(‘My gallant hero’)
Memories are something we all have. Some may bring us regret, but others we cherish and love to call to mind.
Often during wedding receptions people will stand and drink a toast ‘for absent friends’, remembering with gratitude, pride and undying affection those who have enriched our lives but are no longer with us.
Frequently it doesn’t take a special occasion. Anything can do it. Discovering a card or letter in a drawer, or hearing some old song on the radio and we’re away, transported back years, hearing their voices again, basking in the warmth of their smiles.
My Dad didn’t serve in the army. He didn’t parachute into enemy territory with a machine gun. He was never awarded medals for bravery. He didn’t have that kind of glamorous macho image I used to admire as a child. But as time passed he became, and will always remain, a hero to me.
It wasn’t that spectacular. He was just a man who loved my Mum faithfully for over sixty years. He worked every day and came home for tea. I realise now how precious that was.
Afterwards he would don his brown shop coat and disappear to the garage for a bit of DIY. He was brilliant at decorating and woodwork, talents I never seemed to inherit, despite being often enlisted to help. I didn’t mind a break from the homework though to ‘hold a piece of wood’ while Dad drilled or sawed. He would come in on time for one or two favourite programmes like ‘Only when I Laugh’ or ‘The Good Life’ when we would all pile on the settee and split our sides laughing.
Dad was an Elder in our church where he and Mum both sang in the choir. We went every Sunday, twice. No one ever thought of going anywhere else. I can remember both my parents kneeling on the floor beside me at bedtime, teaching me as a young child to say my first prayers.
Our family didn’t travel beyond the UK in those days but I remember Dad taking us on holiday in the car on the Ferry to Stranraer Scotland which seemed a big enough adventure at the time!
Dad never really appreciated pop or guitar music. It was an alien language to him. In truth he quite disapproved of some of the stuff my brother and I listened to, but he and Mum still sacrificed to buy me my heart’s desire for my 21st birthday – a Stratocaster guitar, which I still play! What an encouragement to trust in our Heavenly ‘Father’ Who delights to give ‘good gifts’ to His children!
Besides hymns I guess Dad was a classical music man. He introduced me to a few well known pieces on vinyl records. How precious during his last months to take the i-pod to his room and remind him of Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’ or the sweet, gentle ‘Elizabethan Serenade’.
Cerebellum ataxia is quite a rare neurological condition that slowly renders a person severely disabled. We saw its early signs in Dad when I was still in my teens. Stiffness. Loss of balance. Walking sticks. Crutches. Eventually a wheelchair. Longterm prognosis: gradual deterioration. Cure: none.
It was difficult to accept, all of us coming to terms with it in different ways.
The real inspiration was Dad himself, who trusted God for grace to face whatever would come, and practised an amazing patience and cheerfulness through it all! I think of him now with such pride, slowly making his way on crutches into the hall to teach his Sunday School class, or getting hand controls in the car so he could still take Mum to the shops. Giving the grandchildren rides in his chair. Charming the staff in the nursing home with his typical friendliness and good humour.
And I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t always appreciate him. Sorry that we didn’t go more walks when we could.
But I’m also glad because I know he loved me and the last thing I heard him say was my name. And I’m glad we were with him as he passed over to be ‘with Christ, which is far better’, glad and honoured that we could carry his coffin to the resting place to await the resurrection at Our Lord’s return.
Dad died in September 2014. And I miss him. I hope he’d be happy with how we’re all turning out. I think he would be, just as encouraging as ever!
Memories such as these are indeed ‘precious’. It is good to remember family and friends, dear people who have touched our lives, particularly those who have comforted us with their kindness or inspired us with their example.
The Old Testament book of Proverbs in its closing verses praises a wife and mother of noble character whose adult children publically ‘rise and call her blessed’ for the example she has given them in hard work, integrity and charity.
King David never forgot the friendship once shown him by Prince Jonathan when he was still little more than a young shepherd boy. Years later David sought out Jonathan’s last remaining relative Mephibosheth and showed him generous kindness for his father’s sake. Good memories from the past should prompt us to good actions in the present!
The New Testament writer to the Hebrews by way of godly example calls to mind in chapter 11 the stories of numerous characters in the history of God’s people who learned to ‘walk by faith’. Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel – the list is a long one. He describes them now as a ‘great crowd of witnesses’ almost like a stand full of sports fans, cheering us on as we seek to follow and serve Jesus.
And Christ Himself is the one we should remember most often, the one Who on the first ‘Good Friday’ willingly laid down His life that we might be ‘friends’ of the Son of God. The previous night, at the Last Supper Jesus instituted the sacrament of Communion, saying, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ Christians remember and look to Him Whose cross and resurrection are for us the promise of eternal life.
That’s why we don’t grieve our loss ‘as those who have no hope’, but as people living in anticipation of resurrection and glory. By God's grace I know I’ll see Dad again. Still smiling encouragement no doubt, but no longer disabled. We’ll get another chance to take those walks.
I look forward to that.