“Mommy, do you think Papa has a birthday cake in heaven? Is Jesus is singing him Happy Birthday?” they asked as I walked in on the tail end of their breakfast conversation.
It was Caleb’s birthday, cakes and singing were on the brain.
Their little minds didn’t remember (and I hadn’t yet reminded them), however, that this particular day was also the anniversary of my father’s homecoming.
But in the tender way the Father reminds, their question spoke of what really happened that day he left earth.
This Friday would have been my father’s birthday. And Lily has not only inherited his resilience, but she also shares his birthday.
Like an open journal on the front seat of my car, ready to receive my most recent respects, my mind has been the holding place for an unending eulogy.
My dad was a great man.
But life as a mom often trumps the long hours I’d like to spend putting the thoughts in my head on paper. So, instead, I will share with you what I shared with those at my dad’s funeral two years ago, standing alongside my sister and brother.
As an aside, my sweet mother — cognizant of others’ time and also the depth of my father’s impact — gave us each three minutes to speak at the funeral. And this, after we had worked hard to convince her that her original plan to have us each talk for one minute would barely allow us to share our full name and order in the birth-line.
Writing something to be spoken to a crowd is much different than writing on a blog. I’ve resisted the urge to edit. In honor of my dad, to whom I can attribute my goofy sense of humor, maybe you can hide under your desk in your cubicle and read it out loud to get the full effect...
My very first memory of my dad is from when I was three, and we were flying over the Grand Canyon. He was in the middle of getting his pilot’s license and was flying copilot.
I think it’s fitting that this is my first memory — because as we all know my dad had his share of worries and anxieties — but he also had this amazing sense of adventure. That flight over the Grand Canyon was on the same trip where my dad, on a whim, decided to hike all the way down and back up the Canyon with nothing but a Diet Coke in his hand.
I remember the night before my college backpacking trip to Europe. I slept fine. But my dad, my dad couldn’t sleep a wink because he was just so excited for me. And that was typical. He loved adventure and experience, and he stopped at nothing to make sure that we would too.
And just about the time when I was looking around, and saw many of my friends begin to seriously distance themselves from their parents, I went to a week-long tennis camp. I was in 7th grade, and a few of my dad’s tennis players were there, who were in high school. These two, really cool and talented high school girls from my dad’s team came up to me in the cafeteria at lunch one day at camp. They must have seen my name-tag because they said, “You’re Coach Welter’s daughter? WOW. What’s it like? You’re so lucky you’re his daughter—you get to be with him all the time. Your dad is so fun and he just cares about us like we were his own daughters, we wish our dads were like him.”
I had always heard stories about his team from him, but didn’t realize until then that what were just interesting stories from my perspective, were in actuality the groundwork for dozens, if not hundreds of changed lives because of my father, the teacher and the coach.
Growing up, in college, and even now as a married mother of two, I’ve found that I can be a little intense and zealous about any new thing I set my eyes on. Well, I got that from my dad. He was zealous in just about anything he really loved — from family beach trips, to playing bridge, to racing Jon Engel home from Emerald Isle, to us kids, and my mom.
And he was zealous about understanding what I was zealous for — which, I’ve also since discovered, is not normal. He didn’t always understand or even agree with the things that I began to care about, especially as I came to take this man, Jesus Christ very seriously. It was a challenge for us in our relationship, but he never dishonored or disrespected my perspective.
It wasn’t until this past year, though, that I started to see a change in my dad’s outlook, just after he was diagnosed with cancer. I watched as my dad moved from somebody who said he didn’t have much of a faith, to somebody who embraced the fact that life isn’t just about being a good person (and we all know that by most, if not all, human standards my dad was a good person), but accepted this bridge to a life with God — which is the cross, and His Son’s death on it. What humility, that at age 62 my dad could recalibrate how he saw faith and life and God.
Because of this, I know I will see my dad again.
Some of you who have walked more closely with my dad over the last few years saw the deterioration and struggle he had in his body. What I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock … to have just one more tennis match, one more ride on a raft in the ocean, one more chance to put my head on his shoulder. But what my dad experienced here on this earth is nothing in comparison to what he will taste in eternity. I can’t wait to see him again, with his new body, with the glory of God all over his face, full of that same zest for life and zeal and adventure, fully happy. His 62 years here will seem like just a blip in comparison to the beauty, and majesty and splendor of God. He will be fully completed. Fully alive. And fully healed.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
*This is an edited version of an earlier post.