Remembering and honoring my Dad today, on his 5 year Heaven Birthday...reposting what I wrote a few days after speaking at his funeral. It's crazy how raw grief can be, especially on anniversaries of death. But I also love that I wrote all this out, to have and look back on and remember.
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3 days ago, walking down the aisle into a church filled with people who loved my dad
was the longest, hardest walk I have ever made.
I barely kept it together and had to keep my head down so I would not burst into tears.
I pray that none of you have to make that walk anytime soon, and that those of you who have gone before me, would remember you are not alone.
That walk is a feeling I will never forget.
But, once I got down that aisle...and felt the sweet presence of the Lord in that place,
we celebrated and remembered the life of my sweet Dad.
Many gathered as we shared stories and testimonies of the amazing man he was.
I have always been proud to be his daughter...
but after that, I am more proud than ever.
It was a beautiful and meaningful service, honoring to the Lord, and to my Dad.
Exactly what he would have wanted.
(I thought I would share a little about it here, for those family and friends who could not make it,
and also for you all to know how blessed I feel to have had such a precious memorial for my father.)
One of the main things talked about and displayed was my Dad's passion and connection to Texas A&M University. Many of you may not know this (and I say it loud and proud now!)...my Dad was kindof a big deal at A&M. :)
If you have never heard of the 12th Man Foundation, it is the foundation at the school that raises and gives scholarships to students. My dad started it.
(yep, see...thats a big deal. And I'm a proud daughter.)
He was the first executive director of it, and back then, they called it "The Aggie Club". His passion for A&M was great and affected so many people.
And to put that passion into work, raising money for the school and for students, is pretty amazing.
It's funny, because several friends I grew up with came up to me after the funeral and said,"now we understand why you have always loved A&M so much".
It was because of my Dad.
Legendary football coach, Gene Stallings (look him up if you don't know who he is), was a close friend and '57 classmate of my Dad's.
He was also the coach at A&M when my dad started The Aggie Club. They had remained close and respected each other immensely through all these years.
We had the honor of Coach Stallings speaking at the memorial. He shared about my Dad's passion for the school, the incredible impact he made by starting the scholarship foundation...and most of all, what a good and faithful friend my dad was. I was so proud to hear him speak of my dad the way he did.
My Dad's little sister, Nancy also shared about one of the other important aspects of my dad's life...his time growing up as a rancher's kid in Colorado.
My dad's parents sold a successful business in Dallas, packed up everything, and bought a ranch in the Rockies when my Dad was young. As my aunt put it...my dad went from being a city slicker to a rancher's kid, overnight.
He milked cows, pasteurized the milk, wrangled horses, built log cabins, and drove cattle.The ranch is still there, and is now leased out to well known Christian camp, Sky Ranch.
Going there and seeing what my dad built with his own hands is something you cannot describe with words.
My older brother Tim gave incredibly testimony of my Dad's heart towards him as a son.As a prodigal son.
He likened my Dad to the story in scripture of the Dad waiting with arms open wide, for his son to return home to him. That is how my Dad was with my brother, and when he shared that testimony on Saturday...
it made me so proud of both of them. Tim's words were both convicting and inviting, and were straight from the heart. It was truly incredible.
I also had the honor to speak at my Dad's funeral. I honestly did not think I could do it, but it was truly God's grace and presence there, that got me through my words.
I wanted to honor my Dad, and speak what I thought he would want heard, about him and about his faith.
Here is what I said in honor of my Dad's life...
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Hi, I am Sarah, John’s daughter.
First of all, I cannot express my gratitude to you all for being here to celebrate my Dad’s life today. Thank you.
As if you didn’t already know, being an Aggie was a huge part of my Dad’s life. It quickly became a huge part of my own, because my Dad’s enthusiasm about anything Aggie was just infectious.
