Invite Someone To Their Own Memorial

I recently attended a memorial service for a friend of mine, an acquaintance really. I sat on the front row as most pastors’ wives do. (I call it, “the cheering section.”) The pastor, my husband, looked so handsome in his gray suit and black, polka-dotted tie. (Watch out, Justin Timberlake!) He did a great job navigating the mourners through a sea of solemn songs, funeral scriptures, encouraging words and memories. When the service was finished he invited everyone to join the family for potluck. Then it was over; we had paid our “final respects” to this dear man.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but think about what my memorial would be like. (The subtitle for this blog is, My Random Thoughts; you were warned.) I also thought, as I often do after memorials, that it is such a shame that we all get together to honor someone after their gone instead of when they’re here to be encouraged by our kind words.

So here you have it- your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Pick someone you know. Invite them to out to eat. (There’s always food at a memorial.) While you are enjoying your meal together, say to them all the things you would say if you were standing behind the mic at their funeral. Then, find out more about them- the amplified version of the facts and events that would be summarized in their obituary- life’s closing paragraph.
Do they have pictures on their iPhone? Ask them to share them with you. I have books and books of pictures at home, but I keep a picture of the people that are most important to me on my iPhone. I’d be happy to show them to you; and yes, there is a story behind each photo. (Get the picture? No pun intended.)

So we have: food, kind words, personal information and pictures. There will most likely be flowers and music playing at the restaurant… hopefully smooth jazz. The only things missing from this kind of memorial are the tears, and they’re highly overrated anyway.

“Luke, I am your father.” Darth Vader

1-darth-vadar-skullWhen I think about the word father, the first thing that comes to my mind is this quote, “Luke, I am your father.” I know. Weird, huh? You say, “father” and I think of Darth Vader. You may think about the day your dad taught you to ride a bike or the time he took you camping. You may remember fishing with your dad or the gaudy tie you gave him for Father’s Day that he wore proudly because it was from you, his child. I’ve never met my dad, so I don’t have any warm, fuzzy feelings about him or memories to draw upon while writing this entry.

I can, however, write about my father, God. I recognized Him as my father when I was 11 years old. From that point on, He put men in my life who would step up and be the paternal example that I was missing; Godly men who mirrored His love for me and the kind of father He is.

The first man who made a difference in my life was Bill Combs. He was my pastor when I was 11 and he introduced me to my Heavenly Father. Bill loved his kids and I could see that. He loved me too and included me as part of his family. He took me to the zoo for the first time and in the winter, we slid down snow covered mountains together on shiny, black garbage bags. During the time Bill was part of my life, I learned that a father is fun.

When I was 13, we moved from Kentucky to Florida and I became a part of another pastor’s family. Mark McGuire was solemn, but kind. His daughter and I became fast friends and we had many sleepovers at their house. I got to know this family pretty well. They had a busy schedule, as pastoral families do, but I watched Mark make time for his wife. They had this tradition… When the kids went to bed, and I was often the fourth child, they would pop popcorn and watch a movie together. We kids were not allowed to get up and be part of this because it was their special time together. I didn’t understand it at the time, but now that I am married and have two kids, I can appreciate their simple, romantic gesture. Mark showed me that a father doesn’t only love his children, but also, that a father loves his wife. I came from an abusive family background and believe me, this was a new concept for me.

Several years later, God blessed me beyond anything I could ask or think when I married my sweetheart, Grant. His father, Rick Foster, became my father. That’s right, my father, not my father-in-law. From the moment I joined the family, he referred to me as a daughter and treated me as a daughter. He was not a touchy, feely kind of guy. He didn’t show me gobs of affection, but he was a hard-working man. He showed me that a father is a provider. He also loved blessing us. If we had a financial need and he knew about it, he met that need. If he received a bonus at work, he shared his blessing with the entire family. He also gave to his church and to ministries he believed in. He once came home from work without shoes because he met a man who didn’t have any. Rick showed me that a father gives sacrificially, and without strings attached.

The last man I want to mention today is my uncle, Wayne Ritchie. It is honestly a miracle that I even know him. He is my dad’s brother. Last year I had a strong desire to try and find out where my dad was and if he was still alive. I don’t have the time or energy today to tell you all the things God has done and is doing concerning this, or how he is restoring my family to me. But I will tell you someday soon. For today, I just want to thank Uncle Wayne and his family for accepting me immediately. They have been a great encouragement to me, kept in touch with me and checked on me. He has shown me that a father loves unconditionally.

I really don’t know how I feel about my dad. I don’t hate him by any means. I care about him and his eternity. But I don’t recognize the feelings I have for him as love. I’ve only talked to him briefly, and during that time he made it clear that he does not accept me as his daughter. This wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for and it caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting the raw emotion that burst into the room the moment I hung up the phone. So you see, my dad has never been part of my life and he has never given me the impression that he plans to be. You don’t save a seat for someone unless they tell you they’re coming. It’s no wonder that I can’t define my feelings for him. It’s not as if I’ve saved a seat for him in my life; especially one right next to me. But if he decided to come, I’d make room.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve never met your earthly father. What I’m hoping is, that also like me, you have been privileged to have spiritual fathers in your life; men of God who have shown you the love of God. If not, I pray that God would send a spiritual father to you soon. But remember, God didn’t send those men into my life until I recognized who my true father was- my father, God. So if you haven’t recognized God as your father yet, I pray that today is the day you do. He will fill that black hole in your life. Whether it be a father you are missing or anyone or anything else, trust me, God is all you need.