Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lesson from Dad

Quite a bit has happened since my last post, most noteworthy, the death of my father. Dad had been sick for about 20 months with an inoperable brain tumor. His last year-and-a-half were not horrible although he lost his ability to walk and near the end began to exhibit some symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The biggest disappointment to dad was that he lost his ability to do the thing he loved most in the world…preach.

I learned much about life from my dad, but learned even more about death as I watched him deteriorate those few months and then held his hand and stroked his brow for the last five days of his life here on earth. For the last six weeks, while processing his death, I’ve been trying to decide what the most important lesson I learned from dad really was. Last night it came to me.

My dad was raised in Southeastern Kentucky. He was the oldest of seven children, the son of a coal miner, and was as poor as they came. He learned to work as a young boy by gathering the coal that had fallen from the coal cars and hauled it in a wheelbarrow down the mountain for twenty-five cents a load. He worked as a dishwasher in Harlan, Kentucky long enough to save bus fare to Cincinnati, Ohio where he finished high school by attending night classes while working in a uniform factory during the day. Most of my life he worked two jobs; a secular job like Montgomery Wards or J C Penneys and pastored a church. He was good with the money he had, which was never very much, and saved what he could along the way. 

Because of my mother’s ill health my parents never got to enjoy the retirement they looked forward to.  Medical bills and dad’s short retirement which he spent taking care of my mother used up most of what they had and when he died six weeks ago at seventy-six years old, he had a net worth of $1500, just what Medicaid allowed.  He owned a house which will soon be given back to Medicaid to pay for my parents’ care. 

The lesson I’ve learned is this: My father’s legacy does not have a net worth, it has only an eternal value. Only what my father did with his Savior in mind will outlast his life. Only those things whose value cannot be calculated on a ledger sheet will live on for years to come. Therefore, I have made the conscious decision to begin living my life in a way that reflects eternal values more than temporal ones. In other words, when given the choice between making my life more comfortable or blessing someone else, when choosing between more stuff for me or showing someone else God’s love in a practical way, when deciding what is really important and what is not, I’ll think of my dad, and the most important lesson he ever taught me.

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