It’s a little presumptuous for me to even write this post. My dad was born in 1934, twenty-five years before me, but I am the one who had the heart attack and who has to take medicine for high blood pressure. Not him. He is pushing through his mid-eighties, mowing his yard and remodeling anything he can get his hands on, with all his vitals showing perfect. So, he may be preaching my funeral instead of me helping my sisters plan his. But watching the funeral and memorial services for a famous American father who died last week got me to thinking about how my dad’s memorial service would contrast with this fellow’s — if I’m privileged to be there for my dad at the end of his life.
I kinda felt sorry for the old war hero who was buried this week. It seemed to me that every person who had a chance to speak about him used that opportunity to continue the personal fights that had consumed their buddy’s final months. If they did speak of his accomplishments and values, it was to point out what they perceived as the lack of similar virtues in the enemies he and they had chosen.
Seldom will a collection of ex-presidents be assembled to honor a fallen sailor, yet here they were. But instead of lending the dignity and pomp that only ex-presidents can inspire, they chose to doff their statesmen’s robes and lob veiled insults at a man neither of them like. What should have been a series of ceremonies focused on the life of the departed pilot and senator became an opportunity for them to throw stones at their common enemy. They say that’s what the deceased wanted, but I find it a little embarrassing that men who were once leaders of the free world would chose to vilify the living when they were supposed to be honoring the dead.
And that’s when I started thinking, what if this had been my dad?
In his eighty-four years of living, my father has had a few conflicts that produced a considerable number of detractors. He tends to see things in black and white, leaving those who don’t a little offended or embarrassed at his unfiltered comments. He never understood the concept of building a consensus; if he wanted to do something, he did it whether anyone else agreed or wanted to help. He’s even bucked the family system a time or two when he thought someone was not being treated right. So, if at his funeral we wanted to toss a few barbs or take some jabs at his enemies, he’s given us ample opportunity.
But I honestly don’t see how there’d be time to fit it in.
The conflicts and disagreements that my father has had in his life make up a tiny part of who he really is. When he dies, I want to make sure that he is recognized and honored for all those other things. By the time my sisters and I, and all his grandchildren, get finished with remembering and sharing how he’s blessed so many lives, all the conflicts and head-butting won’t be worthy of a mention.
My dad’s confronting a man with a gun who was threatening his family taught me more about sacrifice and courage than any debate my father had with his colleagues. My dad’s giving an expensive instrument as a peace offering to a man who accused him of mistreating him overpowered the fact that a conflict once existed. My dad’s working three jobs to support his family (school bus driver, carpenter, and upholster) because of what he felt God had called him to do, when he had far better and easier opportunities elsewhere, affected me beyond the ability of any of his critics to taint. His unwavering love for and faithfulness to my mother created a happy and peaceful home life that no amount of neighborly dissension could disrupt.
So, you see why I’m a little sad for the family of the famous man who was buried this week. Apparently, keeping the sophomoric fussing alive was more important than honoring what had died.
So, if I’m still around when my tough ol’ dad is ushered through the pearly gates, don’t come around looking for a fight. We’ve got far too much going for us to waste time staking out new positions and kindling flames of controversy. The speeches and the songs will be all about him; not about those he may have squabbled with on occasion. If folks want a fuss, they’ll have to do it on their own time. The heritage I’ve received from my father is too precious to use for fuel to feed old conflicts or exchange for political points.
That may disappoint some because there’ve been some mighty powerful skirmishes back down the trail. But it’s what’s ahead that’s most important. Grandkids and great-grands need to know that what makes a godly life is more important than what stirs your blood.
When he dies, my dad won’t have a covey of ex-presidents hovering over his casket, and nobody will bother to lower any flags to half-mast. But he’ll have a passel of family and friends who will remember what he was: not who he was fighting.