This post is difficult for me to write, because it’s so personal, but I feel that I need to share it. My goal for the new year is to be God’s hand extended to those who are hurting and those who need comfort. Why you ask? Because I know what its like to hurt and to need comforting. I want God to use me and I want to be open to those opportunities when they present themselves.
This true story is a step in that direction. Our pastor shared a story Sunday that got me to thinking I need to share this, so here it goes.
My Dad and I for the most part had a strained relationship. If you could even call it that. There was a large part of my life when there was no relationship and that’s exactly how I wanted it. I didn’t care if I had one.
My Dad was an alcoholic. He was a Vietnam veteran and he had all the scars that went along with that. He and my mom split up when I was young. I have memories of him coming to our house and beating on the walls, doors and windows and begging me to let him in. He’d say, “This is your daddy, don’t you love me?”
I was scared to death. I didn’t like him when he was drunk. I can remember going places with him and counting the left and right turns, afraid he was going to hide us somewhere and we’d need to escape. I also remember running to check the mail and running back because I was afraid he was going to kidnap me. As an adult I look back and see how many of my childish fears were unfounded, but to me at that time, they were real.
As I grew older I didn’t have as much to do with him, and as I said, I liked it that way. One day however I decided I’d reach out to him. I wrote him a letter. He wrote me one back and I couldn’t finish it. He was drunk while writing it and he was talking about things from Vietnam that he’d seen. I couldn’t take it. I just wanted to distance myself from him again.
I tried to do that. I had a great stepdad who took care of us and I was happy. There was still a longing in me to get to know him. Every boy wants to know his father and to know his father is proud of him. Then when I got saved, I not only wanted to get to know him, I wanted to share Jesus with him. I knew Jesus would hold the answers he needed.
When I reached out to my Dad to talk to him about Jesus, he shut me down. He said he was an atheist and he didn’t believe in God. Many times he said I was just trying to shove it down his throat. I didn’t. I never did.
When I got married I decided I was going to visit him. I had seen him a few times before then and those were mostly limited due to his drinking. This time things were changing. He asked me, “When you come do you want me to be drinking?” and I told him no.
He didn’t drink. It was a good visit. I enjoyed getting to spend time with him. The next few years we saw him a few more times and we talked on the phone. Sometimes he’d call in the middle of the night drunk and want to talk. I’d just let him talk.
Then around 2005 or so he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. They said the cancer was caused by agent orange he’d been exposed to in Vietnam. We kept closer contact, I tried to make sure he was going to his appointments. That was hard to do being 6 hours apart.
In 2006, we visited him in March and he was very sick. That’s when this picture was taken.
That day I had one of the best memories of my Dad. He kissed me on the cheek. You don’t know what that done to soften my heart. Here was a man that for the most part of my life I could have cared less about. He was there, human, showing me love. Real love. That was a special moment for me.
He stood on the porch and waved as we left. I told him if he needed me to come take care of him to let me know. He promised he would.
In April my sister and I talked to him on the phone and we could tell he wasn’t doing well. He hadn’t eaten in almost a month, since we had left this day. He was very weak and needed us. i took family medical leave from work and my wife and I went to be with him for a week, then I was going to take my wife home and bring my sister back with me.
The time my wife and I spent with him was great. He had to go in the hospital and get some fluids but he came on home. Then the next week I took my wife home and brought my sister back and it was the best time. He mentioned that we’d never spend time together like that, just the three of us. He loved it. He took me on a walk around the yard and talked to me. He was feeling great. He made plans to go outside with me and we would look at the truck and see what we could do to fix some things wrong on it. We thought about going fishing. Fixing the couch so you wouldn’t sink to the floor when you sat down. He had lots of plans.
Then the moment I’ll never forget came. He wanted his feet washed. I hoped and prayed that my sister would do it because I HATE feet. No, you don’t understand, I HAAAAATE feet. I don’t touch anyone’s feet. I looked at my sister and she kind of shook her head like, nope this one’s up to you.
I did it. He wanted warm water with a little Dawn dish liquid and a little bleach. He said it had been weeks since he’d been able to wash them good. It had been. He wasn’t lying. They were pretty rough. So I grabbed a towel and started washing them. Me washing the feet of the man that I had at one point in my life hated. I’d love to say that at that moment God shown a light around me and healed every wound my dad had ever given me, but that’s not true. However, later God revealed to me that he done something huge in that moment.
Either that night or the next we had to take him to the VA hospital in Poplar Bluff, MO. He needed more fluids. We woke up the next day and the doctor said we could take him home after he received another bag of fluid. My sister and my Aunt went somewhere and I stayed with him. I told him that I never wanted him to think I was trying to shove God down his throat and he knew I didn’t. He also shared that him and God had talked. I was thrilled to hear that.
Things didn’t go as planned. He passed away later that afternoon, very suddenly. I was crushed. I had wanted a relationship with my Dad for so long. The past few days were like my dreams coming true and I felt like God had dangled a carrot in front of me and then snatched it away at the last moment. I was upset with him. I went through a very hard time after that. One night at our men’s meeting I shared my story and a brother in Christ told me flat out. When you washed your dad’s feet God was using that moment to release all of your hurts. It was like a light clicked on. It was exactly that. Even though there weren’t angels singing or lights flashing to let me know what was going on, it still happened.
It takes a lot to bend yourself down and wash the feet of another person. I did it and forgave my Dad.