It was the middle of June that I saw my Dad for the last time. I sat with him at his nursing home where he was recovering from a fall he had taken while at home. He was going to be there for a while as he regained his strength.
On this particular day, as the days before, he was unhappy about being in a nursing home. It was hard to hear him talk about how much he didn’t like it there. It was hard to listen to him hope that tomorrow he could get discharged, knowing it would be weeks.
Many days before he repeated the line, “I want to go home.” Each time he did my brother, or I would say,”I know you do, but you need to get your strength back first.” Tonight, again, as I was getting ready to leave his nursing home in Wisconsin and head back to my home in Minnesota, he looked at me and said, “I want to go home.”
This time there was no quiet resignation in his eyes as I said, “I know you do, but you just need to get stronger.” Tonight there was another message. Tonight he said, “I’m not talking about the apartment… I want to go HOME!” There was little I could say except, “I know you do Dad, I know you do.”
We said our goodbyes and I headed home. I had not given any thought to the idea that this would be the last time I saw him. We talked on the phone once or twice more, and then very early on Sunday morning, June 29, my Dad went home.
I led worship and preached that morning at St. John’s Lutheran in Hollywood, MN. Sometimes life is hard. In the days that followed, as the plans were put in place for his memorial celebration, I was asked to consider preaching. I had to give it some thought. I’ve preached funerals before, but not for anyone in my family.
I decided that I would accept the honor of being able to preach at my Dad’s funeral. Many people asked me, “Do you think you will be able to get through the sermon OK?” I was confident I would make it through for two reasons. First, the words I speak are not my own. They are the Words of the Spirit.
Secondly, I was and remain very happy for my Dad. I know how much he was struggling with his sight, balance, and everyday life. Life had become hard. But now he stands, with eyes bright and voice strong before the Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed him.
Listening to my mom talk about how much she misses him reminds me that sometimes life is hard. Knowing that I will never have another conversation with him reminds me that sometimes life is hard, but celebrating the life he now lives before the throne of God is not!
25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
Job 19:25-26 (NIV)