“Dad is rejoicing in heaven.” Those were the words my sister said when she called last evening. On Thursday, June 27th at 4:15 pm, my father received the upward call. We have all shed tears, but are experiencing a strong sense of God’s peace and joy. He finished the race and fought the good fight and kept the faith.
In the room where my dad spent his final days, there were two special memory books.
The first was small picture album my mom had made—a photo review of my father’s life. It contained black and white pictures of his parents (Louis and Bertha Reed), colour photos of his wife and three kids, snapshots of the homes where he had lived and the churches he had pastored. Mom had typed captions under the pictures, explaining their significance.
In the final months of my dad’s life, he spent hours looking at that memory book. Family members and care workers would read it with him. He would stare at the pictures, trying to remember what they represented. Over the months, it became more difficult for him to remember; much of his short-term and long-term memory had been erased by Alzheimer’s.
On our recent trip to Portland, there was an evening when dad was awake and alert for several hours. I opened up the memory book and we looked at it together. One page that especially caught his attention contained a glossy, black and white snapshot from the late 1950s. The picture was of my dad and mom, smiling at the camera, holding a baby boy. I don’t think he understood that the child in the picture was now the one reading the book with him.
There was another memory book in my dad’s room. This one was filled with handwritten letters of appreciation from the people of Grace Baptist church in Napa, California. Dad served as their pastor for over twenty years.
One morning while he was sleeping, I read through dozens of the letters. Some folks thanked him for faithfully teaching them God’s Word, week after week. Many expressed gratitude for the way both he and my mom lived out the truth they taught to others. There were many references to his sense of humor (corny jokes), his devotion to prayer, his hospital and home visits. Some wrote to thank him for helping them work through marriage problems, others for helping them come to know Christ in a personal, life-changing way.
Proverbs 10:7 says, “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing but the name of the wicked will rot” (Proverbs 10:7).
My dad’s memory faded in his final years. But the memories of my dad are a blessing. That’s true for the many who knew him as their pastor. Even more so for those who knew him as a father.
(In a previous post, I included this song I wrote for my dad a number of years ago. I’ll be singing it as a tribute at his memorial service which will be held on Sunday afternoon, July 7th in Portland, OR)