Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Father's Funeral Sermon

I've wanted to post this for some time. Why? Well, because it reminds me that I don't always know who is and isn't saved, and who does and who does not know God. I struggled with this sermon for many reasons - chief among them was my brother Todd who was a fairly new believer at the time. I wanted to give him some comfort and peace of mind.

Dad wasn't religious. In fact, Dad didn't want to have anything to do with faith, religion, or discussion about those topics. Whenever I tried to share with my Father, he'd shut me down fast and hard, telling me that if it worked for me, that was great, but he didn't want to hear about it. My father had been offended many years before by members of a LDS Ward choir who openly questioned his worthiness to be part of the choir and sing all because my father smoked. True to their hypocritical nature, they ran my father off and made it impossible for me to ever share the good news of Jesus Christ with my Dad. But that doesn't mean he didn't know the Lord. Maybe I'm deluding myself - I don't know, but I'd like to think that like Winston Churchhill, he was ready to meet his maker, but knew for certain the Maker was likely not prepared for the uproar he'd make when he got there! I love my Dad... and it's hard to believe he's been gone almost three years.I miss him.

I love you Dad, I hope you don't mind me sharing this!

William Evans Hunter
November 15, 1929 – January 14, 2006


Thank you all for those kind words and remembrances. I certainly have a difficult task ahead of me. How does a son adequately pay tribute to such a foundational element in his life? How do I say goodbye? How do I say anything of worth or value at a time such as this? I am humbled by this opportunity to share with you about my Father, and express my love for him in such a public way. Thank you all for your kind words, your love and your support. Thank you for being here for my Father. Thank you from all of us.

As many of you know, I’ve been a pastor for the last six years, and I’ve even done several funerals during that time, and even a couple very difficult ones – but none has been so difficult to prepare for as my own father’s. All of the words of comfort seem to fall short, and the normal, gracious platitudes seem even emptier when the one you’re speaking of has been such an influence in your life. In fact, this has been the hardest thing I’ve done in a very, very long time.

We are never ready when death makes its visit. Even through extended illness or trauma, that final moment is never fully prepared for – we’re always taken by surprise. The Bible tells us that we aren’t promised even our next breath, and that every moment of our lives is but a vapor. The question then begs to be asked – are you prepared? Are you prepared for that moment when you step into eternity? When all the “cosmic questions” will be answered – when we’ll meet our maker? I believe my Father was ready. I believe he knew death was coming. He prepared. He moved things to where they would be readily found… he had his affairs in order, and he was ready to meet his maker.

Winston Churchill said, “I am ready to meet my maker, but whether my maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

I believe that some extensive preparation was needed for the arrival of my father – not because of the disruptive nature of his appearance there, but because of the amount of celebration that accompanied his graduation day. Many a great man has gone before him, and many more will follow him, but none have or will mean so much to me personally. Because of that, I’ve taken a hard look at my father and the life he led and have discovered nine specific characteristics or words that describe him. I’d briefly like to share those observations with you.

Love:

Anyone who knew my father would have to say that they had encountered a man who knew how to love. Dad wasn’t overt about the way he showed his love as some would count overtness, but I never once had to guess if my father loved me. I was always sure of it, as sure as I was the sun would rise tomorrow.

Kahlil Gibran said, “Love has power that dispels death; charm that conquers the enemy.” Simply put, because my father loved the way he did, and is loved as we love him, he will live on, not just in the eternities, but mortally here in our hearts.

I used to look at my father when he was around Pat, and wonder to myself if I would ever experience the kind of love that they shared. I didn’t think it was really possible to be that much in love. I’m happy to say I have that kind of love with my beautiful wife – and I owe much of that to the fine example of agape – selfless love – that my father modeled for me. I was shown first, so I could, in turn, show Chris. Yes, my father knew how to love.

Joy:

Every year, my father would come to my house on Christmas morning. As we all know, he was an incredibly difficult man to buy for. It was always a struggle to find something that wouldn’t end up on the 3 foot high pile on his dining room table. We discovered that Dad got his fun out of watching our kids open their presents and spending time with them. Recently at Christmas, we had given our kids Nerf dart guns. Well, Grandpa Bill came by for dinner shortly afterwards, and suffered the humiliation of having my kids lick the darts and stick them one by one on top of his head to form a Mohawk… and laughed the entire time.

Once Todd gave dad an electronic fishing game. If you don’t think Dad knew joy, you’ve never seen him trying desperately to land the whopper on that game. But all in all it wasn’t that Dad knew, or experienced joy, but rather, that he oozed joy to those around him. Sitting on the couch with big red wax lips stuck in his mouth and making faces, or reciting his famous “My Mother” poem, brought not only screams of laughter, but lasting joy as well. My father knew joy. My father was a joy.

