28 August 1997
I promised I would write to you when we said good-bye at the airport, so here goes. None of us knows how many days we have upon this earth, but with your illness it makes each visit harder to part. I will never forget the blessing you gave me as we left that day.
My heart is very full of joy and sadness in this writing, and I hope you and Mom will be able to receive this letter with thankfulness; it is certainly not meant to cause additional grief—though I know there will probably be tears on your end as you read it as there are here when I’m writing. I guess it’s important for our whole family to remember that grieving is good and tears have their place for us all in the process.
Someone once wrote that pain in loss is the other side of love. And I want the two of you to know the depth of my love for you both. As I think I told you many times (though probably not enough times) I am so very grateful to God for giving me parents like you. I have received so much in terms of who I am as a man from both of you and, though I know you are proud of my accomplishments, they are in a very real way an extension of what you gave me in my upbringing. Jane has remarked many times that what she finds attractive in me in terms of caring and understanding she sees is a reflection of what is very much evident in you.
You told me in the hospital last fall, Dad, that your dad never told you what you meant to him, but that you wanted me to know of your love and pride. I want you to know that that goes double from me to you. I have found in you an example of manly love and stability that I am attempting to pass on first to Jane and our children and then to others as well.
Some of my earliest memories are sitting on your lap and listening to you talk (yes, you did a lot of talking—and we love you for it!) to visitors or salesmen … or just sitting there in the evening before bedtime. Your strong work-hardened muscles were reassurance for me; just as there was comfort in Mom’s lap there was strength in yours.
I know that gradually your physical strength is leaving you now. But the spiritual strength that you have instilled in all of us lingers on. Though you would be the first to admit your shortcomings and sins, I have to say that your Christian example to me remains an inspiration. I have often been amazed as I reflected that all throughout my growing up years, I could never remember a foul word to come from your mouth. A small thing to you, perhaps, but very impressive in comparison with many homes both then and now.
The values I learned as a child were not only taught, but modelled by you and Mom. As I mentioned in my book inscription, the faith I write about in my mid-life, I first saw in you. I always thought it was “normal” and natural, but now I discover it is all too rare in so many homes.
The days spent under the hot sun in hard work were—I now see in my “old age”—days well spent. Though Mike and Katie and Tim tease me about my “farmer” mentality, I consider the outlook I have on life a treasure. The smell of new-mown hay (and even the barnyard) bring back happy times in my mind and heart, and the feel of tired muscles at the end of job well done is a happy memory. I learned that work has its reward in something other than a paycheck, and that is a lesson all too often missed by many.
I wish with all my heart that I could take away any pain or discomfort you or Mom might experience either now or in the future, but I can’t. What I can give you is my prayers and my love, which I want you to know are with you every step of the way.
By the grace of God, you may find many more days of peaceful life in this world. But when the final days come, I want to tell you now what I think you know very well—for you have told me first—that you will not be alone in that time. For the Lord Jesus Christ walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. He has traveled that road before you, all the way to the death of the cross, and emerged in never-ending life three days later.
May these days bring you peace in both body and soul, and a measure of joy in knowing that what you have given to Mary and Bev and me can never be taken away—and, by the grace of God, will continue to be reflected in our children and our children’s children.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD. (Psalm 102:18)
This guest post is a letter written by Harold L. Senkbeil to his father in 1997. Senkbeil is the award-winning author of The Care of Souls (Lexham Press, 2019), and Christ and Calamity (Lexham Press, 2020).