Last Sunday we celebrated Father's Day. For me, this made 17 years without a father with whom I could visit and talk when I wanted. For 40 years, I had my dad, and he was one of the best.
Now he's gone, buried in a cemetery in St. Paul, Minn. Even though he's gone, his presence is near through the avenue of my memory, especially around the dates of Father's Day.
Even though we lived many miles apart, he was always close, always available, always present. His words were nothing to sit up and take note of; his achievements in this life were not what you would call extraordinary, but you could admire everything he said and did. It was his presence in my life that made him so very special.
We had a big elm tree in our front yard when I was growing up in Bristol, Conn. Many times, just to get away from it all, I would climb up into the branches of the that tree and find solace and comfort. It was so solid, just like my dad -- solid. He always could be found and leaned upon.
During the unpredictable and turbulent years of my adolescence, Dad was one part of my life that was predictable. Things would come and go, but Dad was there. Touch football in the backyard, driveway basketball, bike rides, difficult homework assignments, walks in the woods, family drives -- he was always there. His presence in my life was the all-important denominator.
And because he was there, life went more smoothly. The bills were paid, the car ran, there was always food on the table, and my needs (but not necessarily my wants) were always met. I never had to worry about taxes, monthly bills, the mortgage or heat bills. Those were things that my dad took care of.
He made the decisions, broke up the sibling fights, laughed while he read the funnies and occasionally fixed breakfast on Saturday mornings. He didn't do anything unusual. He only did what dads are supposed to do: be there.
He taught me how to shave and how to pray. He made sure I was in church and modeled the importance of a good work ethic. He made sure I learned to accept the responsibility for making decisions and accepting the consequences of those decisions.
Yes, he's been gone for 17 years, but he comes to mind often. When I smell Old Spice after shave, I think of him. When I see a canoe being paddled across a lake or hear the squeaky oarlocks in a boat, I see his face. He was such a presence in my life. He was the model for my other father, the heavenly one.
He helped me understand and trust the words of my heavenly father when he said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you," and when he said, "... Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."
My dad was always there. God, our Father, is always there.
What a heritage I have.
And this same Father in heaven is there for you, too. Be comforted, for he's a rock, and he never changes. He's "on the job" every day, just for you.
Stuart Churchill is pastor of the Kenai United Pentecostal Church at mile 16.5 on the Spur Highway. There is a Sunday school for all ages at 1 p.m. and worship at 2 p.m. and a bible study at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information, call 283-5860.
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