When A Loved One Dies
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On Monday morning my father passed away.
He’d been in a declining state of health for months, but only recently had been very, very weak. After an x-ray, it was suspected that he may have lung cancer. A CT Scan would eventually confirm it. On Monday, he was supposed to receive the diagnosis and prognosis from his primary care physician, but when he had to be hospitalized on Sunday, everything sped up. It all happened very quickly. Before I knew it, I was receiving a call from the doctor, asking me how long it would take us to drive to Santa Cruz from where we live in St. Helena, because he wasn’t sure my Dad would make it through the night.
So we jumped in the car right away. Three and a half hours after we reached the hospital, his spirit left his body and he was in heaven.
My Dad was an incredible man in many respects. He has many who love him, most of them because of the way he personally impacted their lives as a mentor, spiritual guide, Bible study leader, drug and alcohol recovery support person, church lay minister … the list goes on.
The story of my Dad’s life can be boiled down to one word (at least for me): recovery. He recovered from 40 years of alcoholism, from five divorces (three of those were from my mother), from a somewhat difficult upbringing, and from his own inherent weaknesses.
For the last 27 years of his life … from age 56 to age 83, he recovered from all of it. He gained complete sobriety by the grace of God. He discovered peace in being alone, realizing that he was not equipped to share his life in marriage. He recovered from the things he had not been given as a child—and became a warm, caring, and gracious man with a large heart for others. Most of all, he recovered from the guilt of sin. He came to personally and deeply know the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ, his Savior.
As I was growing up, my Dad was not in my top 10 candidates list for “hero.” But he’s near the top of the list now. I am proud to call him my Dad. His life speaks to me, and will continue to speak to me.
When we hold the Memorial Service next Friday (which would have been his 84th birthday)—there will be hundreds of people in attendance. They will be there to honor the man, Thomas Edwin Holdridge Sr. Many will understand the ingredients of the man they applaud, while others will not. Many will understand that his life was lived under grace … God had given him a very large second chance, and the strength to live one day at a time. My Dad received that grace, and took advantage of its offer. I pray that for many in the crowd that day, they will also know that they, too, can be given that same grace.
The last one-third of my Dad’s life contained the best years of his life. He finished strong, he finished well. He’ll be remembered for those years. His life and legacy will be defined by them … by people, and most importantly, by our Father in heaven.
He died the most peaceful death I’ve ever been associated with. He had no pain, even without any pain medication. He was being given oxygen, and an IV for hydration, but that was all. As with the way he lived his life, he had very few and minimal needs. As I looked at him lying there, it seemed to me like he was taking a hard nap. Then he was gone, with the tent he’d been living in still laying there on the hospital bed.
He’s in heaven now. He’s with the Lord. The few things I would have liked to change about him—his politics, and some of his theological views—don’t matter one whit at this time. He’s in eternity. He has a complete eternal perspective.
I’m glad that in recent months, I often told him I loved him. Some day, hopefully very soon (at the 2nd Coming of Christ), I’ll be joining him, as will all believers in Jesus Christ.
I’m a sports fan, as many of you know. I’ve read many stories of great comebacks, by teams and individuals. I love comeback stories, as I’m sure you do, too. My Dad’s story is a comeback story of the greatest kind. It is a comeback story of life itself.
Finish strong, my friends. Let’s all finish strong.
Thanks for reading.