This is the last picture of my father in his pastoral robes. He is second from the left in the front row. That smile is genuine. He genuinely loved being a pastor and loved ministry.
He passed away six months ago last Sunday. Its hard for me to believe that a half of a year has gone by so quickly. My mother and I are doing well. We both miss him, but together we have worked through the sadness; there wasn't much of that, though. No, we both believed, nay, knew that he was with his Lord. And we both took so much comfort in that. We knew that if he had survived and been sent to a nursing home, or even sent home, he would have been unhappy with the quality of life.
We first saw the picture in the new church diretory. We were both a little surprised by it. It was a bit of shock to sit in the pew that Sunday morning we first got it, flip through the pages of the directory and there with a huge smile on his face is my father, doing what he loved most: pastoral ministry.
That smile is symbolic, too. For all Christians. I am sure that my father has that smile on right now in heaven. He is at peace and in the Church Triumphant. That smile, though, is the key to it all, at least for me. Its just another one of those little gifts that my dad gave my mom and I. That smile, the big toothy, happy smile.
That smile is a result of a life-long faith that never wavered. It was tested, I'm sure, but that faith always came out of the forge stronger. About a week or so before he died he had been listening to Coach Tony Dungy's book Quiet Strength. In that book Coach wrote that his mantra was simply "do what we do," he used that mantra to get his team the Indianapolis Colts into the proper frame of mind and to keep focus. One day, my mom and I walked into his room and he looked at us, smiled and said "Do what we do." I think he had somewhat reconciled himself to the fact that he might not be coming home, that he might be going to a nursing home, at least for a while, but he looked at it as another form of ministry. Do what we do.
The Lord called him on Feb. 17, 2008. My father did what he did and he touched many people with his ministry and love. That smile that beams from a picture is the result of that ministry and his Doing what he did.
Peace, dad, and thanks for that smile.