Last Friday, my family remembered the life of my dad. There was no funeral, just a brief memorial at the graveside and a simple lunch afterward back at the house.
My oldest brother, Steve, led the service. He began with a reading of a couple of passages from Philippians and then Dad’s testimony that was written by Dad some years ago. We didn’t know about the existence of this written testimony, but it was found recently among Dad’s papers. Steve then recounted some childhood memories of playing the trumpet with Dad and how Dad taught him how to work hard. Then using his flugelhorn, he played Dad’s favorite hymn, “Higher Ground.” There was one moment there when I went up to hold the music for Steve and he was still sharing that I thought Steve was going to lose it, so I did the only thing I could think of and punched him in the arm. He said, “Thanks.” We were good from there on out.
Mom shared a memory of when they met back at Bryan College in the 1950’s. Dad played his trumpet in the annual freshmen talent show and her heart swooned for the sound of Dad’s trumpet. I guess she thought something of him too.
Dawn shared a childhood memory of Dad bringing home a rough-looking Chevy convertible. He took the older three siblings out for a ride around the town with the top down. They sat up on the top of the back seat and had a great time laughing and waving at everyone like they were in a parade for everyone to see while they flaunted their new-found status as owners of a convertible. Oh the heights of exuberance and vanity until…the local policeman fired off his siren and gave Dad a brusque directive to “Get those kids down off of there and into those seats!” Ah well. Life does have its highs and lows. Sometimes at the same time.
Annette shared a memory of camping which we did quite often in the summers (since we couldn’t afford to do much else!). As a teenager she was thinking to take a hike from the campground we were enjoying. Dad insisted he would go along. Annette didn’t want him to go along with her, but if Dad HAD to go, he HAD to walk behind her a little ways. So, being an athletic type and runner, she figured she’d lose him. She took off walking. Faster. Faster. Faster. Our overweight dad somehow kept up through the whole hike! While she didn’t appreciate it then, now it’s easy to see that a protective father is a good thing to have. Dad was certainly that.
John shared a few selected jokes that Dad typed up and sent him years ago. John still had the sheets of paper. Dad didn’t think John had a sense of humor which is appropriate because John is the funniest one of the bunch of us. John’s wife also got up and shared a nice word about her relationship with Dad.
I concluded the service sharing a bit of Dad’s legacy. I connected the fact of WWII officially beginning for the USA with the attack on Pearl Harbor and that Dad’s joining the Navy led him to hear the Gospel and to accept Christ which in turn led him to eventually lead all of his kids to faith in Christ. He led me to Christ when I was a young boy right around Christmastime. It seemed fitting that Dad left this world on Pearl Harbor Day. I read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and then closed in prayer.
Throughout the memories shared there was some laughter and giggles. That might seem odd for a graveside memorial, but Dad was a cut-up and jokes and laughter were always nearby when Dad was nearby.
Dad is still nearby on higher ground.
“Higher Ground” [we sang the boldface lyrics]
- I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Canaan’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
- My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
- I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
- I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”