My father, John (Jack) Paul Hetrick Sr., passed away on Sunday, May 20th, 2012. Dad would have been 74 on June 9th. He was laid to rest at the Georgia National Cemetery on Friday, May 25th with military honors. The next day a wonderful memorial service was held for family and friends at Mount Paran North Church of God, Marietta, Georgia.
Dad passed away after a brief and unexpected battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He had just been diagnosed a few months before and given a 3-5 year prognosis. Dawn and I were still trying to wrap our heads around this news when Dad was suddenly admitted for a serious 3-week hospital stay. After a week-long respite at home, he was readmitted, and died in ICU six days later. My mother, brother John, Dawn, daughters Haley and Heidi, and I were with him when he took his last hard-fought breath.
I spent a week feeling numb and preparing for funeral services. Now that it’s over, I just feel sad, so sad. And the occasional pain in my chest reminds me of what people mean by the phrase “heartbreak.” It helps a bit to share the thoughts I prepared in Dad’s memory.
I performed the Committal Service at Georgia National Cemetery and shared these thoughts. Then the Military Honor Guard fired three volleys, after which I played taps as Dad had requested.
The Uncertainty of Life
Dad wasn’t expecting to die last weekend. This all came, I’m sure, as a surprise to him, as much as it was to us. Dad had his plans. He had different plans for May 20th, 2012. But Dad also knew what the wisest men taught us about the uncertainty of life: that our lives are not in our control; and our plans are subject to God’s plans.
Solomon taught us:
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NASB)
Jeremiah taught us:
“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23 ESV)
The Trustworthiness of God
But we are not to think that we are subject to blind, senseless fate. For the wisest men also taught us to TRUST God’s control, because it is motivated by His supreme wisdom and enduring love.
David taught us:
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23, 24 ESV)
“The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” (Psalm 37:39, 40 ESV)
The Wisdom of Life
Dad knew this. He believed it. He trusted it. And he learned this wisdom:
Let every day of life be lived for God, trusting God, surrendering to God, because every breath comes from God.
Moses taught us:
“1Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
12So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all
our days.” (Psalm 90:1-6, 12, 14 ESV)
Grief & Hope
And so here we are. And we grieve the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother and friend. But we need not grieve as those who have no hope!
As I said, Dad was not expecting to die. But, he was not unprepared to die.
For the God from whom we have our breath has also given a Savior: Jesus. Eternal Son of God. Crucified Lamb of God. Our Risen King.
And Dad believed and trusted this Savior’s promise:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25, 26 ESV)
And so, the final episode of Dad’s life is NOT what we see here today.
As Paul taught us:
“We believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and bring us into his presence. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18 ESV)
Will you please pray with me? May I ask that in silence we take a few moments to talk with God, to surrender Dad’s life to Him.
Now Father, as we surrender Jack Hetrick to you, we also take this moment to examine our own lives and surrender them to you as well. Our own lives are brief and filled with both unlooked for joys and unexpected sorrows. We surrender our lives to you now. We place our hope of eternal life in your Son, our Savior, Jesus, who taught us to pray together:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)
In my next entry, I’ll post the thoughts I shared at Dad’s funeral service.
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