Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Honor of Dad

Jack Rieth
May 24, 1944 - April 10, 2008

Yesterday was Dad's memorial service. What an amazing event. Walking into the church and seeing the flowers and his picture displayed upfront was difficult, initially. It brought finality in our hearts to the fact that he's not with us any longer, and we cried. Soon guests began arriving and there were hundreds of sincere hugs, smiles and tears being expressed. I do mean hundreds; the church was overflowing. Dad's friend suggested that his Sunday school class come sit in the choir loft to make more seating available, but still, people were standing in the back and along the sides of the church.

The service started with a recording of 'In the Presence of Jehovah' by Damaris Carbaugh being played... In the presence of Jehovah, God Almighty, Prince of Peace - Troubles vanish, hearts are mended, In the presence of the King...

Then Pastor Mike opened with a beautiful prayer and delivered a message that would have pleased dad because it included why dad had such peace... his relationship with Christ. Following the message, a photo montage of dad's life was displayed, while 'In Christ Alone' by Michael English played. Many tears flowed as precious memories were brought to mind.

His dear friend, Deane, then delivered a eulogy that made us smile, laugh and cry. It came from the heart of a man who loved dad like his brother, followed by our family friend, Joe Wingard, leading us in singing 'Victory in Jesus.' It was dad's favorite and his only request for the service. He desired that we first read the lyrics so it would penetrate our minds, then sing it with joy. We did!

Next it was open mic time for sharing of memories. My brother and I got it started. We went to the podium together and John opened. I was so proud of him. His words were eloquent and heartfelt, and brought such honor to our father. With his permission, let me share what he said:

"Thank you for being here today. Some have traveled great distances. Some had to take time away from work and other priorities to be here. My family and I are extremely pleased and dad would be truly honored that you took the time to remember him here today... Also thank you for all the phone calls, cards, and the steady stream of people that have been dropping by the house to make sure mom knows she can always count on her extended family. You have literally showered us with love. That is appreciated. That has helped us. So thank you, to everyone.

My dad was not just a "dad" to me, but a very dear friend. In fact, he was the best man at my wedding. He's the most amazing person I have ever known, and I don't say that because he was my dad, but because I know that if you knew him like I did, you'd probably say he was the most amazing person you'd ever known also.

He was a man of strong character, high morals and values. He was never boasting or prideful and he always put the needs of others first. He was caring, sincere, nurturing and gracious. He had a healthy sense of humor, which when combined with his warm smile and genuine demeanor, made people feel instantly comfortable and at ease.

Dad loved people, and was genuinely interested in everyone he came in contact with. People felt that when they spoke with him, because he could make you feel like you were the most important person in the world, and to him, you were.

For as long as I can remember, my dad would always drop whatever he was doing to help me with situations or problems that would arise in my life. But he didn't do that because I was his son. He would drop everything and lend a hand or a shoulder to lean on to anyone who needed it, and it was that sort of compassion that truly made him the unique individual that he was.

And when it came to life issues, he would never say, "John, this is what you need to do" or just hand me the solution to a problem. Instead, he would show me first how to see it from every angle, from other people's perspectives, and he'd get it right down to the root of the problem, and then allow me to find the solution which was the most logical. And his logic was unfailing and on the mark every time.

Ever since I was old enough to speak, my dad was teaching me to think for myself, and taught me that when you break it down, there is never a problem too big to take on. He taught me that sometimes you come out on top, and sometimes you don't, so be prepared to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Along with how to throw a football, and the proper 3 point stance, dad taught me honesty, love, patience, respect for others, respect for myself and so many more things that fathers teach their sons, but what stands out most to me, is the style in which he taught me these things... he did it by example. He lived his life with a constant sense of accountability. Accountability to his family, accountability to his friends and even accountability to those he didn't know so well.

The most important lesson my dad ever taught me, was that we all have a Father in heaven who loves us unconditionally, and wants us to be open to receive His love. As a Sunday school teacher, my dad spent endless hours and many sleepless nights preparing for his lessons because he also had accountability to God first and foremost. In fact, several weeks ago, dad mentioned to me that the most important thing to him was that every person in this room someday get to be where he is right now, in the Kingdom of our Lord.

While I was still living at home, my dad would always say, "hey, your mom and I love you." And though I heard it pretty much every day, I don't think I ever grew tired of hearing it. He used to always tell me how proud he was of me, too, but in retrospect, I don't know if his pride in me could hold a candle to the pride I've always felt for him."