It has been said that joy never feasts so high as when the first course is that of misery. This hurts… and we are in misery, but as the bible says in the book of Psalms, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Friends – family? The Morning is coming.

Peace:

In this world, peace is elusive, but my father lived in peace. As far as my experience with my Dad went, turmoil was foreign to him. Every time I visited with him he was calm, confident and sure. He seemed to be sustained by the hope of seeing Pat again, and of being re-united with friends and family. On many occasions I took the opportunity to look deeply into my father’s eyes and I was always met with peace. With calm. The older Dad got, the deeper the peace became. I used to wonder to myself what he knew that I did not. I believe I understand better now what his secret was – he was content with his life. He was at peace.

The best example of this is the way my father died. When I was called to the house by the Police and came through the door, I was certain that they had made a mistake. He was only sleeping. But as I approached his lifeless form, I could tell he was gone – but the peace that permeated his life was still reflected on his countenance. I only pray that I can one day pass as easily. He was truly a man OF peace, AT peace.

Patience:

The best proof of my Dad’s patience is that he successfully raised me. This amazing bastion of masculinity before you didn’t just happen I’ll have you know… there was some shaping and modeling that went on. Some painful shaping at times, but always done with patience and endurance.

The fact that my dad could watch 72 holes of golf on TV and enjoy it speaks to this man’s great patience! The fact that he tried to teach me to golf showed that my dad wasn’t above testing his patience on occasion.


Kindness and Goodness:

We don’t have the time that it would take to describe my father’s kindness, or his immeasurable goodness. I have been the glad recipient of his kindness and goodness all of my life. His neighbors and friends knew of his kindness and goodness. Goethe said, “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.” And as such, my father was a powerful link in that chain.

Another word for goodness is justice. My father was a good man – he was a fair man and he was a just man. These were traits that my father and I discussed on many occasions. And one thing I could always count on was that my father would err on the side of mercy and goodness over law and legalism.

You can also define a person’s kindness and goodness by their generosity. And anyone who knew Dad could attest to his generosity and giving. It has been said that if there is no truer measure of a man than what he does, it must be by what he gives. We’re told in the bible that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, and Dad was that. If it was a time of trouble and need, or a birthday, or Christmas, Dad’s generosity was un-matched, and a phenomenal example to me. A profound example of his goodness, kindness and generosity, can be found in the last check he wrote before he died. He was supporting the Utah Food Bank with a donation. Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” Albert Pike added, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

Faithfulness:

There were several times in my life where I made improper choices. Because I had been adopted and had some issues with separation and losing my family, I was always afraid that I would be abandoned again. But through it all, my father remained faithful to me. I never once doubted that he would be there for me. Even through my parent’s divorce, he always made sure I knew that he was there for me.

I remember once as he stood by my side in court as the judgment was handed down for something I had done, he slipped his hand up to rest it on my shoulder. I believe he did that for a couple reasons – one, to settle my shaking, and second to reassure me that he would walk beside me through this hard time.

Gentleness:

True masculinity displays itself in gentleness. My father was always a “man’s man” in every way. He was an athlete, a hunter – pretty much what ever you would define as a “manly man.” Yet to see him hold his grandchildren, or to see him talk about Pat, and you would see the purest essence of gentleness. Dad always modeled masculinity and gentleness for me.

Self Control:

Just take a look at my Dad’s red chair and you’ll see no better example of self control. How he could sit there for all those years with his dust halo, is beyond me – it must have taken Herculean self control! His very lifestyle spoke of self control. He was a man of simple means and simple ways. He was easily satisfied and was almost Spartan in his existence. He always told us that he had everything he wanted or needed… I don’t know how better to describe this – but he was very disciplined. While we were looking through some of his things, Todd and I came across sheet after sheet of paper with long-hand division on it – covered front and back! Believe me, THAT takes self control!

Well, there you have it. Nine attributes of my father’s life: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF CONTROL. Sound familiar? It should. Galatians 5:22 says this: “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. There is no law against these things!”

Thinking of it that way has helped me come to the conclusion that in spite of his lack of participating in “religion,” my father knew what a relationship with Jesus Christ was. And because of that, I’m certain as he stood before the Lord, there was a knowing look of recognition, and the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the rest of your Lord” were spoken over him, as he was reunited with those who loved him.

Dad? Thank you for your example, for your kindness, love and generosity. You have made me a better man for knowing you, and you have helped me learn some of the hard lessons of life with grace and dignity. You will be missed more than you know. I love you immeasurably. May God bless you and keep you, and cause his face to shine upon you. Amen.

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