My father would have been Seventy-Four years old today. For the first time since 2006, he is getting to celebrate his birthday with my mother. I miss them both so much.
Below is the Eulogy that I delivered at his funeral in October of 2006:
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2Timothy 4:8
As I was growing up, I remember two things about my dad. The first was his extensive ball cap collection. The other was that he actually liked to work.
The former concept was interesting. He would keep a large collection of these hats on hooks on the wall of the bedroom that he shared with my mother. He never wore the majority of them, though. They were only there for show. He usually had only one cap that he actually did wear. I can remember him getting ready to go somewhere and watching as dad flipped his bangs back and put the cap on. Then he’d give us a kiss goodbye and head out the door.
The work thing was more puzzling to me. The concept of enjoying a good day’s work confused this lazy kid. I once asked him why he worked so much and got an even more confusing answer. “I work so much, son, so you won’t have to.”
I admittedly didn’t really get to know my dad until after he became ill and had to stop working. The idea of being forced to be idle seemed more of a curse to him than anything. But I learned a great deal about my father. I got to know a man who loved his family so much that he worked until his health was shattered so that we were provided for. I learned about a man who was calm when everyone else was stressed-a leader of men who was respected by those who worked under him because of his determination and willingness to sacrifice to get the job done.
I’ve often thought that my name is a curse. Mom wanted to name me Jeremy, but dad was determined that I be named Jeffrey. Apparently, dad didn’t know much about history and almost every time that I introduce myself to someone, I’m asked if my parents were Southern. I dutifully respond with a smile that my father was a “Michigan-born Yankee.”
This isn’t to say that Dad was unintelligent. Far from it. He might have only obtained an eighth grade education, but, when he was healthy, he could take a car apart and put it back together while blindfolded. His advice, despite the fact that Mom and I didn’t always listen, was sound and always the best course of action.
My dad didn’t get saved until he was in his late fifties. He was led to Christ by the same pastor who led me, Brother Phil Tanner. Dad told me of the absolute, tear-filled joy that he felt on that day. After that, God’s blessings poured out in the form of my daughter. I begged God to let my dad live to see her-a prayer that was answered. Kaitlyn was also the final piece to the puzzle of why my dad had enjoyed working. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for my little girl, just as there is nothing that Dad wouldn’t have done for my brothers or me.
On Wednesday night, after I found out that he’d passed away, I asked God why He hadn’t answered my prayers to heal my dad’s lungs. He told me as clearly as I stand before you all today, “Don’t you understand? Now, they are healed.”
As for the Bible verse that I read earlier, I can see that Dad reached the Pearly Gates on Wednesday afternoon. Waiting for him there was an angel carrying a pillow, upon which sat my dad’s Crown of Righteousness-a golden ball cap. He took it from the pillow and, with a smile flipped back his bangs back and put it on, then stepped through the gates and into eternity.