Our friends and church families overwhelmed us with love and support for Dad’s celebration weekend. His calling hours on Saturday, September 23 and the memorial service on Sunday, September 24 were amazing to us, with hundreds and hundreds of people coming to show their respect and love. I can only imagine the wonder, amazement, and gratitude Dad felt if the Lord allowed him to know what was going on.
The respect and regard shown to and for Dad was not because he was 96, or because in World War II he was brave. It wasn’t because he had married well and raised four children with his wife. It wasn’t because of numerous contributions he had made in a variety of arenas over the years. While all of those things were mentioned, and all of them were completely true, there are many other people who have done similar things that brought them applause and adulation at that moment. But somewhere along the way, they made a misstep. They took a detour from the “straight and narrow,” and while they had done great things and built a marvelous legacy in days gone by, their current behavior and choices tarnished it. In fact, everyone can think of an example or two of someone in political or religious history who lived an exemplary life for a while, and then trashed their image and reputation with choices in later life. When people think of them when they are remembered after death, it is their failures that are recalled.
Dad didn’t tarnish the sheen on his life. And that’s why his weekend was so memorable, and why the large crowd spontaneously stood to honor him as his casket passed by them in his final journey out of the church. They were acknowledging that “this man finished well.” Every stellar moment in his past was still true of him on the 259thday of his 96thyear.
This was not an accident. It was a planned and persevering effort. Daddy was conscious of how easy is would be to drift and not live up to what God had given him and done for him. I think the things he did are worthy of imitation and I for one am doing similar things for myself.
- After Mother died, he amped up his involvement in his small group, and made sure he had accountable relationships that strengthened and grew him. He didn’t want to miss a single time they got together, and he would humbly and transparently ask for prayer.
- He kept himself busy, doing things that would grow young believers. As long as he was able, he graded papers for prisoners who were trying to get an education. He discipled several young men in his home, fixing them humble little lunches when they would come over. He served in the nursery at his church, rocking babies and telling the parents how precious their children were. He attended Grief Share, and then signed up to be part of it again and again to help others grieve their way to health.
- When he was no longer able to live alone, he chose to live in the nursing home instead of one of our homes because he wanted to still be able to serve and minister to others. There is no way, by the testimony of the staff and residents there, to measure the impact of that choice, the thousands of prayers said over these last three years, and the words of encouragement shared.
- Daddy owned the fact that he was not too great or too far along to fall.Daddy would tell me that he wanted me to pray that he would not do anything to bring shame upon the name of Jesus or the Mason family. He was asking this as a 90+-year-old man!I always thought, “I should be asking you to pray for me on that.” Dad’s awareness of his need and humility about it echoed the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:12: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful lest you fall.”
- Daddy was always a giver. Not just a giver, but a man of radical generosity. He always said that he wanted to die broke. Guess what? He did. He didn’t buy things for himself. He always drove a used car, wore his clothes until they were worn out, and he and Mother shopped at the thrift stores and Goodwill. His idea of having a night out was eating at Taco Bell. He loved to live simply because it freed up money and resources to give to others. He was never interested in leaving us an estate—he always believed it was best to help us when we needed money, and he did. He said it was best to give at the point of anyone’s need rather than leaving it after your death, and that’s what he did. One of the family treasures is a little red financial record book where he kept note of how God directed him to use his resources. His giving averaged about 18 charitable causes including the churches his children served/attended. He and Mother paid for 27 different children to have their cleft palates repaired, and have a normal life. I could go on, but you get the point. He had a very average, even below-average income, but he made an above-average impact with what he had.
- He made his relationships first priority—he started with his God. Even when he talked about heaven, it was about seeing Jesus first of all, not Mother or his parents, daughter, or siblings, all whom he dearly loved. His relationship with God took top priority—you would always find Dad reading or praying. It was never a career or job to him—it was his source of strength. No human was loved and prioritized more than his sweetheart and wife, our mother. We all knew it. This didn’t cheat us kids . . . we were a priority, too. Whatever we needed or even desired, Dad tried to make happen. He was a devoted friend.
- He was able to love so well because he majored on the major things of life and not on the minors.
And those are just a few of the reasons Dad was celebrated so profoundly. His prayers were answered. He finished well. He finished without tarnishing his life. I am gratefully proud to carry his name. I pray that I will finish well, too. My strongest efforts are in that direction.
Thank you, Dad. Well done.