Eight years ago this month my father’s sojourn on earth came to an end. When life left the body of Ernest Winfred Boggs he was 82 years old.
Some say eight decades plus two years is a long life, and I suppose they are right. However, I wish my dad had lingered a little while longer on the planet. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him.
A quote attributed to Mark Twain in which the author explains the more he grew in maturity the wiser his father became aptly sums up the relationship I had with my dad. When I was young, he was ignorant, but with each passing year his wisdom increased.
Now I regard my father as one the wisest men I’ve ever known.
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments when they aren’t trying to teach us,” Italian author Umberto Eco reflected. “We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” The 82-year-old Eco’s observation certainly is true for me as I think about the relationship I had with my father.
One life lesson my father lived out was commitment. His mantra was, “Do what you said you would do.” If my father told someone he would do something, he would follow through no matter how he might be inconvenienced.
My dad’s church was involved in bus ministry in the 1970s. My father committed himself to being a part of the outreach effort. Saturday morning after Saturday morning he and my mother would travel to a mobile home park about seven miles from our home and visit.
Sunday mornings my parents would leave early in the morning, board a white bus trimmed in purple and would help gather a busload of children. They would faithfully sit with the youngsters during church and try to keep them quiet and somewhat focused.
I realized the value of commitment when tragedy struck the mobile home park and a trailer my father consistently visited caught fire. It burned quickly and two young boys in whom my dad had invested time died.
The family’s only contact with a church was through my dad, so they asked him to officiate the funeral of their children. My father’s consistency to do what he said he would do, to show up every Saturday and every Sunday, opened the door for him to comfort a grieving family and point them to the hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whatever my father approached, he did so with intensity. He believed you should give your best, your all, to every task. The most vivid example of this principle was manifest in his latter years in his garden.
Every spring, as soon as the weather would permit, my father would arrange to have a significant section of his central Texas yard tilled. He would then dutifully plant and nurture a variety of vegetables.
My father worked diligently every day cultivating his crops. As his body began to wear out, some people thought he worked too hard on a garden that was too large. He gave away most of what he grew. My father could not go through the motions of some piddling garden; he had to go big and he had to do his best.
Another life principle my father embodied was love. He embraced everyone God brought into his path, especially those who seemed to be struggling with life. In attempting to help some people, my father often gave what he didn’t have to give.
When I suggested that he should be careful not to be taken advantage of by some person seeking to con him, my father would just say, “If someone takes advantage of me, the Lord will take care of things.” Only time and eternity will reveal the number of lives my father touched because he was not concerned about the motives of those he tried to help.
When it came to family, my father’s love knew no boundaries and no conditions. If you were family, he was going to lavish love upon you. It did not matter what condition your life happened to be in, he was going to accept you.
My dad’s acceptance in no way meant he condoned everything in someone’s life. Quite the contrary. He would always warn of the perils of eschewing virtuous living and point to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. But in so doing, you knew his “preaching” was motivated by love.
Perhaps the most significant lesson I caught from my father was not just how to live, but how to face death with dignity. Through most of my dad’s life he suffered from a bad heart. In his latter years he was in and out of the hospital.
Anytime he would have some sort of procedure he would tell the doctor, “Do your best, but don’t worry about me. If I wake up and see the faces of my family, that’s good and what I hope happens. But if I open my eyes and see Jesus, that’s great. You see, doctor, I just can’t lose.”
The “scraps” of wisdom I caught from watching my father live life are ever-present. They include embracing commitment, excellence, love and even the reality of death. To sum up, my dad lived out the lordship of Jesus.
This Father’s Day, though it has been eight years since my dad’s earthly pilgrimage came to its conclusion, I am more thankful than ever for his example and, because of Christ, I so look forward to being reunited with him in heaven.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)