Loved ones come and loved ones go. It is a reality of life that there comes an end point. Whether they meet death fresh-faced with barely a day to their name or as a sage with decades of experience and wisdom, one point remains true: life is precious. Here, Christine bravely lays bare her grief in homage to her dad who died a few months back; a man whose 82 years were lived with the kind of dignity and faith that has left the sweet kiss of legacy on those who remain. Another This Little Life story…
“The hymn beautifully expressed what had been on our hearts during the 12 weeks of our dearly loved father’s hospital stay.
When peace like a river flows all through my life,
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot you have taught me to say:
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It was evening as the family gathered one last time to farewell Pieter, our Dad and Opa. I got the call just after dinner that Dad wasn’t going to make it through the night. After the shock of those words set in we drove to the hospital. Walking quickly along the dimmed corridor and into the room, I was soon calmed by the soothing words of this hymn as the strong, velvet voices of dad’s adult sons and daughters filled the room. Amazing Grace, Nearer Still Nearer and various Genevan Psalter verses soon followed and I gladly joined in.
Dad looked at peace and, though in a coma, I noticed his breathing tempo change slightly at times as if in recognition of all of us. I kissed his noble forehead gently. He seemed so fragile and child-like. I spoke my love and farewells sweetly wondering how he could look both regal and child-like. I didn’t stay right till the end… it wasn’t necessary. We fellowshipped together as a family and later that evening he died. What a privilege it was to sing him into heaven.
A GODLY MAN WITH A CHILD-LIKE FAITH
This was a man who, in his 83rd year, left this world for the prize of eternal glory in heaven, and in doing so left a legacy of love. Not just with his 12 surviving children, 11 children in-law, second wife, eight stepchildren and their families and numerous grandchildren, but with everyone who had been touched by his genuine interest in their lives. He had a heart for people and despite several trials of his own to endure he remained sweet, gentle, and non-judgmental.
People who knew him have told me how much they appreciated his gentleness and sense of humor and his ability to encourage others even when faced with his own physical and painful ailments during the last few years of his life. He and my mother both set an example in living lives of servanthood and faith and all of his children are followers of Christ. His heart for others was evident as he served for many years as church elder and youth leader all while raising his own large family.
SADNESS AND JOY
As we – over 100 of his direct descendants – committed his body to the grave alongside my mother’s, I was deeply sad but also incredibly joyful and full of praise to our heavenly Father for giving us such a wonderful papa. I pictured him reunited with my mother, baby brother, some grandchildren, his own parents and siblings and could imagine him digging over the best little plot of garden anyone has ever seen.
“For no eyes have seen… nor ears heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
The chrysanthemums that we dropped in were a nod to his extraordinary gardening and horticulture skills.
I want to live the kind of life he lived, one of selfless service to his family and as a faithful child of God. His life epitomised the kind of life our Lord talked about; “Unless you…become as little children…” (Matt 18:3).
Children boldly ask from their insufficiency, as Oswald Chambers points out. We mainly ask out of desperation. Our asking will change our inner nature and enable us to see with the eyes of faith. The time Dad had on earth was not wasted. His example of humility, faith and love is significant and will live on. Though he came to Australia as a migrant with no fanfare and he desired to live and leave with no fanfare, his legacy will last.
Many weeks later I found the book of James especially comforting. Chapter 3:17-18 made me dwell again on my peace-loving, gentle-at-all-times, garden-loving dad. This Show Day we will not have his tomato seedlings to plant, but we’ll always remember a dad who “planted seeds of peace” and who will “reap a harvest of righteousness”.
THANKFUL FOR THE GIFT OF TIME
When I visited him in hospital during the long 12 weeks of his stay I saw the fruits of the Spirit, especially patience. Though his body struggled to recover from the hip operation and various setbacks, he was never angry or gave into complaint or self-pity (likewise, my mother never complained throughout years of painful arthritis). Those visits were special. I often just sat and held his hand or prayed for him. Each time I left I blessed him and left the mark of the cross on his beautiful forehead.
God was gracious in that the hospital stay allowed each of us to spend as much time with him as we needed. By contrast my mother was taken home suddenly and traumatically. So I am deeply thankful to God for giving us this gift of time.
When I take my eyes off Jesus and the cross I am sometimes still left wondering. Raising my children as a motherless mother has its challenges. Witnessing the sudden death of my own baby brother at the tender age of five has left an indelible mark on me… one that Jesus has touched. Being present when my mother passed away leaves me wondering, why me? Eyes back on Jesus and I am thankful for the Godly parents I had. These experiences have made me fully aware of how short our time here on earth actually is, so I have no excuses for not making mine count. I want to get to heaven fully understanding my own reliance on God’s grace and want to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant…” In my mind’s eye my husband and children are there with me in eternity and not one of them is lost.
After Jesus, my own family comes first. I do not take my wifehood and motherhood for granted. I want to disciple my children first and foremost to receive Jesus and faithfully follow Him. I deliberately commit to not letting work outside the home affect the delicate balance of homemaking. The time we have with our little children is so short.
The time we are separated from our departed loved ones is minute compared to eternity. Can you imagine that great day when Jesus returns? When all of God’s children will live in glorious relationship with Him and each other? I pray that Dad’s legacy of love will continue down into the next generation and beyond and impact many for Christ until He returns. Oh…bring on that day!”