by: Rich Vaughan
My Dad died 23 years ago today. In some ways it seems like yesterday, in other ways it seems so long ago. October 15th, 1997 turned into a defining moment in my life and my faith journey. My Dad and I were very close. While growing up this had been the man who had taught me how to fish, and how to play baseball, basketball, and football. This was the man who had taken me down to his woodshop and helped me to learn how to safely use a jigsaw, a shop smith, a buzz saw, and do electrical work. He taught me how to cut, sand, varnish, paint, etc. It was my father who helped me do homework (especially math), who coached me in my younger years of sports and would later drive to college to see my baseball games. He was active in my scouting years and led me from Cub scouts, through Boy Scouts and my Eagle badge, and lead an Explorers group when I had aged out of the Boy Scouts. He taught me to love America, to respect people of all ages, races, and economic positions. He taught me to work hard, go to church and to treasure honesty and integrity. I loved him very much and even today, 23 years later I wish I could call him up for advice or just to chat.
The day my Dad died was a good day. He had been rushed to the hospital five days earlier and I had flown up immediately. He was stable but critical when I got there, but each day he improved. That’s partly why I can say that the day he died was a good day. First, it was his best day health-wise since his admission to the hospital. In fact, he was doing so well he was going to be moved from the Cardiac ICU to a step-down unit that night. He was joking and teasing with the nurses and us all day (I get my personality from him – even that guilty look when we get caught doing something we shouldn’t be doing – thanks Dad!). We had a great visit with him that day and after my Mom and I had gone home for the night, Dad got to watch his beloved Cleveland Indians win the American League Pennant for the first time in many years. It was such a good day. In fact, it was the only night since I had arrived that I did not jump when the phone rang at 10:00PM. I didn’t even give it much thought. I figured it was my sister who lived in Colorado calling to check on Dad. But it was not my sister. It was the hospital. Mom answered the phone, looked at me and said, “we’ve lost Dad”. I, of course, took over the phone, talked to Joy, the head nurse, (still remember her name!) and Mom and I and a neighbor who thought of Dad as his second father, rushed for the hospital.
A half hour later as I walked into my father’s room a watershed moment of faith occurred for me. Gone was the man who had loved me completely, raised me, and guided me. As I looked at my father I realized I had come to a defining moment in my Christian journey. Either I believed everything I had learned growing up in the church, everything I had taught, professed and preached as a pastor, or I did not.
Since I still am preaching, teaching, and still have a huge passion for Jesus, I guess you know what my decision was that night of October 15th, 1997. You see, I realized that the worst moment in my life, WAS THE BEST MOMENT IN MY FATHER’S. Such is faith, such is God’s power, grace, and love. So on this day that so impacts me still, my prayer for each of us is that when these moments occur in our lives, our faith will help us understand that sometimes the hardest moment is actually the greatest victory. Amen & Amen.