My dad died. Those words are really hard to type. Even harder to believe. He had several serious health issues and they all came together at once - the combination was just too much for his body to handle. It doesn't feel real yet, but the emptiness is undeniable.
This is what I said at his memorial service, which was held at in the penthouse of a beautiful office building downtown. It was just what he would have wanted - it was a casual gathering of friends who spent time together, talked about old times, and celebrated his life.
Many of you knew my dad as friend, the guy with the guitar, the salesman, or the life of the party. I just knew him as dad. I learned quite a bit through being his daughter – some through things he did right, some through his struggles, but the Lord in errantly chose him to be my dad and for that, I am thankful.
I will never forget how my dad taught me to swim – we were standing on the side of Midfield community pool and he dropped me in the water – I splashed around, swallowed a lot of water, and finally got upright and looked up – he was standing there grinning – he said, “Allison Lee, I knew you could do it.” That is the first lesson I learned from my dad – be proud of those you love, believe only the best and let them know it. My dad never let the fact that I was a girl stop him from teaching me (and my friends) to set up and break down a campsite, tie a knot, bait a hook, cast a line, catch a fish, build a fire, hit a ball, or pilot a boat. My dad was so proud of me – whether I deserved it or not, he always thought everything I did was just (to use one of his words) “spectacular.”
Knowing how my dad felt about me allowed me the liberty to take chances because I knew, win or lose, he would be delighted in me – honor my dad by truly delighting in those you love – let them know how special they are and give them the freedom to try great things.
My driving lessons were eerily similar to my swimming lessons. Instead of taking me to a nice flat parking lot, dad fired up the Dodge Omni and turned me loose in the in the middle of Mountain Brook. I remember thinking that he had lost his mind, but my dad just laughed. To laugh when times are hard –that is the second lesson I learned from my dad. It was not a secret that my dad made some unfortunate choices and lived a very difficult life – especially during these last few years. However, even when he was at his lowest, he tried to keep his spirits up and tried not to let on how bad things really were. However, as I have heard from his friends over the past week, one of the things that people are going to miss most is his laugh – he certainly could find good in the very least of circumstances - honor him by sharing and finding things to smile about, even when you don’t feel like joy is there.
The final lesson I learned from my dad was to not take life (or anything for that matter) too seriously. My dad had a big child’s heart and was never threatened or intimidated by much. Maybe he should have taken some things a little more seriously, but he liked to live for the moment. I remember helping him with his resume and he had a section that listed the things he liked – among them were rainbows, a good cup of coffee and a finely tuned guitar. He also had a section of things he disliked – rap music at intersections, sales reports, and mean people. That sums my dad up pretty well…live simply and don’t get too worked up about anything, everything will work out in due time.
To end, allow me to share a thought from my friend, the Reverend Jesse Foster: Death “…is a reminder that there are things that the world cannot give me. We must all look to God for a peace that goes on even after life has ended. For a joy that outlasts all trials. And a home that is not made with hands - A place eternal with our creator.” I hope my dad now rests in that eternal joy – I hope he is sitting cross-legged in the presence of our Creator, strumming his guitar and asking the Lord if he wants to hear a song he just wrote. Rest well, daddy.
Heavenly Father, we come before you as your children, knowing that you truly love everything you have made. We are so grateful for your promise of mercy, joy, and peace to those who love you and know that one day all who believe in and love you will see you face to face. I thank you for the life of my dad. I pray that you will bring comfort and peace to all of us who loved him and that you will, as you say in your word, not allow our grief and sadness to consume us, nor allow us to lose sight of your compassion and mercies, which you renew every morning. You are a great and faithful God and we desire only to know and love you more. In Jesus’s name, Amen.