Fifteen years ago, about this time of year, I was back home in Lewistown spending a few days with my parents.
Dad was not doing very well. He had had a heart attack the year before. Though he had gamely worked his way back to reasonable health, his kidneys had failed. He had to go to dialysis six days a week, several hours a day. I realized time was running out for Dad. I wanted to have some time with him and with Mom.
So I flew from Chicago to Harrisburg and borrowed my sister’s car to drive to Lewistown. There we sat one evening in the kitchen. I had coaxed them to unearth their folder of old photos, pictures of their dating years, Dad’s years in the Navy, Mother on her months in mission in Kentucky and then as a teacher. We looked at pictures of their wedding, their honeymoon in D. C., and of their first apartment. Along the way they identified people, told stories, and just sat in stillness as they remembered. I asked questions, lots of questions – how they met, what it was like to be apart, how they managed in the hard times. “What are you asking us all these questions for?” my mother inquired. ” To understand,” I answered. I just wanted to get to know my parents better even near the end of their lives.
A couple days later, on a Sunday afternoon, we drove up to the top of Belleville Mountain. There on the rocks around us were some young guys doing hang gliding. They would run to the edge of the mountain and soar into the sky, silently, elegantly gliding through the air over the magnificent Amish farms and valley below. Several minutes later they would land gently and triumphantly on the ground.
Just a few weeks later, on July 4 of that summer, my father would do the same. Around noon that day as they were beginning the dialysis, my father’s heart stopped. In that moment his soul ran to the edge of the mountain, his feet lifted from the ground beneath him, and he soared into the sky, silently, elegantly gliding through the air over the magnificent landscape of heaven, gently and triumphantly landing in the place God had prepared for him. Though it was agonizing for us, he was safe in the arms of his Father.
On this Father’s Day remember your father, the one who is there with you in your home or down the road in the nursing home, the one who is a phone call away or cannot be called, only remembered… the one who showed you the Father’s love or the one who mangled it badly and needs forgiven…the one who is or was your flesh and blood or who is “father ” by adoption or simply by kindness. To you men – and that includes me- remember to be a father. Remember to show the strong and tender love of Jesus to the children and grandchildren of your life, to children of the church and those down the street. And always remember the source of it all, the One who was called Father by our savior and who taught us to pray, “Our Father”.
On this Father’s Day remember your father…and our Father.
See you on Sunday…Father’s Day.