When I was 17, I took a composition class between my junior and senior years of high school to get some early college credits. For one assignment I had to write an essay about my father. Dad died July 23 at age 78, so as I prepared his eulogy, I found that paper to see what my teenage self thought of him.
This is how I started it:
My father’s name is Jack Lee Glover. He is a lab technician at Union Carbide in Sistersville. He has brown and gray hair – what hair he has – and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet 7 inches, and weighs 145 pounds.
From there I talked about Dad’s service as a city councilman and emergency medical technician, his work in the church, and the time he spent with family, including an amazing cross-country road trip. I ended with an observation about how he used his time away from home wisely by serving his town, the church or neighbors.
I scored an undeserved “A” for my pitiful writing — “a fine job,” the clueless professor said — but most of the words I penned then seem wholly inadequate to describe my father. I always admired Dad, but at that age I knew so little about the depth of his character, the soul of the man, that I couldn’t possibly have captured his essence when I was such a dreadful writer.
Job title? Hair and eye color? Height? Weight? How could I have thought such superficial attributes defined my Dad? The effects of osteoporosis robbed him of nearly six inches by the end of his 78 years, but in spiritual stature he towered over many men.
City councilman and EMT? Those are praiseworthy public services, but they are relatively insignificant endeavors in the grand scheme of eternity. At various times in his life, Dad served God as an elder, a deacon and a preacher. Those were roles that shaped the faith of his family and of many other people in the Ohio Valley and beyond. In his retirement years, he dedicated significant time to creating and managing a religious website, BibleStudyPage.com.
Weeks before his death, Dad heard a sermon about redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15) that touched his heart. Plagued by a series of injuries, illnesses and diseases in recent years, including a hip that he broke after falling asleep while reading his Bible standing up, the sermon made Dad wonder whether he was redeeming his remaining time on Earth to God’s glory. That’s what mattered to him.
In other words, my essay deserved an “F” because I not only crafted a laughable lead, but I entirely missed the point of my Dad’s life. So today I’m going to try again.
Next page: See the precious rewrite.
This is my rewrite, based on another three decades of perspective:
My Father’s name is Jehovah. I know Him thanks to a valiant soldier for the Lord, a man of great faith, courage, conviction and wisdom. Most people knew this man by his given name, Jack Lee Glover. I had the privilege of calling him Dad.
I’d like to think my birthday was the best day of Jack Glover’s life, but sometimes I wonder whether God was mad at him that day. He either had great confidence in Dad’s ability to mold a stubborn spirit into a humble servant, or Dad did something bad enough to deserve an 18-year sentence in parenting jail.
Whatever the case, Dad rose to the challenge. I didn’t make it easy, testing him to the breaking point on many occasions. My three brothers had their moments, too. But Dad never wavered in his love for us or in his commitment to raise us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), even when we provoked him to wrath.
Dad taught us to love God with all of our hearts, all of our souls and all of our minds (Deut. 6:5), to make Him our top priority above all earthly pursuits or relationships. We knew better than to offer half-hearted service to God and expect Him to give us life eternal in exchange. Dad didn’t do it, and he didn’t tolerate us doing it without a gentle admonition or a stern rebuke, as the circumstances warranted.
Dad taught us to stand firm in the faith (I Cor. 16:13). Few people are truly determined to love the Lord, and it can be tempting to conform to what we see around us (Rom. 12:2) — in school, at work and even in the church. Dad never caved. He didn’t win every battle, but when others around him stumbled, he didn’t lose his way by compromising his principles.
Dad taught us to care about others, too (Philip. 2:4). Knowing how much God did for him, Dad always looked for opportunities to help people with their physical and spiritual needs. Although poor health forced him to retire early as a lab technician, Dad never retired from his labors as an elder at the church of Christ in our small town (I Tim. 3:1-7), a role he filled for 35 years. He anguished over how best to lead and protect the souls that God entrusted to him and the other elders.
With regret and shame, I remember one time when Dad was in particularly poor health and some of us sons tried to convince him to resign as an elder. Elders have a mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically exhausting job, and we wanted him to focus on maintaining his own health. It was a selfish request, and Dad broke down in tears as he rejected the idea.
He just couldn’t quit on Jesus. “He died on the cross for me,” Dad said. “This is the least I can do for Him.”
And so he did, to the best of his ability, until his dying breath.
Back in 1984, I ended the college essay I wrote about Dad with a sentence that my professor must have thought wasn’t necessary because he deleted it. But to me, it contained the most important words I wrote: “I am very proud of him and hope to be just like him someday.”
That much is still true, and I won’t change a word of it. I will look to Dad’s example for the rest of my life as I try to raise three of his 12 grandchildren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I can’t think of a better tribute to Dad than to extend his spiritual legacy for generations to come.