It is Sunday and I'll gather to worship with the congregation I serve. We are celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. We'll sing carols and read lessons. We'll remember that God is with us. We'll give thanks for the Word made flesh.
And I will give thanks for the Word that lived and loved and claimed my dad. For all eternity.
In giving thanks for my dad today, I share the reflection I offered at his memorial service.
“Don’t forget to wear your boots.”
During my senior year in high school I had written a paper on a “Remembered Person;” someone who could be living or dead. I chose my step-dad, Bill. We knew he was dying. I then shared those words I had written with the congregation at the memorial service.
Today, for my dad, I didn’t have a school course paper to read from. And I don’t know if I would have chosen my dad because for the last few months I have failed to acknowledge how sick my dad was. I didn’t want to imagine a life without him. I couldn’t bring myself to think of the day that I couldn’t call him up on the phone with a car question or some mechanical problem. Or just to share with him about my Sunday service and what he heard that morning from the sermon at his church.
And now I find myself at a loss - loss of a father, loss of words, loss of faith.
And then I hear my dad telling me, “Don’t forget to wear your boots.” For two years while I was in Africa, without fail at the end of every phone conversation (sometimes weekly) and at the end of every letter he sent me, I read or heard, “Don’t forget to wear your boots.” He was concerned for my health – for snakes, for cuts, and infections, and for hippos. He loved his daughter.
If I was preaching and using these words from my dad, I would somehow make a theological connection, find some Gospel truth to them – and I’m sure there is – but today I just remember my dad and his love for a daughter.
Love that spent hours with me learning how to drive and then ensuing car trips just to drive and be together.
Love that could always make new friends and talk to anyone.
Love that would sing a favorite show tune or jazz standard at any moment.
Love that could talk for hours of trains and cars and squeal with delight at the sight of a classic car.
Love that cried at romantic comedies and relentlessly denied any such tears.
Love that adored board games and adamantly encouraged hand washing before beginning the game and touching any of the pieces.
Love that always told me things would be okay and to not worry.
Don’t worry dad, I’ll remember to wear my boots.