For My Father

Note: My dad passed away from the effects of lung cancer on June 16, 2000, the Friday before Father’s Day. The following is from a journal entry I wrote on August 18, 2000. I post it here in memory of him and to encourage every one of you who has lost a dad too soon…

I want him back. I want to talk to him about golf or NASCAR or Sunday school or anything else. I want to share a meal with him. I want to go back to being little and go to work with him on a Saturday and draw pictures of police cars at his desk. I want to just be with him.

He showed me so much. I am so much a product of him. I watched him in church. I tried to imitate the way he sat with his hymnal tucked under his arm, resting his elbow on it, two fingers pressed into his brow, listening intently to the preacher. His leg shook up and down like the bobbin of a sewing machine. I wanted to be so much like him.

I hated the smoking. I remember the two sounds that would awaken me every morning – the clank of the brass handles on his dresser drawers and his incessant coughing. I guess early on I thought the smoking was cool, but that didn’t last. The cigarettes were stealing his life even when I was a child. I remember making a deal with him: I’d quit sucking my thumb if he’d quit smoking. I resented him at times for not holding up his end of that bargain.

I don’t blame him for dying. He blamed himself enough for all of us. It didn’t matter in the end why he was dying. He just was.

I wanted God to heal him. He did the first time. Why not the second? I still haven’t fully dealt with that question. I know God knows best, I just wonder why.

I want him back. I want him to know James (and now Elizabeth). I want James (and now Elizabeth) to know him. I want to do things with all of them together.

I want him back, but I’m glad the battle is over. The last night I spent with him in the hospital before going to Hospice was so special. I know he wanted to die that night. We watched the Stanley Cup and he watched the sunset. I wish I could freeze that moment. I wish I could freeze a thousand others. I wish I was 8 years old caught in the rain with him at the air show. I wish we were grilling out and playing catch. We always threw the baseball when he was cooking on the grill. I guess it’s the closest thing we had to a ritual. I wish we had cooked out more. I wish I was back in high school learning to drive that red truck. He was a good teacher. More patient than I thought he would be. I always knew he loved me. I always knew he was proud of me. I knew I could be anything I wanted to be and he’d support me. I always had his confidence.

I want him back. I want one more laugh. One more talk. One more question. One more answer. One more catch. One more golf game. One more meal.

I want him back, but at the same time I wouldn’t want him to come back. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but I still long for one more moment…

Post Script: When Dr. Elms Allen, my dad’s fabulous oncologist in Winston-Salem, told us that it was time for Dad to decide if he wanted to focus more on quality of life than quantity of life, he replied, “Either way I win.” He could say that because he was confident of his faith in Jesus Christ and the eternal security that comes from trusting in Jesus. I know that Dad was fully healed that day he drew his last breath on this earth. Because of his confidence and assurance of  salvation and because I have the same hope in Jesus that Dad had, I know that one day I’ll be with him again, doing the same things again. The difference? We’ll both be focused more on Christ than on each other. That promise can be yours, too. The Bible promises that if we confess Jesus is Lord and believe that God has raised him from the dead, we can be saved (See Romans 10:9-10). I pray that you have that confidence today, too.

  • Doug

    Thank you for sharing this. Many good lessons for those who lost their dad too soon, and those who have yet to do so.

    • Brian Upshaw

      Thank you, Doug.

  • Randy Berry

    Great word, Brian. I feel the same way about my dad who passed away on Monday, March 29, 2010, the day after I was called as pastor of First Baptist Austinville. I miss him so much. Would give anything to see his smile one more time in person rather than in a photo. Thanks again for the word. Have a blessed and Happy Father’s Day.

    • Brian Upshaw

      Thank you, Randy. It is the little things we miss!

  • Steve Harris

    Your post brings a lot of memories flooding back to me about my dad. He died six months after yours did. Just being with him was my greatest blessing. He took me with him squirrel hunting, fishing, camping, working in the yard, witnessing, delivering turkey dinners to the poor and many other things that shaped my faith. In Mark 4:13 it says Jesus appointed the twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Isn’t that the essence of discipleship?

    • BrianUpshaw

      I agree, Steve. Thanks for sharing!