In my last entry, I posted the thoughts I shared at my Dad’s Committal Service at the Georgia National Cemetery. In this entry, I’ve posted the thoughts I shared at Dad’s funeral service at Mount Paran North Church of God, Marietta, Georgia on Saturday, May 26th, 2012.
Good morning, my name is Lon Hetrick, Jack and Darlene’s youngest son. I want to thank you for coming today to celebrate the memory of my father.
Yesterday, a U.S. Military Honor Guard commemorated my father’s service as a U.S. soldier at the Georgia National Cemetery. I was given an opportunity to share a few thoughts yesterday and I began by saying how surprised I think Dad would have been had he known what was happening. Dad was nothing if not a planner and he was always busy carrying out his plans. Neither he, nor we, had expected this sudden interruption of his plans. But as I said yesterday, 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.
If you didn’t know my father well and want a portrait of his character, then I could describe him to you this way:
He was honest. He was faithful. He was kind-hearted. He was hard-working. He was forgiving. He was self-disciplined. He was generous. He was dependable.
That’s the kind of man he was. It isn’t all of him, but I think it’s the best of him.
But what kind of father was he, you might ask? Let me tell you…
He expected a lot from us. He made us work hard. He didn’t let us off easy. But he helped us. He supported us. He loved us. He was always proud of us. He taught us the value of hard work and respect for others and self-reliance.
He taught me how to change the oil in a car when I was 12. That same year, He taught me how to earn the money I needed to buy the trumpet I wanted — the trumpet I played taps on yesterday. Soon after, he taught me that you can heat a house in Massachusetts with wood fires all winter if you have some timberland, a few wood stoves and three boys. And he taught me to never, ever walk in front of my mother and to always open the door for her.
Hard work. Respect for others. Self-reliance. Good lessons for a young man to learn from his father.
But let me tell you about the most important thing I learned from my dad.
When I was 16, Dad helped me understand what it means to be a Christian. In his own way, he taught me the two basic messages of the Christian faith. They are what I’ve come to call: “The bad news,” and “the good news.”
The Bad News
The bad news is what we learn in Genesis:
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17 ESV)
Our first parents disobeyed. Death came into the world. And every parent for millennia has died. Last Sunday just after midnight, the curse of death claimed my father. And someday it will come for me.
That’s the bad news of the Christian faith. It’s dark and awful, but accepting it makes the good news all the brighter.
The Good News
And the good news is this:
Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life.” An eternal reprieve from the curse. He came to free us from death by bearing that curse in his own body on the cross.
Now just a few days after Jesus said this, he demonstrated his power to keep this promise. He went to the tomb of a friend, Lazarus, who had just died. Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha, who both said, “Lord, our brother wouldn’t have died, if you had been here.”
But Jesus told them, “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. [And he asked them] Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, 26 ESV)
You probably know the rest of the story — how Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb and life entered him again.
Sometimes, when we tell this story we focus on the sisters, Mary and Martha, and how different they were in they way they related to Jesus. A few hours before Dad passed away I read this passage of Scripture as we were all gathered around his bed, and mom asked me if I was more of the Martha-type or the Mary-type.
I said, I thought I was more of the Lazarus-type. Because, regardless of whether I’m busy like Martha, or prayerful like Mary, I’m under the curse of death. And there isn’t any amount of devotion or service or sincerity or religious duty or brotherly kindness I can perform that will ever change that.
But I know who to trust who will: Jesus of Nazareth.
And I have my father to thank for that.
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