Literally, I think I was singing “Hullaballoo” and yelling “Farmer’s Fight” by the time I was 3, having no idea what I was saying. But I did it with all my gusto and all my pride…because I wanted to be like my Daddy. I spent almost every birthday growing up at the Bonfire, as it often ended up on my birthday weekend. Dad and I would often travel after Thanksgiving dinner down to College Station for the big TU weekend. I remember sitting on top of my Dad’s shoulders to watch them light the bonfire, thinking I had the best view because my dad was so tall. From a young age, he taught me the war hymn, taught me how to wave my 12th man towel, and that I couldn’t walk on the grass or wear a hat in the MSC. We have sat in the same seats my entire life, and it gives me chills when I sit in them each year, because of the memories I have there. My times at Kyle Field with my dad are some of my fondest memories in my life.
I want to point something out here though, about my Dad.
While all those things at A&M were so important to him, he never once “pushed” it on me. I simply wanted to do those things, be a part of all that, because it was important to him.
He made it easy to love what he loved, because he was so incredibly genuine about it. And to me, that is the theme of his life as a dad and as a man of faith.
I once gave my dad a Father’s Day card that I always think about, and have expressed to him again through the years. It read “You make it so easy to know the Father’s love so well, because YOU have loved me so well.”
Like his love for Texas A&M, my Dad’s love for his Lord was just something sweet and infectious to be around. It drew people in, and I believe will continue to draw people to God, even after he is gone.
My dad did a lot for me.
Things and sacrifices I recognize even more so now that I am a parent myself.
He sat through countless, and I mean countless, dance recitals and competitions, drill team shows, and Friday night football halftimes. He had me in a bright orange vest at a very young age, taking me dove and quail hunting each year with our birddogs. (and I assure you Ags…that was the ONLY time I was really allowed to wear orange!)
He drove our family to Colorado many summers to stay at my uncle’s place in Crested Butte, where we made amazing family memories together. And he always kissed my mom when he walked in the door from work each evening, which I loved so much.
But the greatest thing my dad did for me, was to show me what a relationship with Jesus looked like. A real relationship…not a religion. Not a have-to-go-to-church, have-to-do-good, have-to-appear-a-certain-way relationship…because that is not really a relationship. But what I saw in my dad was the intimate connection he had with his Jesus. With his Savior. A trust in a personal God who would not fail him.
My dad appreciated God’s mercy and spoke of it often, recognizing that he would not be who he was without Jesus’s sacrifice for him. My Dad’s humble posture to the Lord is what drew people to himAnd what people recognized at the sweet gentle spirit in my dad…It was Jesus in him.
My heart hurts…truly aches…that my dad wont be sitting in his favorite chair, answering the phone when I call, going to A&M games with me, or holding my little girls in his lap anymore. But I am assured that He is experiencing joy indescribable and amazing peace right now as he walks, with perfect, un-parkinson’s, balance with his Lord.
I want to end with this, some precious words my sweet Abigail shared with me during all of this. Keep in mind she had no idea that her beloved Hop might be going to Heaven soon, and we really didn't know yet either.
One night while Hop was still in the hospital, I asked her to pray with me for Hop, to which she replied, “What’s Jesus saying to Hop right now?”. I said “I don’t know, what is He saying to Hop?”. She paused and thought about it, and then said “Jesus is saying for Hop to come Home.”.
That took my breath away, but then I said “oh wow, what else is Jesus saying to Hop right now?” Abigail said “Jesus is saying that God wants Hop to come to His house in Heaven”.
Out of the mouths of babes, right?
Her little spirit was being prepared, and the words of a three year old have brought me more comfort, knowing without a doubt, that Jesus had been preparing a way for my Dad...to come Home to His House in Heaven.
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Like I keep saying, the service was incredible. and I think, I KNOW my Dad would be proud.He would have loved it. He DID love it...he had the best seat in the house.
The countless people there astounded us and I was so blown away. I know the impact and love my Dad had always poured out to others, but it was amazing to see people whom he had affected, and who loved him, and love us.
My parent's church was absolutely incredible at organizing the whole thing, including the big reception afterwards. We literally did not have to do much at all. It was a HUGE blessing to our family, and stirred up in me a new desire to serve others better.
The worship and solos were insanely beautiful, and it ushered in the presence of the Lord so heavily.
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Miss you, Dad.