My dad died this week. A decade ago he was given a few months to live and he thumbed his nose at the medical establishment and lived life to its fullest, until he was ready to die on his own terms. He died with confident faith that this life is not all there is. He found strength for each day because of his hope that tomorrow would be better.
Dad didn’t get to see my latest book in print, but I did read it to him. He knew I had acknowledged the huge part he and his wife Connie played in making it possible. The look of pride and gratification in his eyes is one I’ll carry with me to my dying day.
My book went through many transformations, the latest of which came after Dad’s diagnosis in March. This excerpt comes from that…
From When Despair Meets Delight, dedicated to “Veston E. Roberts, the best dad ever.” —
My father has forever been my rock. He is the first to admit his failings, but even in doing so, his humility has laid a foundation for me. His self-deprecating humor, sharp wit, and generous spirit have won him many friends. To quote what he says about others he admires, if you’ve got a problem with Dad, there must be a problem with you.
Dad has sucked the marrow out of life through hard living — mostly chain smoking and consuming massive quantities of alcohol. It caught up to him around the time he turned 50. He quit cold turkey, but the damage had been done. The choices he made had taken their toll. In 2011, he had a major stroke that impaired his functioning, but not his spirit. Two years later he had open heart surgery and they told us he might not make it off the table. Since then he has had numerous risky surgeries and procedures that have forced us to face the prospect of Dad’s mortality. In March of 2020, we discovered he has terminal cancer. The doctor has given him months to live.
It’s now May as I write this. I saw Dad this morning and he said he never felt better in his life. He always says that. The best pie ever is the one he is eating. The best experience ever is the one he just had. The best friend he’s ever had is the one he is with. He will go to his grave appreciating the best in all things.
At first the news of my father’s diagnosis sent me deeper into depression. But I didn’t get stuck there, thank God. God gave me the motivation to get out of bed and enjoy each moment I had with Dad. I believe Dad’s faith and hope is rubbing off on me. I still get dismally depressed due to my diagnosis, but my perspective on it is improving. I don’t let it get me down. I don’t heap guilt on shame and spend weeks in bed. Instead, I enjoy the best life has to offer, as Dad has taught me.
I believe Dad has peace in Christ and that he looks forward to a better life ahead. While the prospect of dying is not appealing, Dad has maintained a sense of perspective. His humor remains intact. He once said that when they lay him in the ground, he would like a headstone pointed toward the road with a smiley face on it and the message, “I’m dead, but have a great day.”
It won’t be a great day when Dad dies, but it will be a day to celebrate the life of a great man.