My father died on August 28, 2012. He would have been 91 on September 3. I shared the following at his home-going celebration:
There is so much I could share about my dad. He was the most honest and trustworthy man you could ever know. One thing I especially loved was he was so approachable. There was never a barrier with my father.
I could tell you many things about my dad, but I want you to know my father around age 85 when he started studying the Word of God. And at age 90 he was still learning and growing and becoming the man God wanted him to be.
He told me, “I wished I would have read the Bible more in my life. I don’t know why God gave me the privilege in the past few years. I sometimes wonder why it took so long for me to come to truth. I am so glad God was patient with me.”
If you visited my dad in these last years you would have noticed the pile of Bibles and Christian books he surrounded himself with by his living room chair. If you gave him a book to read, he would have it done in no time. He would read big books, like Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven, many times over.
Dad had some deep regrets. He regretted that he wasn’t the spiritual leader in our home. He missed my mom terribly and grieved that he didn’t lead in their marriage like he should have. He would tell me, “I’m not the man I used to be. I wish I could go back and be a better husband and father and teach my children the Bible.”
But I told him, “Dad, the important thing is you are becoming that person now.” I would remind him of what Paul says in Philippians: “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Over time he learned to forgive himself and accept God’s grace and forgiveness.
Scripture says God’s Word is a “light for our path”. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
As the Word provided the light, the changes in my dad were obvious:
1. He became more of a leader in our family. He made some difficult decisions and stuck by them.
2. I couldn’t imagine my dad living without my mom. But he rose to the occasion and took care of his home, his finances. At 90 years old he was still sorting through papers, organizing things, moving furniture and cleaning up areas. He went through all the family photos and divided them up among us kids.
3. Dad was deathly afraid of speaking in public. Years ago when he was supposed to introduce the new pastor to his congregation he became so physically ill that he had to stay home. But more recently he was the first to stand up at a memorial service and speak eloquently about a man he used to work with and shared humorous stories about his life. I was sitting next to him and was so proud.
4. He wrote heartfelt letters to his family and others and sought forgiveness where he felt he had failed.
5. The past few months he attended a Sunday School class which was even difficult for him because he had such a hard time sharing openly or having any attention drawn to himself. But he went and told me how glad he was to be a part of this small group.
6. He wanted to share with others what he was learning about the Lord and would offer his family books and DVDs. In his last stay in the hospital he told me, “I just felt I should say something to the nurse about the Lord”—so he did.
7. We were talking recently about where he might go if he couldn’t live alone anymore. One of the things that bothered him was if he had to move and pay for a place he would have to cut back on his giving.
8. He became even a more grateful man and would talk about how blessed he was. The evening he died we had dinner together and he said, “Well, we surely need to pray and thank the Lord for this day.” He was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. (This picture was taken several years ago with my grandsons Bailey and Sawyer, two of his great-grandchildren.)
Dad always wondered why God left him on this earth for so long, especially after Mom died. Well, I know why. He hadn’t completed the work he was doing in his life and our family needed him. We still do and our loss is very great, but his gain is so much greater! I thank God for the legacy he left us and for proving it’s never too late to learn and grow and change.
Kathy Norquist was Randy Alcorn’s Executive Assistant from 1997-2015, then worked in Ministry Development up until September 2018 when she retired. Kathy remains on the EPM Board of Directors.