Today marks the one year anniversary we said goodbye to my dad on this side of eternity. We have the comfort and assurance Dad is in heaven. Amidst his earthy absence, sometimes it feels like he’s peeking from between the clouds as his family, earthside, receives little reminders of him. We’ve affectionately referred to those instances as “God winks”.
A God wink, as we’ve come to appreciate them, is when something happens that’s too coincidental not to acknowledge that God is at work in the situation. That’s exactly where our family found ourselves last weekend during a Michigan State football game.
In order to fully appreciate this story, we’ll need to back up to just a few days before Dad’s passing. We were gathered as a family into the living room we grew up in. Circled around Dad, we asked him questions interview style. At that moment, we didn’t know it would be the last time we’d hear him string words together in story form. He answered one of the questions that so often since that time has given us hope, encouragement and determination.
I asked him: What’s a piece of wisdom you’d like to leave with your grandchildren?
Dad explained that eternity is a long time and so he wanted us to “Be There”. That phrase was taken from a sermon James Dobson preached many years ago. Those two words and all its context stuck with my dad and he wanted to pass it on. In long form, “Be There” means that you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart and you’ll be in heaven when your time on earth is complete.
Accepting Jesus as his personal savior revolutionized Dad’s life for the better. He wanted not only him, but also his kids and grandkids to know the saving grace of Jesus in the same way he did. And so he left us with these words: Be There.
I’d like to take a little liberty with my dad’s slogan because he was the kind of Dad that allowed me to easily accept the love of my heavenly father. My dad was around a lot. He showed up at my games, and I was a cheerleader, so that’s saying something. He hugged me often. He encouraged me relentlessly. He saw the best in me when I couldn’t see it in myself. Dad was there for me. And that’s why I miss him so much. He was one of the good ones.
Dad didn’t play favorites. He loved all of his kids well. I do think he showed some favoritism when it came to sports though. Football was on top. He loved to attend football games, even ones with no kid or grandkid playing in it. It had become a tradition once my brother, Aaron, graduated from Michigan State University to attend a game together each year. Rain, shine or sleet they cheered on the Spartans in full green and white attire.
This year’s MSU football game my dad wasn’t in attendance. My brother kept the MSU game tradition alive though. Aaron’s wife and kids donned their MSU sweatshirt hand-me-downs from Dad. It wasn’t the same without Dad there, but his presence was felt especially when a random ad popped up on the jumbotron in the middle of the game with the words: BE THERE. In that moment it felt like Dad was watching the game from the best seats in the house, heaven. If that seems like too much of a stretch to say that my dad and God were watching MSU football this past Sunday, can we at least agree that God knew we needed a bit of comfort as we approached the one year mark of Dad’s passing? With that God winked and a billboard displayed the very words we’ve come to know and love as our sentiment to describe our dad: BE THERE.