Yesterday was 4 months since Dad passed away. It still feels incredibly awkward saying such things. Awkward in the sense that one of the three people that I have known in my youngest of memories is now no longer there. As if something is out of place like when you rearrange the furniture in your living room and step back to take it all in for a moment.

The last 4 months has been very challenging as anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. And yet over the past several months, and even now, I hesitate using such language. In all truth and honesty, I haven’t lost my father. In fact, because he has gained his eternal reward, I feel in a sense that I too have gained something these past few months. The reality of God’s grace and love for me and the reality that this life is not all there is has helped me see a new found perspective on my life. My priorities have shifted. My desires have been molded a bit more. Isn’t it ironic that death has a profound impact on how we, the living, choose to live once we’ve encountered it? We never do walk away from it unaffected.

This is the first Fall since Dad has passed on from this life. It’s that time of year we didn’t see him very much because “He’s out hunting” was the cliche of our household. Dad always like Bedlam Weekend (OU vs OSU) because he would be the only hunter in the field always bringing home a deer. It seems awkward this fall not receiving text messages or receiving phone calls with his voice on the other line talking my ear off about landscape, and deer corn, and tree stands, and driving distance to the hunting property, and new deer urine he’s testing out, and…well, you get the idea. I know the first year is told to be the toughest year, and certainly it has been tough these past few months.

I think I surprised someone recently when they asked me “Don’t you wonder why God took your dad?” My answer was simply, “No.” It’s not something I wonder about nor do I feel I require an answer. Perhaps part of me accepts death as a part of life. A doorway that we all must walk through given enough time. Another part of me is incredibly grateful for the time I was given with him and yet I am just as grateful to God that Dad is receiving his just rewards. For being the most generous person I’ve ever known in my life, I am grateful that he has run his course and won his prize. Many knew him as a friend, teacher, doctor, etc, but only two people in the world can say “He was my dad.” I cannot tell you how proud I am to say such things. Growing up I learned the hard fact that not all dads were like mine.

As I sit here watching the sun rise, I reflect on my life. I think about the letter I asked my dad to write me several Christmas’ ago. A letter from him to me that no one else would ever read (I recommend everyone to request such a letter). I think about the support he gave me; the support that every son requires of his father, even if it isn’t spoken. I think about the special bond that we have as father and son. I think about a dear friend that told me, “I didn’t know your dad very well, but with the way you talked about him, that’s the kind of relationship I want with my son.” I think about how I am now a living representation of my dad. That I bear many character and physical attributes of his. I think about how a part of him is indeed still alive in this world because he is alive in me. I think about the last words he ever spoke to me, “Love you Son.” And I think about my own son – the impact I will have on him – the bond that we have that will continue to grow strong – the journal that I’ve been writing letters to him in since he was born…I am challenged this morning. I am challenged to continue growing into the man and father and leader my dad always saw me as being.

My thoughts this morning are probably more for me just to get off my chest, but perhaps you are challenged as well. I am eternally grateful for the grace of God that allowed me to know my dad as well as I did. And though I have seen turbulent waters the past 4 months with perhaps more to come in the future, I am challenged to run my race, just as my father before me.