“We will see you again.”

This is part of the eulogy I delivered at my dad’s memorial service, twenty years ago.  He died on June 18, 1995, a Sunday, which happened to be Father’s Day;  making each Father’s Day since very poignant.

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I believe that you can understand the most about a man by looking at his relationships.

To my father’s friends:

I know how much he loved you, how dedicated he was to you, and he knew how much you loved him.  He expected to be there for you, and he was thankful that you were there for him.

I learned at an early age that my dad’s friends were special, that Florida Gators, in particular, were special, and that the rarest of all animals, the Golden Era Florida Gator, was to be specially revered.

In these fast-paced times, where so much seems temporal, I admire the friendships my father enjoyed with you.  You do not see those kinds of friendships as often anymore;  you should put whatever it is in a bottle and save it, because they are not making any more of it.

To my father’s business associates and employees:

I know how much he enjoyed his association with you.  When I was younger, I would ride the bus downtown to have lunch with him, and it was obvious to me, as he introduced me to all of you, how much pride he had in that association with you, and the pleasure he took in your companionship.

To his grandchildren:

Henley and Lauren, he loved you with all of his heart, and took so much pride in the fact that you were his legacy.

To my sister:

Pam, I know that you have your own special thoughts about Dad, and you would have expressed them in your own way, if you were standing in my place.

To my mother:

I will always be grateful for the providence that took my dad to the University of Florida, and placed him in that dormitory window, when he saw first saw you.  You were married for 46 years.  You had a total partnership.  You were best friends;  you were soul mates.  In so many ways, you were just alike.  He communicated his love to you every day of your marriage.  He went out of his way to let you know how much you meant to him.

 

One of the greatest gifts that God has given me is the honor and privilege of being my father’s son.  I love and admire him more than he ever knew.  He was always there for me, even when it was very difficult.

My father taught me what it meant to be a man.  By his words and his example, I learned about honesty, loyalty, courage.  He taught me never to quit.  He gave me the expectation and the confidence to succeed, but he also gave me the courage and freedom to fail.  He taught me to see the world the way I chose to make it, not the way I wished it was.

My dad was a huge part of my life when I was growing up.  He was my hero in neighborhood football games.  He was my Little League coach;  I watched Don Larsen pitch his perfect game with my dad.  I saw my first Florida game with him. He taught me to play golf.

What was he like?

My mother says that my father was a simple man.  I think she means that he was an uncomplicated man.  My dad knew who he was;  he knew who he wasn’t.  He had very uncomplicated values.  He was honest, he was loyal, he was fair.

My dad saw things mostly in black and white.

He had uncomplicated aspirations and expectations.  He wanted to be a good husband, father, and grandfather to his family.  He wanted to be there for his friends.

These were the things that were important to him.

He was a man of few words.  When I was about 12 years old, we were out playing catch, and he motioned for me to sit down.  He said, “Son, is there anything you want to know about girls?”

I said, “Not really.”

And my dad said, “Glad to hear it!”

He was also direct.  When I was in high school, he and I were having a conversation.  When he appeared to be finished, I said, something to the affect that he was insinuating such-and-such, to which he stared at me and replied, “Son, I don’t even know how to spell that word”.

My father was very much a man at peace with himself.  During late summer Saturday afternoon thundershowers, he took such pleasure in just standing on the porch and watching the rain.  Nothing else, just watching.  I wonder what his thoughts were.

I’m glad my dad retired early from First Florida.  It gave him the time to do a lot of the things he and my mom wanted to do, things they wanted to see, places they wanted to go.

He had precious years to be a grandfather.

Everyone thought my dad would live at least another 20 years.  His dad lived to almost 90, and his mom lived into her 90’s.

We would give anything to see my dad take one more walk with my mom.  See him sit on his porch in North Carolina.  Play one more round of golf with him.  See the Gators play one more game.  See him fix one more banana milkshake for Lauren and Henley.

But, we won’t.

God does not give us immortal bodies.  He only gives us immortal Spirits.  We can’t pick our time.  For any of us, death is just one heartbeat away.

The great thing about trains in this country is that they always run on time.  Forest Gump, a character that my dad loved, in the last movie he saw, might have said it this way:  “Momma told me, God is like a train.  He never comes too early, and He never comes too late”.

It is an interesting question for Christians.  Like a train, God always comes on His time, but He doesn’t give us the schedule.  Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to hear the whistle around the bend;  sometimes the train just appears at the station. And we are supposed to be ready.

I had a conversation with my dad one week before he died. We talked about what it meant to be a Christian.  I wanted some answers from him about where he stood.

He looked at me, and said, very simply, “That is what I believe.”

My dad’s train arrived at 10:40 pm, June 18, 1995, and departed shortly thereafter on its final run.

He made his train.

The apostle John, closed his third, and last, epistle with these words:  “ . . . Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so in pen and ink, but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full . . . “.

To my father:

We love you.  We will miss you.  We will never forget you.

But, we will see you again.