Sunday is Father’s Day and also my birthday. As like other years past, these two days fall on the same date this year.
Being on the same day has special meaning to me as I was born on my father’s 25th birthday. And even though he passed away several years ago, this dual-event day is still very meaningful to me.
Not everyone enjoys sharing a birthday but I loved having the same birthday as my dad. Every year until he died, he would send me a birthday card that he had picked out especially for me just from him, with the words written, “You’re the best birthday gift I’ve ever received.”
So instead of focusing on his absence, my thoughts turn to the joy of what my father taught me.
For most of my life, my dad was a pastor. And since many churches were small, he was often not only the pastor but also the Sunday School teacher, VBS director, youth leader, song leader, janitor, and, in one instance, he literally built the church from the foundation up even though he didn’t have a construction background or know-how.
And at home, my dad did so much that to list it all would probably take days, including taking care of me when I was sick, comforting me during disappointments and heartbreak, picking me up from school, making special meals, and so much more.
I also witnessed my dad serving my mom in various ways through her life. When she began struggling with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Dad became her daily caregiver.
Growing up I witnessed my dad’s compassion to those around him.
Early memories include going to Sunday School and church, where my Dad was also the pastor, and leaving the house early every week for years to pick up Charlie.
As a child, I didn’t really understand, but knew there was something different about him. Charlie looked like a man but seemed more my age, with a childlike joy unseen in others of his stature. As well, we regularly picked up a widow for rides to church events and errands. Sometimes she, Charlie, and his little sister all sat in our backseat on Sunday mornings.
Not once did I hear my dad complain about giving them rides.
My dad had an open hand to our family and also to extended family members, friends, co-workers, and more.
Even when we didn’t have much, my dad gave away used cars to family members and friends who were in need. Through the years, he also offered employment both through where he was employed and also personally as his own expense.
There are memories of Dad providing groceries to single moms and widows, and paying for other’s vacations so they could get-a-way.
And when my own children came along, he would take them to the local Walmart, letting each pick out a toy to bring home. Thinking back, my kids feel like maybe they took advantage of his generosity as children, knowing he would buy them gifts if they pointed out things they liked. However, I know he loved being able to do so.
And a personal favorite of mine, buying boxes of our local pastry shop’s donuts and cookies to satisfy the sweet tooth we both had.
My dad knew how to have fun. From making up silly songs about almost anything, to sitting beside him in his recliner as a child, watching comedy shows together.
Even when Dad worked extra jobs to make ends meet, he made it fun. While working at Yummy’s, a local burger joint in Niles, Michigan, he would come home late at night after work with bags full of leftover cheeseburgers and fries, waking my brother, Dave, and I up for a kid’s dream feast.
And as a grandfather, he took time to play with his grandkids, teaching them the fine art of playing Monopoly and other games, creating life-long fun memories with them.
Scripture states that love covers a covers a multitude of sins. And, of course, Dad wasn’t perfect. He could blow-up at times over the silliest things including the epic spilling of orange drinks in the car to the unforgettable “chicken breast” incident that is still etched in Dave and my minds.
However, all through my life, I never doubted my dad’s love.
As a child, his daily actions caused me to feel secure, to believe that I was the apple of his eye, that he treasured me and saw me as smart, funny, creative, and beautiful.
And as an adult, Dad expressed his love to me through his prayers, by loving my children, in trips to visit us, financial gifts, and phone calls where we talked for hours.
All through my life, I believed that I could ask my dad for anything, without fear of being turned away.
Modeling My Heavenly Father
And while Dad was doing all the above, he was also teaching me about the heart of God as my Father.
In so many ways, how I think about my heavenly Father has been shaped by how I experienced my earthly father’s love and care.
So on this dual birthday-Father’s Day, there is no sorrow this year but rather a grateful heart for the gift of my father, and remembering the things he taught me.
“Happy Birthday and Father’s Day, Dad! I love you.”