The 3-season room at the back of my mother’s house boasts a sign with a clock in it on the wall. The inscription there reads “Jack’s Room,” with a jaunty green Irish chapeau at the top of the J, and a shillelagh playing the role of the apostrophe. It was placed there in honor and memory of Dad by my good brother-in-law. Dad chose this room, looked forward to spending time here, but was called to eternity before he ever could.
To my right at a distance of 150 yards a father is instructing his son on the courts on the mysteries of tennis. “Bend your knees.” “Backhand.” “Take your time.” “Watch the ball.”
Many of this father’s words, continuing at this moment as I write, could become aphorisms for living an attentive and good life. But one encouragement he has called out several times would be less likely, in my estimation, to lead to joy in this life.
“Power!” he has called out. “Come on! Power!”
Today we would be celebrating my Dad’s 86th birthday if he were still where we count and measure time. We haven’t needed to measure its passing for Dad since he turned 72 in the year 2000. He wasn’t perfect. We all inherited that from him, as he did from his parents. He got discouraged sometimes. He worried. He could be pessimistic. But he carried on. Always, without cessation. When I think of Dad, I think of faithfulness. I think of commitment. I think of walking on in the path he recognized as his own, and God-given, to its end. Or in faith, rather, to its next gateway.
He called us to faith, to doing our utmost, to walking on always as best we can, to turning to the Heavenly Father for strength. But in my memory he never called us to seek power, nor to know it as an avenue to life.
Right around this date, fourteen years ago now, I was with him in his room at the hospital. We were just over a week from his death. He was standing by his bed, admiring creation in the form of a gift hibiscus gloriously blooming in the sun by the window. And he spoke simple words then, words that both summed-up life and spoke final appreciation for all of it. “It’s been a good run,” Dad said. “It’s been a good run.”
His last words, only a few days later, were quietly whispered to one of the nurses: “Thank you.”
However long life continues, I want only to echo the same.