Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 3, 2016
Lessons I am passing on to my grandchildren
This week my friend Robert Parker spoke at his own funeral, an amazing experience for the crowd attending his graveside service. Parker, a 75-year-old retired veterinarian, died after being burned in an accident on his farm. He was a rock solid disciple of Jesus Christ and an Auburn man.
Sometime ago Parker taped a message he wanted played at his funeral. The playing of his words brought strong men to tears. He spoke of his love for his family, calling out the names of his children and grandchildren and some friends. He shared what he thought was most important in life – to love God and others, to value friendships more than possessions, to give generously, to do right and to persevere in doing right.
My friend Linda Smith said that Parker’s words were powerful. “Men and women and grandchildren were crying as they heard their names called out.”
At 84 I realize it will not be long before my own funeral. Parker’s message to his family has prompted me not to record a message to be played at my funeral but to share in writing some of the valuable lessons I have learned about life. Since some of my children and grandchildren do not read newspapers, I am sending them this message by other means.
Solomon counseled young men with these words: “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Solomon wanted sons to listen to their fathers so that by living a good life they could bring joy to their fathers. He said, “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him” (Proverbs 23:24).
I listened to my father when I was young and when I became a man I began to formulate the lessons he had taught me by precept and example. Fathers teach best by example, without words. My daddy did that. He understood what Saint Francis of Assisi told his preachers: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words.”
I hope that my example has been worthy but I also feel compelled to offer in writing, to my family, the valuable lessons my daddy taught me. These lessons have helped me live a better life and they are worth passing on. Here they are:
One, remember at mealtime to thank God for what you eat. I learned this at Daddy’s disciplined dinner table. My siblings and I were trained not to begin eating until Daddy had prayed.
When Daddy prayed he “said” this blessing: “Bless heavenly Father, this food to our use and ourselves to thy service, for Christ’s sake, Amen.” That is the only prayer I ever heard Daddy pray but he prayed it at every meal, at home and in restaurants. We held hands when we prayed. This mealtime habit taught me to honor God and to understand that food on the table is a sign of God’s love.
Two, treat your wife with respect and never ridicule her. I do not remember my Daddy ever belittling Mama. Later as a husband I realized that ridiculing my wife was a serious mistake and that I needed to treat her respectfully at all times. Respect is one of the ingredients of a healthy marriage.
Three, abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages. Daddy saw his own father die young, partly from the use of alcohol. He became a teetotaler and insisted that his children follow his example. A life of abstinence has been a good choice for me since I value highly the influence of my example. The use and abuse of alcohol destroys lives and families. To use it is to risk hurting others, especially the ones you love the most.
Four, honesty is the best policy. Daddy believed that a man’s word should be his bond. Cheating is always self-destructive. I am a better man for having had a father who was a man of integrity.
Five, leave your children the legacy of a good name. Solomon believed a good name is better than wealth. Daddy did not leave me a lot of things. Mama gave me one of his pocket knives and one of his walking sticks. They are important to me but not as much as the good name Daddy left me. When someone says to me, “I knew your dad,” there is never anything but a compliment to follow. I want to leave such a legacy for my children.
Six, a wise man will learn to be tender as well as tough. Daddy was as tough as nails but in his later years he learned the art of tenderness. After age 60 he learned to tell me he loved me. That blessed me in ways I cannot explain. What a blessing it is to remember that, once he learned how to say “I love you,” he almost never ended a conversation without speaking those precious words. I like to think that Daddy learned the need for tenderness from Saint Paul who said, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Seven, by his example Daddy taught me to overcome selfishness by living your life for others. After his death I realized that Daddy had not worked hard, from sunup till sundown, so that he could acquire things for himself. He wanted to be a blessing to his family and his community. His life reflected his belief that a man should love God and try to live like Jesus taught us to live – whether on a farm or behind a pulpit.
Daddy was not a perfect man. He had his flaws as we all do. But he taught me some lessons that have enriched my life. I am glad I listened to my father. My prayer is that my children and grandchildren will take seriously the lessons I am passing on and find in the application of them immeasurable blessings. + + +