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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

A Son Says Goodbye

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I was officiating at my father’s graveside service. I said the traditional words, “Dust thou art; to dust returneth,” and tossed some dirt onto the casket as I said, “Amen.” The family and friends paid their last respects and left for the luncheon at the VFW Lodge. I hung around till everyone had gone but my wife and me. I said, “I’m going to stay for a while. Few things I want to say to dad before my final goodbye.”

She gently hugged me, squeezed my hand, and said, “Take as long as you need to. I’ll wait in the car.” I watched her walk away and then I turned back toward the grave. By this time, the casket had been lowered into the ground.

I looked down at the casket and said, “Dad, thank you for providing us a house to live in, putting food on the table, and putting clothes on our backs.” I hadn’t noticed the two men with shovels standing near the grave.

“Sir, we’ll have to ask you to leave,” the older man said.

“May I stay a minute or two? I’m just a son saying goodbye to his dad.”

“Sorry. Take as long as you want.”

"Okay, then,” the younger man said, “if you don’t mind us throwing dirt in your dad’s face,” as he pitched a shovel full of dirt into the grave and it resounded on the metal casket.

The older man shook my hand, and said, “I’m Walt. Sorry about your loss. This here’s my son, Josh. We just buried his grandfather a few months ago. He hasn’t gotten over it yet.”

“Thanks, Walt, for helping with the burial,” I said and walked closer to the grave. As I looked down this time, the casket looked so cold and lonely. “Dad, I’m sorry we never took the time to get to know each other better. Now death has sealed off that possibility.”

Josh overheard me and asked, “Do you believe all that stuff about a resurrection from the dead?”

“Yes, I do. Jesus himself said, ‘I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies,’ and proved it when he came out of the tomb. That’s why we celebrate Easter.”

Kneeling, I looked down for the last time and said, “Dad, forgive me for never telling you I loved you and that I was thankful God made you my father.”

I turned toward Josh and saw his tears as almost inaudibly he asked, “Will I see my grandfather again?”

I put my arm around him. “Josh, choices made on this side of the grave determine what happens after we pass to the other side. My dad made his. Your grandfather made his. What really matters now is what choices we make.”

He blurted out, “I loved him. Now he’s gone. I hate death!”

“We all do, Josh, we all do. It separates us from family and friends, and it’s so final.” I took a Gospel of John out of my pocket. “I’d like to give you this. When you read it, you will find the answer to your question, 'Will I see my grandfather again?'”

“I’ve never read the Bible before.” He paused and added, “One day my grandfather and I were walking through a cemetery, and he said that he believed that someday all the graves in that cemetery would open and everyone would come out alive.”

“Your grandfather must have known his Bible.” John 5:28 says,

“A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out.” (NIV)

“I like what you said to your dad. Thanks for everything, sir.” He held up the Gospel of John. “I can’t wait to find the answer.”

“I’ll be praying that God will open your eyes to his truth just as he did for your grandfather.” I turned and, looking up into the September sky with golden brown maple leaves falling all around me, I said, “Dad, I’ve now said my last goodbye.”

Copyright © D. Leon Pippin. Used by permission.

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