June 19, 2013

Remembering my dad on Father's day (a little late)

This past week has been pretty hectic, so I am getting this father's day post out late.  We had a wedding on Monday (yes monday) and before that we had a Bible school graduation for the (then) bride to be, and a high school graduation, during which one of our dogs got very sick with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and we almost lost her.

I am kind of running on fumes, stumbling over words and losing track of my thoughts these days, often mid-sentence.  :-)  We also heard a few days before our daughter's wedding that we will be losing our pastor, who we all love greatly, who is very ethical, gracious, and self disciplined, and not proud.  He is faithful to feed us Christ when we go to worship.  He is not easily caught up in fads.   He was elected president of our denomination and as such will be taking office in October and no longer serving as our pastor.  So it has been an extremely emotional last week.  This coming weekend I have to head to Michigan for FinnFest where they plan to honor my dad's contribution to the musical culture of the Copper Country area.  He was a very good musician and taught for about 20 years at what was then a Finnish Lutheran seminary.  It was since merged into the LCA which then became the ELCA, and we left the LCA shortly before that merger and went to the AFLC.

This weekend my sister and I were having a conversation with our pastor's wife and the subject of our dad came up.  My sister was recalling this letter our dad wrote to us in 1985 which was included with the regular Christmas card he always sent out.

I am the youngest of 7 (4 children are from dad's first marriage, which ended with his first wife's death in late winter/spring in the late 1950's).
Original Letter (pdf)

Here is the text, as it is kind of hard to read in places on the copy - we didn't have the technology to make good copies easily back then.
12/20/85
Dear Children:

These days as I approach my 73rd Christmas I have spent much time reflecting on the years that have been and many of the things I have experienced. I remembered some of the difficulties and trials of life -- the illnesses, the arguments and tensions, -- the deaths. And then there were the joys -- the accomplishments with my choirs in the face of great odds, the accomplishments of you children and other moments that gave much pleasure.

In the midst of my musings I was vividly brought up short with the shattering thought that though I had had some small measure of success in a number of things, I had failed in the one thing I should have been successful in as a parent. I had failed as a father! Yes, I had provided for you, disciplined you, trained you, and taught you. But why? It is now clear -- I wanted MY children to be the best on the block. So -- "don't YOU fail because MY haughty pride is at stake!!!!" seemed to be the underlying motive for all my correction and instruction and consequently it was administered with severity, harshness, and lovelessness. Perhaps I've been able to a degree to compel obedience but not to inspire it. And so I am sure I have brought forth much resentment and bitterness and inflicted hurt and who knows what psychological trauma and I earnestly seek the cleansing of your forgiveness for those things in which i have so grievously fallen short. St Francis of Assisi prayed "where there is hate let me sow love" but I'm afraid I have more often than not sown hatred where there is love.

I have for long suspected all this but I have been like the man James speaks of in his epistle, "who looks at himself in the mirror and after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." (v. 23, 24). I only kept justifying my attitudes and acts and refused to face myself. But because Karl and Vicki recently confronted me I knew I had to deal with this rubble in my life because paramountly the greatest consequence of my actions may have been to turn you away from "Him who knew no sin and BECAME sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ." (II Cor 5:21) That I can't deal with. I know God forgives for His Word says "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I Jn 1:9) -- but I need your forgiveness.

May this season find peace of heart in Him who will not compel obedience but inspire it.

With love,
Dad
I was 15 when he wrote this.  He passed away when I was 20, having only met my husband (husband-to-be) twice.  I miss him greatly.  I wish he had had more time to get to know my husband in particular.  In between 1984 and 1990 our relationship became much better, thanks to the forgiveness that can be found only in Christ.  At the end it was very hard to watch him suffer.  Even though at times he was exasperating and nitpicky, I think we've all said at one time or another we would not have traded him.  He was not perfect, but he was a good man and we knew in spite of the sometimes frustrating way he showed love that he did love us very very much, and that often the overwhelming depth of his emotion was part of why he had such a hard time showing it.  One of the things he often lamented in my hearing was that he was watching the world change so fast and he felt like he was standing in the river trying to hold back the tide with his bare hands.  I remember even as a teenager sympathizing with that statement, and that I either thought to myself or told him that we cannot stop the river, but we can help pull people out of it by giving them the Gospel.

I miss him still.