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On May 19, 2000, I spent what would be my final day with Dad. We shared a burger, took a walk through the yard, passed by the creekside, and talked about old times.

Unprompted, my dad also shared he was ready for heaven. I downplayed his talk at the time (He was only 49), not willing to consider the void his departure would leave. But he would have nothing of it. He openly shared about many of his failures and regrets throughout his lifetime, but also noted he had made peace with Jesus along the way. Regardless of his past, he said, he knew his eternity was secure.

Sometimes, it’s the little things you notice before a person dies. For me, it was realizing my dad could no longer tie his shoes and that he could no longer stand long enough to cook his own food. I stained the pressed shirt I had worn to visit him while cooking lunch for us, but didn’t make a big deal about it. We shared our drinks, talked about the past, and I shared what was happening in my married life and time in Dallas working with students and attending grad school.

As I left that afternoon, I hugged my dad and told him I loved him, a habit I had kept since the time I could talk as a young child. He said the same and we both teared up a bit. Looking back, I think he knew how close his time was even though I did not.

Four days later, a 6am call to my home announced the fateful words—your dad has died. His heart had simply stopped beating the night before, passing from this world to the next in his sleep. An hour later, I was jumping into a car to drive the 12 hours from Dallas to Indiana to begin the necessary preparations for his funeral. As the oldest son, I had to not only be there but also fulfill my duties to provide some sort of stability in the chaos that would ensue.

I was 24. My mind was not ready to accept a life without a dad, a grandfather for my future children, or a world void of his humor and hospitality. The drive was my chance to reflect, to weep, and to thank God that I had a dad in the first place.

The funeral remains a blur to me to this day. I recall sitting by my mom, reading Psalm 23, and standing in front of my dad’s tomb. After everyone had left, I stood staring at the stone with my father’s name on it. Below his name were his birth and death dates, July 16, 1950—May 23, 2000. My eyes remained fixed on that dash, that single sliver carved between the dates of my father’s earthly existence.

That dash represented every moment of my dad’s life. Every meal, every late night talk, every grade of elementary school, the day I drove him to his radiation treatment, and the time we had walked together just days before. His dash was his existence, his contribution, his legacy. He had lived his dash.

Looking back a decade later, I realize I told my dad “I love you” many times. I have few regrets about how I ended my time with him. But if I had it to do again, I would have added one more thing—I would have said thank you.

Thank you for changing my diapers and waking up in the middle of the night to feed me when I was a baby. Thank you for working hard and long hours at a job you didn’t necessary enjoy to provide for my needs. Thank you for teaching me to throw a baseball and swing a bat. Thank you for taking me fishing. Thank you for teaching me to read. Thank you for loving my mom. Thank you for taking me camping that time when I was five. Thank you for showing up at some of my basketball games even when I sat on the bench almost as much as you did while supporting me. Thank you for dragging me to church when I wanted to stay home and watch cartoons. Thank you for leaving a legacy I can thank you for. Thank you.

If your father is living today, take a moment to let him know you love him, and also say, “Thanks!”

Thanks, Dad!

(Dedicated to my father, Carroll “C.B.” Burroughs, 1950-2000)

[Adapted from Undefending Christianity by Dillon Burroughs, Harvest House Publishing, 2011.]

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DILLON BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith. Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books include Undefending ChristianityNot in My Town (with Charles J. Powell), and Thirst No More (October). Discover more at ActivistFaith.org.

 

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