Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

I'm sitting at home right now, after a very full Father's Day. Since my diagnosis, I've been relishing every aspect of life. Today was one of exceptional relish - from the morning at church (my first time back after my hospital stay), to the beach with friends, to an elegant fondue dinner - planned by my lovely and loving wife, Shirley; accompanied by my children, Caelin, Becca, and Ryan. It simply could not have been a better day! If this is the last Father's Day I will have on earth, it will be the one I cherish the most.

From time to time throughout the day, I've been reflecting on my own father. If you will allow me, I'd like to share some memories of him with you.

He died in 1999, after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease and a host of other illnesses. A few days after he died, I wrote the following words to be read at his funeral service. Some of you reading this knew my father - others may (I hope) glimpse something of him in me. He was and is the finest man I have ever known.

Memories of My Father

I am sitting in my Dad's favorite recliner chair as I write these words. It makes me feel a little closer to him. My Mom tells me he spent almost the entire last day that he was home in this chair. How I wish I could have spent just a few minutes with him that day, remembering:

Dad, is there a golf tournament on TV today? I remember how you used to sit here, watching golf on TV, marvelling at how well the Pros played. Remember when I was a kid, no more than 12, when you bought me my first set of clubs and taught me to play? The first thing you taught me, before I ever took a club in my hand, was the etiquette of the game - how to mark my ball on the green, who putted first, how to repair my divot, who had 'honors' on the next tee. You taught me that no matter how well or badly I played, I could play with anyone if I followed the etiquette of the game. Not that we didn't try to play our best, and not that we weren't frustrated by that unfortunate slice off the 2nd tee (I remember you saying more than once, "This game will make you crazy, son!"), but at the end of the day, if we'd played by the rules and tried the best we could, it was a good day on the golf course. We had lots of good days, huh, Dad?

Playing by the rules was very important to you, wasn't it, Dad, in every aspect of your life? You were always courteous, always a gentleman in the finest sense of the word. Fairness and honesty were virtues to nourish and celebrate. And honesty started with one's self, didn't it, Dad? Though you weren't one to study literature, every once in awhile, you'd quote Shakespeare: "To thine own self be true." Those weren't just words, or some aphorism to recite at the appropriate place in an idle conversation. It was the way you lived your life in a fundamental and profound way. "If you can't be honest with yourself, " you'd say, "you'll never be honest with anyone else."

You might think that a father for whom playing by the rules and honesty were so important would be overly demanding on a young son. But you weren't that way at all, Dad. You held me to the same high standard you held yourself, but your natural empathy - the essential gentleness and warmth that made it so easy for you to feel what others felt - provided a wonderful counterbalance. You taught me the ideal, but you understood when I fell short. You corrected me when you felt it was necessary, but always with love and encouragement. As I grew to manhood, the correction disappeared, but never the encouragement. You were my biggest fan, Dad. How I will miss those simple words: "That's great, Bob!"

Sitting here with you, Dad, I can see your Bible in the other room. In recent years, you'd read from it aloud as part of your speech therapy. You were never much of a Bible reader before that, Dad, but you were a man of great faith. It gives me tremendous comfort to know that we share a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in common the great hope of Eternal Life together with Him. I've never heard you voice a doubt about your faith. You approach faith like all other areas in your life - you know the rules, you value the truth, and you have great empathy for those less fortunate than yourself. You have a great sense of the real purpose in life, that is preparation for the life to come. You have prepared very well, I think. In the next life, you won't need to rest in a reclining chair, Dad. You won't need those pills on the table. You won't need to struggle to speak clearly, or labor to walk. In the words of the Prophet, "You will soar on wings of eagles, you will run and not be weary, you will walk and not grow faint."

Sitting here in Dad's chair, I fear the words I've written no more express who my Dad was than the cold arms of this chair express the warmth of his arms when he embraced me.

I could not have asked for a better Dad. My tribute to him will be to live my life more like he lived his. He was and is a fine example, and an inspiration.

Someday, Dad, we will embrace again, joined by our family and friends, enfolded in the arms of our Lord and our God. Until then, Dad, I'll miss you. I'll love you, always. I am blessed to have such memories as these.

4 comments:

Michael Cahn said...

Robert,

It was wonderful to see you in church today. The hope that you have displayed while going through this trial has been such an encouragement to me and has made me draw closer to the Savior. Your friendship and fatherly wisdom over the past few years is something that I will be eternally grateful for!

Love always,
Michael

Michele said...

Bob,

What a beautiful Father's Day tribute! I didn't have the blessing of ever meeting your dad, but I can tell from your words that there is a lot of him in you. When you were my boss, I experienced a lot of that same understanding and encouragement when things got crazy and frustrating, as they often do in our line of work. That is something I still appreciate these many years later, and now I know where it came from. As they say, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!

So thank you for that, and for the encouragement of your faith and hope in this challenging time in your life.

Michele

Robert said...

Hi Bob,

Your words are an incredible inspiration; not just this post, but the entire blog. I lost my father back in 1989 so your words about your father really hit home. I came across the words of John Piper when he recently lost his father that I thought I'd share with you. It too is a wonderful tribute: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2007/2013_Hello_My_Father_Just_Died/

I'm praying for you,
Robert

Robert Hommel said...

Thanks for the Piper article, Robert. It was fantastic!

Here's the full URL for anyone else wishing to read it:

http://www.desiringgod.org
/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee
/ByDate/2007/
2013_Hello_My_Father_Just_Died/