As we approach Father’s Day here in the United States, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. At the end of his life he taught me a lot about “right priorities.”
My Dad and The Right Priorities
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
My (Jim) father recently died. He was 89 and had lived a good life. When I was growing up, Dad had his issues. He was a functioning alcoholic but in his 60’s he gave up drinking and never looked back. He was quite frail, broke his hip, and then after a hip replacement he contracted pneumonia and never made it out of the hospital.
A week before he died, I was sitting in the convalescent hospital with my Dad. A new physical therapist came to visit and must have gotten the charts confused. Enthusiastically she said, “Hi Bob! Are you ready for physical therapy?” I just smiled knowing he wasn’t doing physical therapy anymore and was ready for hospice care. I decided not to say anything and watch what would happen. She helped him up and she could see he was very weak. “Bob, how did you break your hip?” My dad looked her right in the eye and said, “It was a motorcycle accident.” This frail 89-year-old was so convincing that she looked at me. I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled. Dad went right on telling her that he had always wanted to ride my brother’s motorcycle and so one day when my brother wasn’t home, he got on the bike and rode it around the neighborhood. The problem was he didn’t know how to stop the motorcycle when he drove it up on our backyard patio, and he put it right through the patio door. Now this was so convincing the physical therapist looked at me again. I whispered, “That did occur about 47 years ago!” He made it sound like it had just happened. I do remember coming home from elementary school to find my brother’s motorcycle in our living room with gas, oil, glass, and some blood on the carpet with the bike.
She smiled. Dad was so positive and grateful. She then asked, “Do you have other children, Bob?” He said, “Yes, I have four boys and I’m proud of all four of them.” This took me a bit by surprise and tears welled up in my eyes to hear my dad say to a stranger that he was proud of me. Then I looked at the woman and there were tears in her eyes as well. He went on to say, “I’ve lived a good life. I am deeply grateful to God and my family. I was married to his mom (as he pointed at me) for 53 years. She is in heaven waiting for me and I’m ready to be there.” More tears. Then he added, “After his mom died, I married one of her best friends, Virginia. She has been like an angel to me. I am a very fortunate man.” By this time the woman was crying, I was crying, and she had brought him back to his bed. We met outside. She said with tears in her eyes, “Your father has a beautiful attitude. He is the reason I do what I do. He is so inspiring even at the end of his life.”
I sat outside the room for just a bit and thought, how like God. Dad was expressing that he was proud of my brothers and me. Believe me we have made our share of mistakes but he was still proud of his kids, just like God is proud of you, his child. Dad also taught me to have more of an eternal perspective that kept bringing him back to having a grateful heart. He was grateful to God and grateful for the ones he loved. Later when I arrived home and told Cathy my story, I just held her a little bit longer and told her I wanted to be more like my dad. Authorities on death and dying tell us that when someone is about to die they seek a right relationship with God and a right relationship with their loved ones. At the end of their life, they finally get their priorities straight. I hope it doesn’t take me that long.