Ten years ago today my dad stepped into the presence of Jesus after an eight-month battle with lymphoma.
I fought against the probability of my dad’s death every day of those eight months. My siblings and I gathered in Minnesota to see Dad the week before he died, and even then I was hopeful that things weren’t as they seemed — that somehow he’d wake up one morning, hop out of bed and say he’d been healed. But on Sept. 5, 2001, he didn’t wake up, and when I received the call shortly after 5 a.m. in my apartment in Colorado Springs, a chapter of my life closed — the chapter that had for 30 years been peppered with my dad’s presence, prayers, ridiculous jokes and powerful example.
There are many things I’ve grieved since my dad’s passing, things beyond just missing him or feeling that cancer took him too soon. My dad was the primary male figure in my life, and because I’m still single, no one has yet replaced him. My dad can’t give me car advice. He won’t be at my wedding if it happens. My dad never knew of Boundless and never got to hear me host the show, speak at churches or chat with radio stations and their listeners about why this generation of young adults needs a fresh vision of marriage and family.
The church was standing room only at my dad’s memorial service, which didn’t surprise me one bit. Everyone loved my dad. A few reasons why are detailed in the following tribute I wrote for the back of the memorial service program. My mom has always wanted me to share this, so Mom, this is for you:
What is faithfulness? It’s tough to define and even tougher to demonstrate. It’s desired by many but attained by few. The Bible tells us to never let it leave us (Proverbs 3:3), but how do we get it in the first place? Our dad could have told you. Of the many things he was here on earth, he was above all things, faithful.
Dad was faithful in prayer for the souls of his children, his neighbors and the world. He prayed a couple of his own children out of rebellion, and he prayed countless individuals into the kingdom of God. His vision for the power of prayer was huge. In some churches, he was a prayer team of one for months before others caught the vision. That didn’t stop him from showing up. He always knew Jesus would be there, too.
Dad was faithful in service. Sometimes that meant fixing an unfixable appliance for someone who couldn’t afford a new one. Or maybe it was picking kids up for Vacation Bible School, or spending time with teenagers he couldn’t understand, or visiting the neglected and unloved in nursing homes whom he couldn’t understand either, but it never seemed to matter.
Dad was faithful in his marriage. Fifty years with Mom seemed like 50 minutes to him. The time had flown, he said. We kids always knew that Mom was loved by Dad. The two joked about their differences but agreed that given the opportunity, they wouldn’t change a thing.
Dad was faithful in the tough times. Life dealt Dad some rough blows. He was rejected, dismissed and wronged by some, but Dad took what came as from the Lord. He never became bitter or lashed out. He never resented his lack of money, power or recognition. To him it was all about what God had in store. Even when cancer consumed his earthly body, his thoughts were on meeting Jesus.
Because of this, Dad was most faithful in the mission to which God had called him. It was simple: Make sure that when you get to heaven, you’ve paved the way for others as well. He fully believed that heaven is Home — everything else is just filler. Dad loved to talk about his Lord. Sometimes it was a brief testimonial or occasionally the bestowment of a Gospel tract. Many times it was a sentence here or there backed up by fervent prayer. Dad’s passion was to see people introduced to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. That’s what really mattered.
You’re sitting here today because our dad meant something to you. Maybe you’re thinking, What’s a way in which I can honor Dennis? Here’s what he would say:
Ask yourself, “Am I ready to meet Christ? Am I prepared to face eternity?” If you’ve put your complete trust in Jesus and He’s transforming your life even now, you are. Not only will you see Jesus someday, but you’ll see Dad as well. This, more than any flower arrangement, memorial or sentiment, is what Dad would desire most from you.
Please, honor Dad’s legacy and think about it. If you’re destined for heaven, today is a celebration of things to come. If not, it’s merely a glimpse of things lost. Put your trust in Christ alone and celebrate with us. In HIM we have our hope!
We love you, Dad,
Laura, Tina, Sara, Martha, Phil and Lisa
Ten years is a long time, and sometimes I fear that I’m forgetting my dad. I can’t remember his voice as well as I used to. The details of his silly stories and puns have faded a bit. I no longer expect him to pull his Buick into my driveway wearing his clip-on sunglasses, Dockers and “Trinity Dad” sweatshirt (I think my mom still has that sweatshirt from my alma mater). But I will never forget my dad’s passion for the Gospel; it has, perhaps more than anything else about him, influenced who I am today. I’m grateful for his legacy, and I’m mindful of his life well lived. And above all, I’m thrilled that in comparatively no time at all, we’ll be reunited. What a day that will be.