My dad passed away in July 2009 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and many other health issues. I write this article on what would have been his 73rd birthday. He was not always a godly man. Many of the years of my life, he was hurting, bitter, and angry at himself and others. Thankfully, my mom was diligent in teaching me about the love of God from an infant. Sometimes, as a child, I would become upset with my dad for always being so negative and angry, but God did a beautiful work in me when I entered my teenage years that only He could have done.
As I began to walk more closely with the Lord, He began to pour upon me a deep, abundant compassion for my father. It was the strangest thing. I had no idea where it came from at first, just that it did not come from me! As I grew in the Lord, His spirit of compassion grew in me for my dad and I was able to truly love him, serve him, and help care for him. As I did, his heart which was once made of stone began to soften and I ended up being his “favorite person” without trying to be.
For nearly 10 years, we watched the Alzheimer’s reek havoc on his mind and body. I remember when he stopped driving, and had to get a cane. I remember the numerous times he fell and I would drag him up off of the floor or up the steps the best I could. All the while, he would be fussing, and sometimes I wondered why I kept trying to help someone who didn’t want it. But, again, the compassion God birthed in me only grew. God worked such patience in me, as I would walk him to the car when we would go out to dinner as a family (I told him he was escorting me)! The trips to the men’s room (where God always provided a man to help him from the door on) that seemed to take an eternity from our restaurant booth with people staring blankly at us, some offering pity-filled half grins with downcast eyes.
I came to find great delight in cooking his breakfast for him so my mother could have a break. It was always the same. Toast, scrambled eggs, and either bacon, sausage or fried franks. Little things like bringing his newspaper to him, putting new batteries in his little portable radio, buttoning his PJ top each night or tying his shoes are things that I wouldn’t trade for anything. What gifts God gave to me as a daughter!
In January of 2009, my dad grew very sick. He ended up having to be admitted to a long-term care center where he could receive care that Mother and I, alone, could not give to him. The day he was taken there, my heart was ripped into millions of pieces. But even in that horrific season of loss, God, as He always does, brought bouquets of beauty from heaps of ashes. He began to truly soften my dad’s heart towards Himself and others in a precious, child-like way. I began to see an innocence on his little face and purity in his once dark, angry eyes. Every evening after feeding him his supper (before he had the feeding tube), I would ask him to wink for me and he would wink and smile the most life-filled smiles I’d ever seen!
One night in March, as I had already kissed his little bald head and turned to go, I heard him weakly whisper, “I love you.” I was taken aback. Tears filled my eyes as I asked him to repeat himself. “I love you,” he said faintly. It had been years since I heard my dad utter these words! What a priceless gift from my Heavenly Father! It became routine after that. Every day, I would sit at his bedside and read the Scriptures to him and tell him how Jesus loved him. He would say, “Amen” and “I love you” and try to make his toes “dance” under the blankets and wink and smile.
On July 27, when he left this earth to go Home, God had made it clear that he was ready and my lifelong prayer for his salvation had been answered. Mother and I were blessed to be with him when he quietly, peacefully slipped away. God’s peace swallowed us up and we were able to rejoice in the Lord who is able to make hearts of stone into hearts of flesh! I still miss my dad terribly, but I know he is finally well and whole. Looking back, I do not regret one thing God gave me the grace to do for him. I am so thankful that I did! In fact, I wish I had had more opportunities to bless him when he was here on earth with me.
Dear daughters, don’t wait until it’s too late to serve and bless your dads (or any of your family, for that matter). Yours, like mine, may not even be a believing father right now, but did you know you can influence and win them to Christ by your love and compassion? Don’t miss a chance to let them see Christ living well in you! Be available when they need your help or your time. Don’t ever brush off daughter/dad dates as silly (I still remember the last “date” I had with my dad. My mom had gone to a birthday party, and he sent me out for his favorite- Kentucky Fried Chicken! I brought it in, filled his plate, served him and lit an apple cobbler candle on the table. We talked and laughed and had a wonderful evening). But, know that you won’t always have them, so treasure them!
One of the best ways God prepares us for marriage is by teaching us to serve and bless our parents. If you are waiting for God to send you a husband, be assured that you can prepare well right now by being a blessing to your family!