Home > Uncategorized > Upon The Burying Of An Estranged Father

Upon The Burying Of An Estranged Father

I am preparing to bury my father.  I placed a little announcement about it on FaceBook, which is weird because FaceBook has become a place where people make announcements about small things, and this seems like more than a small thing.  It’s also weird because people clicked the “like” button.  Which is just kind of an odd thing to do.

I received from hundreds of people electronic condolences – all of them heartfelt.  But very few of these people knew about my relationship with my father.  You’ll notice I don’t really use the word “dad” when talking about him.  This is because he wasn’t overly engaged in raising me; my mom did that.  I don’t want it to sound like he did nothing.  We lived over 2,000 miles away from each other.  So…it was complicated.

Many of my friends’ condolences were based on their own relationship with a father, and that makes sense.  I received all of these well wishes with grace and accepted them with gratitude because my friends care for me.  They either know or are guessing at how difficult it must be to bury a parent.   But I’m not sure.  I’m not sure how hard it will be.  Is it ok for me to say that?  

I’m a pastor, and an unfortunate expectation placed upon pastors is that we would have answers for a lot of questions.  And we do.  But we don’t have all the answers…in fact we don’t know a lot of the questions.  And one of all the questions I don’t have a good answer to, this has remained the largest: “What does it mean to honor your father?”  This has been my question for decades.

Does it mean I try to emulate him?  No.   That can’t be it.  Does it mean I follow his guidance?  No.  That’s not it either for me.  How about does it mean I spend time with him?  No.  This hasn’t felt like honoring him to me.  Does he get to help me raise my children?  Surely not the honoring I feel called to do.

Here is how I have found to honor my father: I am attempting to be a father to my own children in the best way I know how.  I am also attempting to follow the call of Christ on my life in honesty and with integrity.  

And then there is this: I will bury him.  I will drive and I will don my suit and listen to the hope of the resurrection.  I will listen to the voices who knew him better than I.  I will glean from my time in the pew at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Claremore, OK all that I can – both from the good news of the resurrection and also from the voices of those who called my father friend.  And I will listen for the man I didn’t know, and I will pay attention to who he was as recounted by those whose lives he touched.  And I will be present.

I’m not sure if it will be difficult to do, but I will do it.  And then I will travel to the grave and I will toss a handful of dirt – at least that’s how I picture it.  And I may cry – I may cry because my father is dead.  I may cry because I have lost something: a father, the hope of further reconciliation, a hope of a future where my own children would know the good things of my father from first-hand experience.  No matter what, there is a loss and this makes me sad…and I can honestly say I am grateful to be sad.  After all, sadness tells us something.

And when I’m done doing these things I will treasure up in my heart all my gleanings, and attempt to refurbish my internal picture of my father.  I won’t shine it up, and I won’t put it in a fancy frame, but I hope to color it in with grace.  And when that is over I will drive home to my own children, hug them, tell them I love them, and be a father and husband and friend and pastor in all the ways that I can that will cause someone to say, “That’s George’s son.  That George must have been a good father.”

And I think that will honor him.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Deyanne Koster
    April 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    You have honored your father by becoming the man God wanted you to become –

  2. Shell
    April 7, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I wish I could tell you how well I can relate to this. In soooooo many aspects I get it. And I absolutely agree with you–there IS a difference between a father and a dad and it doesn’t matter if they’re 2000 miles away or 10 miles away.

    Thank you for your openness and honesty. I, for one, appreciate it.

    And I AM sorry for your loss–however you define the loss and however you decide to grieve it.

  3. April 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Very much a heartful blog. Full of the feelings I think all of us feel and at times are hard to contemplate and get out. I am glad you were able to come to terms and honor your Father in the best way suitable for you! You are an awesome Pastor, Pastor Jim, and I am sure your Father, as well as God are looking down and very proud of your life and accomplishments and those who’s life you have touched and will continually help in the future. God bless

  4. Lynn Japinga
    April 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Very powerful, Jim. Especially the end. Thanks for sharing.

  5. April 7, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    I am sorry for your loss. The recent one and the ongoing one that has been many years.

  6. April 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    There are always a good many more things to learn about you, my friend. Thank you for sharing these grace-full words. I will think about these words for a long time, Jim, and I will also pray for you as you honor your father by being a grace-full father to your own kids. You really honor the Father by doing all of these things, and by your writing.

  7. Lois Fiegl
    April 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Well spoken (written) Jim. Thoughts and prayers go with you today and in the coming days of your living into your new revelations.You have a gift to give – to those of us who read, to your family, to your congregation. God’s blessings be with you.

  8. Ryan Henderson
    April 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Jim. I enjoy visiting your blog from time to time to read your good, honest thoughts. Everyone involved in raising you should be proud of who you are and are becoming. Godspeed…. Ryan

  9. Mitzie
    May 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Thank You for sharing and I’m sorry for your lose of not just your father but of not being able to have a relationship with him. I, too have an estranged father. I have made many attempts to try and have a relationship with him and he is just not capable of even being a friend. My last attempt was when I had my son and invited him to come see us at hospital and was told he doesn’t like going to Seattle, even though he lived in Everett. After, I got off the phone, I realized I didn’t have to make attempts to have a relationship with him and that if he pasted I was free not have to attend his services. And I have always struggles with how do you honor your parent when they don’t want to even have a relationship with you?
    When I read your blog I cried and cried because I realized I need to go to his services if he passes and I need to listen to the people he was able to have relationships with and he was able to love. Going to his services isn’t about people consoling me, it is the only way I may be able to honor him. It will be away to let his new family know I hold nothing against him and that I’m able to forgive. And I hope it will show that I did honor him.

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