Very well stated, then it was my turn:

"For the past 6 or 8 weeks I’ve been posting to a blog the thoughts and emotions that have gripped me, and it’s been cathartic. My brother recently read an entry from early March about some of my happy memories of dad through the years. I was going to let him speak for both of us today, but he encouraged me to share these warm fuzzy moments with you, like…

-When I was just a little tike and he’d scoop me up and dance me around the room while he sang Daddy’s Little Girl by The Mills Brothers – and later, when I got big enough, standing on his feet while we danced. (I can clearly remember dancing in the living room on Ballentine Road.)

-Sitting in his lap when I was about 4 while I sang Baa Baa Black Sheep to him and having him praise me like I’m about to nail a recording contract.

-Lying on the couch next to him while he read the paper and pretending that I was reading, too (the inserts that were small enough for me to handle).

-Thinking at that time that he should run for President. He’d win, hands down.

-On the evenings that mom had to work, sitting around the dinner table with him and my brother having a contest on who can get the most stats correct for each player on the "early 70's" Miami Dolphins football team (stats printed on our Miami Dolphins glasses, courtesy of Aunt Mar and Uncle Bob who sent them from Miami).

-The nights we got to go to Burger King in lieu of him cooking (when mom worked), and being so proud that he let me have a Whopper (instead of the Jr.) because I’m big enough to finish it!

-Listening to the radio in the car when a song came on that evoked a memory for him – and having him share with us what it reminded him of… something from his childhood, perhaps about his sisters or his school days. I also loved the stories about when he and mom were dating.

-Sitting in the back seat of the car listening to my parents talk; they often had good, meaningful conversations while we were enroute – setting good examples without realizing it (though, I'm sure they took into consideration that the kids are within ear shot).

-Sleeping in his old high school foot ball jersey.

-His willingness to duck when he dropped me off at the ice skating rink because in junior high, it was completely uncool to be dropped off by your dad.

-Late night conversations about everything under the sun.

-The important life lessons he taught about integrity and diplomacy by just living life the way he was.

-The long, story-like examples he would give relating to the point he was trying to get across (usually about my safety), as I'm going out the door.

-Him not reprimanding me for rolling my eyes and exclaiming, “I know, Dad” as I’m going out the door!

-The way he always made me feel like I was his priority.

-The way he embraced my husband as a son.

-As a grandpa, the way he gave my daughter her own long list of precious memories.

-Dancing again with him at my daughter’s wedding while “Always Be Your Baby” by Natalie Grant played in the background (Joe and Kristiina's special song, but oh, how appropriate!).

I always knew my dad was special… more compassionate than most… more thoughtful and tender than most. I know full well how precious he has been to me; to my husband and daughter; to my mother and brother, but didn’t realize until this week the magnitude of the lives he touched. It reaches way beyond what I could have imagined and my heart is full to overflowing as I try to fathom it.

My brother and I are blessed beyond measure to have grown up in the shelter of his wing, and as his children, we desire to pursue his legacy – to follow in his footsteps, to God’s glory."

Several more people took the mic to share their own precious memories... and many stated later that they wished they had the courage to stand and say what he meant to them, but knew they would not be able to maintain their composure, so kept silent.

Joe Wingard sang a 'How Great is Our Great/How Great Thou Art' medley. It was stirring, and Pastor Mike then dismissed us in prayer.

Guests were invited to come to the front to express their condolences to the family and the number of people that greeted us was overwhelming. The line was unending for what seemed like another hour. Again, people were either beaming or crying, telling us they're better people for having known dad. How he'll be missed.

Dad was honored, and God was glorified. It was a good day.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pam,

Sorry for your lose. You have a good, honorable dad. I say have because he is still your dad although temporarily separate. Let yourself feel the lose but remember to celebrate his life and quietly remember how he blessed yours. Then, look for opportunities to make sure those blessings are not lost to your loved ones by doing for them what your dad would.

The Filio Traveler

valerie said...

Hi Pam,
I came your way through a comment you left on the LPM blog.
I'm so sorry about your dad. He sounds like an amazing and very loved man.
My parents live down the street and I had gone to their house this evening and was doing something in the back part of the house and I could hear that they were watching "Wheel of Fortune" and guessing letters and it just cracked me up, but I stopped and thanked God for them living so close to me and that I am able to enjoy them and that they are healthy.
They are in their mid 70's and I know the very difficult day will come for me one day too. We lost my husband's father suddenly seven years ago this month.
Death is hard, but I thank God that we have hope because we will see our loved ones again.
The service sounded like a celebration and I bet your dad was doing some rejoicing in heaven!
Keeping you in my prayers.

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