Father’s Day, 2013: A few sprinkles hit the windshield. I silently pray for no rain and feel nudged to pray for sunshine, as well. A few moments later, we pull up in front of Gray Valley Cemetery. And, as if in answer to my prayer, the clouds part and, yes! The early summer sunshine touches the silent gravestones and graces the bright green of the country hillside. This is where my Daddy is to rest. It can hardly be more beautiful. As a youth, my Dad often traipsed these very same hills of northern Pennsylvania. He was a bit of a loner and often it was just he, perhaps his dog, and his rifle—off in search of rabbit or grouse or maybe a raccoon.
The better part of a century has passed. And I make my way to his gravesite where a lovely pink granite stone stands, decorated to acknowledge Dad’s service as a marine in WWII. In a way, Dad never stopped being a marine. Those years deeply influenced the rest of his life—both for good and, I suppose, somewhat for the not-so-good, too.
His ashes are placed in the ground and I hear the military gun salute behind me, followed by taps. A prayer of thanksgiving is offered for the life of my Dad. Good words of remembrance bring both smiles and tears.
The record will show that Dad was rather like most of us—a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. But in my eyes he was always my hero. I love my Dad and even though he rarely actually said it, I absolutely know he loved me, too. He taught me good lessons that have served well, both for him and in my own life, too: the value of perseverance and hard work; the importance of saving money and using it wisely; the desire to be the best one can be; and what faithfulness looks like—whether within the walls of the Church, or caring for one you love.
As our farewell draws to a close, five of the men sing a beautiful song of hope:
When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.
Each of us drops rose petals on the urn and says goodbye. Dad is gone. But in a very real sense he lives on in each of us. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to touch our world with the good that Dad stood for, and with the hope that one day we will again rejoice together with Jesus.
Good-bye, Daddy. I love you!