This time of year every year a sadness comes over me. It has happened like clock work for the past 23 years. I usually don’t know what is going on until I look at the calendar and see it is the end of May and then I realize what is happening. In June of 1988 I lost my father to cancer, alcoholism, and numerous other complications brought on by a life filled with substance abuse. When my dad died I was eighteen a drug addicted, alcohol dependent, lost and broken kid. I thought loved died the day my dad died. I loved my dad and he loved me even at my worst I knew he loved me. Picture this a big 300 lbs. 6 foot 3 monster of a young man leaning over every night to kiss his “Pop”, a nickname I gave my dad because we loved to watch Sanford and Son together, on the forehead and say, “I Love you Pop” as he laid in his cigarette burned and tattered favorite recliner. You can imagine my sadness the morning I was woke up by a friend after a long night of abusing my body and mind with drugs yelling, “Hey Mike I don’t think your dad is breathing.” My dad had lost half of his lung to cancer in 1980 and had other breathing illnesses so you could barely see his chest move. I told my friend not to worry but he persisted. I went out and realized he was right. I scooped my once 240 now 130 pound dad up in my arms and laid him on the floor. I administered CPR the best I could until paramedics arrived. We got a heart beat back but he never regained consciousness. He lay for 3 days in the hospital with me by his side slowly slipping away. I was a heathen, which means I was godless at the time. I prayed a prayer remembering the Jesus I had once heard of in Sunday school and special occasion church visits. I’d even scene the Greatest Story Ever Told. I asked God, I begged God, “God I know it is too late for me. I’m a bad person and I know I’ll never change. But if you could, if you would? Would you save my dad?” I said the best sinner’s prayer I knew and asked my dad to squeeze my hand if he agreed. He never squeezed my hand. Later on in life when I could bear to open my dad’s belongings I found his bible and in his bible tucked squarely in the center was a sinner’s prayer he had cut out and placed as a book mark. In 2006 I found a letter tucked in his wallet asking my mom and us kids for forgiveness and repenting of his actions and pleading for help for his addiction. I didn’t understand the true grace of God at the time. I didn’t know the goodness or the greatness of God at the time but I do now. I discovered a story in the bible in Luke 18:9-14 as Jesus was teaching on true prayer and true repentance. One guy stood there resting on his goodness and the other fully knew who he was and who God was. Even at my worst I knew I had no leg to stand on and that my dad needed God’s grace. The verse that stood out and I can best identify with in that hospital room is Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood far off, wouldn’t even lift his eyes toward heaven, but beat his breast saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” I know God heard me that day. Little did I know just one year later God would call me and draw me into a personal relationship with Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. I thought loved died in June of 1988. How could anyone love me? I’m a broken, hopeless, helpless, jobless, no account, nothing happening waste. The one person who loved me and looked beyond all my trash and junk died. I was fatherless. This time of year is harder than any other time, even the holidays for me. Roughly a year and a half after he died I met Jesus Christ. A man named John Jacobs was preaching on the TV and smashing stuff. He was about to break free out of some handcuffs. I felt handcuffed by life and past mistakes. He broke those cuffs and pointed straight at the TV and said, If you want to be set free all you have to do is ask. He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” He told me Jesus loved me just like I was and would forgive me. I believed him. I felt something I hadn’t felt since my father had died I felt love. Not just any love, love even greater than my father’s love. I felt God’s incredible love and his amazing grace. I didn’t come to Jesus for fear of hell. I came to Jesus because I found out how much He loved me. I found out he died for me when I was at my worst. He looked beyond my faults and saw my need. Because of Jesus Christ I was adopted into God’s family. God became a father to the fatherless [Psalm 146:9]. God healed my heart and gave me a reason to live. I still miss my dad like crazy but God’s grace is sufficient for me. The life I now live is by grace through faith in Jesus. So every time this year the sadness comes because I am human and I am also made in the image of God. By God’s grace the sadness never stays because I have a hope that goes beyond this life. The more I understand the grace of God the more hope I have of seeing my father again. Alcoholism is a cruel disease and robs, kills, steals, and destroys but Jesus came to bring life. The last 6 days of my dad’s life were totally different. For 3 days he cleaned, cooked, smiled, laughed, and believed we would be a family again. For 3 days he laid in a hospital bed clinging to life until he slipped off into eternity. He knew Jesus. He didn’t just know of Jesus, he knew Jesus. The more I read from his bible and find little notes the more I see the grace of God dealing with a man struggling with his demons. For 20 years I have followed Jesus. The closer I get to Him the more I understand his grace. I wish I could say that as the years pass it gets easier, but it doesn’t I still miss my dad. I used to think I’d forget what he looked like but I won’t. I welcome this time of year. I grieve but not as one who has no hope. But I grieve because I am human. I praise God that I can feel because for a few years in my life I couldn’t feel nor did I want to feel. God’s love has taught my heart to feel again.
I still miss you Pop but don’t worry Jesus is taking care of me. Oh and one more thing Pop by the grace of God we got our name back. Glory to God forever.