Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Dad

Last week, we said goodbye to one of the dearest men I've ever been blessed to know: my Dad. Dad went home to be with the Lord last Saturday after a long illness. I had the privilege of eulogizing him. I wanted to share this in honor of LD Cannon today.

 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
                             Psalm 16: 5, 6

As I considered how to best eulogize the man I call Dad, two things came to mind. The first was this verse in Psalm 16:6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
When Steven Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer passed away he was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Someone asked, "How much did he leave?" The reply came back, "All of it!"
The second thing was a conversation I had with dad in which he told me about a chat he had with my niece, Jennifer. I think Jen was about 10 years old. She asked dad, "Grand dad, are you rich?" Then he said he thought about that question; "are you rich?..." 

I have a goodly heritage. 

 I heard about a man who actually believed the purpose of the funeral was to read the will. We'll not do that today. But let me share with you today what LD Cannon did leave for us.

First, he left us a very rare and very valuable work ethic.
Dad was born into abject poverty the son of a share cropper on a cotton farm in Arkansas. My grandfather died when dad was only three years old. He was raised by a step father who, by all accounts was a very harsh man. Dad dropped out of school in sixth grade to work the cotton fields. At 15, he moved to Dallas, Texas to live with his older brother. He worked in job shops by day, and went to trade school by night. He worked! Dad was never one to lay around. He always had a job; often two jobs to take care of his family. He was blue collar, working class people. He passed that work ethic on to us. That's how two people who didn't even graduate from high school raised 3 kids; all with college degrees, all in professional fields. Years ago, during a phone call, one of his cousins was asking about the family. He said, "Well my oldest daughter is a high school teacher, my middle daughter is in the insurance business and my son Pastors a church in Kansas City. She replied, 'It's no surprise your kids did o.k. LD. You and Alma always worked like Trojans. And work, they did!

That brings me to the second thing LD Cannon left us; a priceless set of family values.
Dad was working in a machine shop that was across the street from a hat factory. There was this girl working at the hat factory that caught his eye.  She was asked if she would go on a date with him, she told a friend, "That boy's a smart alleck he'd be the last boy on earth I dated." True enough, He would be the last boy on earth she dated. They were married April 29th 1949. Mom and Dad dedicated sixty three years to one another in marriage. The thought of my family splitting up never crossed my mind. I never wondered when dad was coming home. He was a husband and a father who took his commitment seriously. We learned that marriage is a commitment. Its really not a surprise, and its not a coincidence that their three children have had strong long-term marriages. We came by it honest. Mom said one time, "We never considered divorce ... murder, maybe, but never divorce

Yes! The third thing we inherited was a valuable since of humor.
We laughed as a family. Times were not always easy, but we had our laughs. Dad had a dry kind-of back handed since of humor. I remember asking him one time if I could borrow a chain saw. He said, "I don't have one, but what do you need one for?" I said we were clearing some land at our church to build a parking lot. Being a protective mother, Mom said, " YOU"RE not gonna be using a chain saw are you?" I said yes. Dad blurted out, "Boy, you better be careful with those things. You're only 21 and  I didn't use one o' them 'til I was 12." Mother gave him that look; the look only mom can give; the look I'm probably getting right now.  We grew up knowing how to laugh.
You see how, there was wisdom in his back-handed wit! When I turned 40, I spoke to my dad about it. I jokingly said it was too late for me to become a famous country singer. He said, Aw, son, you could have made it big if you had stuck to that."
I said, "Really? You think so?" Dad said yeah! Yer 40 years old now. If you had gone into country music, by now, you'd have 5 gold records,  3 ex wives and you'ld already be out of drug rehab! Then you could go sing Gospel in Branson!
See, there was perspective in that humor.

I believe the most important thing Dad gave us, was a his beautiful simple faith.
My dad was raised in a very legalistic religion; a religion that would send you to Hell for the slightest infraction. He found, as with all  religion based on works,  is always impossible to merit. But that girl he married was a Baptist preacher's daughter. When the time came, Papaw shared with dad the simple truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins. It was not a religion, it was a relationship! I have a picture in my office of my grand father baptizing my dad in a river. I have a recording of my dad testifying of how he, as a young man placed his faith and trust in Christ. He shared that simple faith with us: the Faith that teaches, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

His favorite Bible verse was Matthew 11:28-30. I heard him quote it many times. 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That is the Gospel that I preach today.  He gave us that faith. 

"Grandad, are you rich?" He told her this:  "Well, I got a nice place to live; I got food on my table, I don't want for anything. I got great kids, and wonderful grand children. I got more than most people I know, so in that since, I guess I am rich."
Dad left us so many things: a strong work ethic, a since of commitment, a since of right and wrong; a dedication to family; a since of humor, a strong and simple faith. This is what my dad left to all those who's lives he touched. And if this is what we have received as the children and loved ones of LD Cannon, then we are truly very rich indeed.