It is said of only a select few in the scriptures that their names were “esteemed” in heaven. That smallish lot earned such praise because they obeyed God faithfully, served humbly and led principled, exemplary lives. Dad, we’ve no doubt your name is well-spoken of from one end of glory to the other, and this is our attempt to fittingly esteem your life in this side of eternity. And what a life it has been! Like Abraham, Job and David, your days have been full and your years have known the richness of a life greatly lived.
Eighty years ago, you were born beneath the thickening clouds of Great Depression yet the little boy with glacier-blue eyes and a mop of sandy-blonde hair atop his head smiled mischievously in the face of hard times and rose above with l’esprit de la vie beautifully marked by resilience, gusto, grit and the grace of God. The sorrows and difficulties of those early years only emblazoned the stuff of greatness deep in your being and tempered sensitivity and kindness from your heart. How blessed are we to say to the world: this man is our Dad!
You are a man of few words yet your life is a library of reference for splendid living. Not long ago, a man who was gifted with a golden tongue said “I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in fifty years what my father taught by example in one week.” Hear, hear. We have learned much from your life, Dad. You are a living epistle of true wisdom that fits beautifully in your children’s hands. The cover is tenderly worn, the edges have gone from crisp to aged and the pages are dog-eared but only because there is so much of your life that is worth bookmarking. So much legacy to mine and plumb.
The Psalmist says, “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130) to which your life, Dad, eloquently testifies. Each of us kids remember that same early morning liturgy rehearsed again and again across the years and how it has planted in us the hunger to know God more through the sacred scriptures.
There you sit, at the breakfast table, always before the early rays of morning gild the edges of the quiet pre-dawn, your head bowed over the Book of books; black coffee steams in a mug at your elbow but before a spoonful of cereal is raised to your mouth, God gets you first. This is how the morning greeted us! Could any other legacy be more necessary for a child? You read as though you were consuming food, for indeed you were, and your inner life glowed hotter than even the day before and not quite as much as it would the following morning. You read so the words would cleanse your soul and send you into the day with a vitality that was not your own.
Each day, every week, month after month and across the expanding bridge of decades, your life has gone up to God as a sweet savor of incense. It might seem a strange thing to say of a grown man that he is sweet, and yet it so perfectly speaks of you. All who have ever known you, Dad, would agree when the record of your life is tallied, you come up a very sweet man. Sweet, as in, endearing. Winsome. Grace-filled. Affable. Kind.
Handsome, young and fresh out of the Air Force, it was 1953 and you made an amazing, life-changing discovery. Trapped inside a set of revolving doors at the YMCA of Harvey, Illinois, was a beautiful brunette that caught your eye. You tried to strike up a conversation with her but found her aloof and uninterested. Today, your kids are giddy with delight that you did not let this deter you. You Romancer you! You finally swept her off her feet and barely a year later, you married Mom on a glorious spring day, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death should separate you. A long and lasting home was established, beginning with the arrival of your firstborn, eleven months later.
That home became a little slice of heaven on earth, rooted and grounded in godliness, when you were gloriously reborn! Thank God for that little mission church in Calumet City that you, Mom and your little girl began attending, and thank God for the “angel that led you to the Lord”! That angel, of course, was Pastor Wayne Angel, and he saw you in that pew, trembling there under deep conviction, and he walked back to where you were standing, asked if you were ready to surrender your life to Jesus, and you said yes. Bless you, Dad, for saying yes!
In a society of dysfunctional families, it has been our singular fortune to not only be blessed with a Dad, but a very good Dad, a doting Dad with firm hand and loving heart, a godly Dad who has lived only to see his children say yes to Jesus also and establish their homes in Christ. Thank you, Dad, for caring enough to point out the way to us. We, too, have been led to the Lord by an angel.
And when we’ve heard you sing your testimony with songs like “I’d Rather Have Jesus” or “The Love of God” and “How Great Thou Art” in that deep, rich, bass voice of yours, we’ve heard what angels must sound like when they praise the Lamb who sits on the Throne. We know our Father in glory beams when He hears you sing. We sure do.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
May You hear the heavens sing over you this day.