Remembering My Dad
13 days ago, my Dad stepped into eternity.
He’d battled pancreatic cancer for 16 months. He made it through multiple rounds of chemo, a round of experimental treatments, countless trips to his oncologist, a nine day hospital stay, and a three week stint at a nursing home / rehab center.
Dad was the strongest man I ever knew, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. His first words to us after his diagnosis were “God is in control, and I trust him 100%.” Up until just a few weeks before his death, he was at his desk at 7 a.m., six days a week. He never complained once (except when we tried to make him take medicine on a schedule). He comforted us when it should’ve been the other way around.
He adopted a saying my Mom used 23 years ago during her own cancer battle, a paraphrase of Philippians 1:21: “If I live, I win. If I die, I win.” That saying became Dad’s 16 month marching orders. He stared cancer straight in its hollow face and never batted an eyelash at his pending death or improving CT scans, because either way, he was coming out on top.
I’ve told so many people that the last two weeks have been bittersweet, but far more sweet than bitter. How can I be bitter when I know that he’s more alive now than he’s ever been? How can I be bitter when I was able to be by his bedside when he drew his last breath? How can I be bitter when his visitation and memorial service were filled with lines of people sharing their stories of his impact on their lives, when my kids got to hear complete strangers tell them the kind of man their GrandBobby was, when we were able to celebrate our Dad by celebrating Jesus?
Over the years I’ve read the occasional book that talks about “father wounds.” Listen, I have no doubt that’s a very real thing. I have no doubt that if a therapist or counselor dug deep enough, she’d figure out how my unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Elote Corn Chips ties back to that one time in 4th grade when Dad was late picking me up from baseball practice. I don’t make light of absentee fathers, abusive fathers, or toxic fathers, because I know so many people suffer so badly because of them.
I know my Dad had his faults.
I also know we had to look pretty doggone hard to find them.
As a business owner, he treated his employees generously and fairly, and was – according to so many of them – “the best boss [they] ever had.” As a husband twice over, he loved my Mom for 41 years, caring for her so well during the final months of her life, and loved my stepmom Sandra for the last 21. As a GrandBobby, he paused everything when one of his 12 grandchildren or six great-grands showed up, popping “bugs” in their hair (a true Bobby Franks trope) or sneaking them ice cream when their parents weren’t looking.
As a Dad, all I can say is that he was a great father.
But he spent his life pointing us to a perfect one.
I’ve spent the last 13 days trying to fathom what it was like when my Dad drew his final breath here and took his next one in heaven. I know he heard well done, good and faithful servant. I’m confident that the first faces he searched for after seeing Jesus in all of his glory were my Mom and his Mom and Dad and sister. I’m slightly terrified thinking of the reunion with his church friends and believing work friends who went on before him, and – if shenanigans are a thing in heaven – the type of shenanigans they’ve been stirring up.
But I’ve also spent 13 days with a peaceful-yet-intense sense of gratitude: grateful for a Dad who taught us how to mourn with hope. Grateful for a Dad who left no doubt as to his final destination. Grateful for a Dad who constantly and consistently pointed us to Jesus.
You can read more about my Dad in the obituary we put together for him, because the off-the-rack version from the funeral home just wouldn’t do. And if you’re so inclined, you can see the message I shared at his funeral below.