever he, or anybody else needed some advice he would be able to tell them what God’s Word said. He also spent untold hours in prayer. It wasn’t uncommon that when my dad was faced with a situation where he was unsure what his next step would be, he would wake up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, read the Bible and talk to God.
As his child, I knew that I was regularly being lifted up to our Heavenly Father’s throne. I know that this side of heaven, I will probably never know the effects of those prayers on my life and others. James wrote “the prayers of a righteous man has great power.” Those words could have been written about my dad.
After my dad’s faith, the second most important thing to him was his family. The love of his family started with his love for my mom, his high school sweetheart and wife of 34 years. Recently I wrote a blog about my parent’s marriage in which I wrote “Growing up, I always knew that if I disobeyed my dad I would be in trouble. But if I disobeyed my mom and my dad found out about it, my punishment would be much worse because in that case, not only had I disobeyed, but I had hurt my mom, and my dad was intent on protecting my mom from hurt. It was very clear that taking on my mom, meant taking on my dad too.” My dad always had my mom’s back. He took great pains to set up a godly home for me and my sister to be raised in and that started with following the Ephesians 5 command to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
In another blog I wrote about How My Parents Made a Difference, I talked about perhaps my father’s least favorite part of fatherhood; the part where he had to discipline his children. My dad loved having fun with his kids, and it tore him apart when he had to punish us. However, he still did it. As I wrote about my parents, “I always knew they loved me, and I always knew that if I went against their directions, there would be consequences. That may seem counterculture in today’s world, but it wasn’t in my parent’s home. Regardless of how they punished me, it never diminished my understanding of their love. And because they loved me, they never shied away from correcting my misbehavior.” Perhaps that’s why my dad loved being a Poppa to Riley and Declynn so much. He got a lot of the joys of parenthood but he didn’t have to punish the kids. And even though my dad might not have always enjoyed all the responsibilities of fatherhood, he fulfilled them, and more, even welcoming his sons-in-laws as his own kids.
Upon hearing the news of my dad’s passing and friend wrote to me, “You had the best daddy in the world.” And he was. Another friend told me, “most people would trade a lifetime of their relationship with their dad, for a year of the type of relationship that you had with your father.” And she was right. And I think it’s a testament to the type of father my dad was that other people recognized this. It was a joy of my dad’s that as we grew older, he was not only my parent, the person that I turned to when I needed advice or insight, but that he was one of my best friends, and he could also share his joys and difficult situations with me. This friendship meant that many weekends you could find me and my husband hanging out with my parents, going to dinner after church, playing tennis or talking about our next Hawaiian adventure. My dad loved that we loved spending time with him.
It wasn’t only with his family though, that my dad liked to have fun. I don’t know anyone who loved to make anything a good time as much as my dad. He could take a simple dinner out and make it a riot. I have a tradition that on Friday’s I tell my students very silly jokes. No one appreciated these ironic puns as much as my dad did. In fact, I still owe him an e-mail compiling them all together. Whether it was playing on a softball team, a rowdy game of Spades, an impromptu trip to an amusement part, snorkeling, or working together to build something, my dad loved to have fun. My dad loved to have fun so much that sometimes it was to his detriment. He would play softball after pulling his back in bowling. One time he played fooseball so much that he got tendonitis. On the few occasions where my dad took a break from work, he loved to make the most of it. We were the only family I know that had a typed agenda sent out before we went on vacation. My dad wanted to make sure that we didn’t let any opportunity for fun pass us by.
And my dad was generous with his fun. As many of you know, at one point my dad finally got the red sports car that he had talked about for nearly as long as I remember. Shortly after, the college-aged son of my dad’s best friend got Hodgkin’s disease. My dad took his Corvette keys and handed them over so that a kid that was suffering pain could experience the thrill of driving a fast car. Later when he and my mom were talking about the expense and maintenance of the Corvette, my dad said that it was worth it all to see Ben’s smile. My dad loved using the gifts, talents and things he had to make other people happy.
Nothing was more fun to my dad they when he could get a group of people together to accomplish something. As one of our friends said, “Everywhere Brad went he built a team” and it’s true. It thrilled my dad to work alongside people to accomplish a goal. Perhaps that’s why my dad was such a fan of almost any sport. Whether it was the Saddleback Valley Christian high school football team or the Super Bowl my dad cheered just as hard for the team’s success. My dad was an unusual sports fan because he never really had a favorite team. He just wanted the players to do well, wanted it to be a good game, and wanted to be able to give his two-cents as to what the team should has done. My dad was so passionate about doing a good job and he was equally as passionate about encouraging others to do the same.
Lastly, my dad loved freedom. As was mentioned earlier, my dad served 12 years in the Marines after being graduated from Annapolis, and then went to work in the private sector where he spent the majority of his working life at General Atomics. My dad loved that he got to spend his time doing something that helped both protect our freedoms in this country and provide freedom to people who were oppressed. He loved telling the stories of how the Predator provided the video feed that allowed two missionaries to Afghanistan to escape tyranny. Or how it flew overhead to help ensure the successful rescue of a solider. Whatever frustrations my dad experienced at work, they were outweighed by the fact that he thought he was doing something important. I recall once as he described to me with tears in his eyes the weight of responsibility that he felt for protecting our soldiers. He was so proud to be a part of it.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my dad knew that true freedom could never come from any government, political treaty or even as a result of the work of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Instead, my dad knew that any freedom experienced here on earth was a poor representation of the freedom that is found in Christ. He worked hard here on Earth but it wasn’t for Earthly treasures. He wanted his entire life to point others to Jesus.
When you lose someone like my dad, it’s easy to ask why. Why would God take someone so soon who was so good? However, my dad did well to teach us that what happened here on Earth never diminished God’s goodness. As Job wrote “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” This is how my dad would want us to respond. A favorite song of mine says “Questioning the notion that God is full of love is a tempting road to take when you forget about His blood. I choose to still believe Him – His heart is kind and just. I’m only seeing half the picture for the other half I trust.” My dad clung to the sacrifice of Jesus knowing that regardless of life’s difficulties and pain, God too had experienced pain when He shed his blood on the cross. And while I do not know why my dad’s Homecoming was so much sooner than I expected, I do trust that God was not surprised by it. He can see the other half of the picture and I know He welcomed my daddy with open arms.
Upon hearing of my dad’s passing, a dear friend who is a missionary in Budapest wrote to my mom, my sister and me. He said “The hardest thing we trust the Lord with is who goes and who stays. I am glad for the sake of the glory Brad enjoys and that his dying wasn’t long and drawn out. I am sorry for your sake for the suddenness and for the who knows how many years without a dad or a husband….This is hard providence. That’s part of what it means to be God. To be able to exercise a prerogative so painful for others while still being perfectly good and wise.”
Our friend continued “Brad finished well. Your great husband and father is safely home. You will see him again.”
You did good, Daddy. I love you. I will see you again.