Home > Eternal Things, God's Grace > When A Loved One Dies

When A Loved One Dies

dad1Dear 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.

In Christ,
Bill Holdridge

  1. Amy Lindsay
    March 18, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Greetings beloved of the Lord-

    Bill my heart greives at your loss but also rejoices with the Lord and the angels that your father is now home! I will keep you and all the family in my prayers! Blessings to you dear brother in Christ Jesus from whom ABUNDANT GRACE flows!!! Hallelujah!

  2. Patrick Linares
    March 18, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Pastor Bill,
    sorry to hear about your father,

  3. Laurie Gash
    March 18, 2009 at 8:34 am

    What a touching Tribute to your Father, Pastor Bill, he must have been so proud and blessed to have you as a son, thanks so much for the gifted words to remind us allofwhat is truly important , God Bless You for your gifts and being willing to share them with all of us. My prayers will be for you and your family, May the Holy Spirit comfort your hearts as you greive this loss, …

  4. David and Peggy
    March 18, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Beloved in and of the Lord, our dear Pastor Bill, we send our love and our spirits weep with you and yours as we abide in the hope that is to come; that precious family reunion when Christ comes again.

    Psalm 37:18
    The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.

    Your Dad, through you, and this musing you type in his honor, leaves an inheritance of hope and encouragement.

    Yes, indeed, as you put it Bill, “…a comeback story of life itself.” Amen.

    Our love to all,
    David and Peggy

  5. Rick
    March 18, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Our condolences. It appears you were so very blessed these last 27 years. Thanks for blessing us with your Father’s testimony. I am sure he understood Grace much better than most. The Holdridge family will be in our prayers. We love you pastor and know that your father’s testimony will challenge many to be desirous of finishing strong!

    Rick & Martha

  6. Binky
    March 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    We have our Dad’s for different seasons of our life. God knows what he is doing and how he wants to use our earthly fathers for each of us. I have often thought what a weight of responsibility it is to be the father in a family.

    So often on this earth they are unavailable to us for one reason or another. All the more for us to look to our heavenly father for that ever present love.

    What a great blessing to have had this last season of life with him. Sometimes those things we wait so long for are so precious. You are in our prayers.

    Tom and Binky

  7. March 18, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    What a wonderful thing to be able to say all these things about your father. To not have to strain for some good thing to allude to. To have had so many wonderful years together. To have shared fellowship in Jesus. Wow.

    Though you suffer sorrow right now, you had so much with him, and will have eternity with him. God is good, and blessed you and your dad with all that. I am sure that he must have been very proud of you.

    Bill, may the Lord fill you with His grace, love, and Spirit, especially during the celebration of your dad’s life. I’ll be physically in Mexico, but emotionally with you at that service.

    Love and blessings to you and yours. May the Lord’s grace be poured out wonderfully.

  8. Luke
    March 18, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Pastor Bill,

    Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to you and your family in the early passing of your father. What can a mere student tell his teacher at a time like this, other than I am sorry for your loss? I wish I could say more.

  9. Saundra Roth
    March 19, 2009 at 11:53 am

    ah my dear friend what a great honor you have done your father by this blog. I feel the love and see the blessings of God in your father’s life.
    You will miss him until you are reunited infront of Jesus!!
    I never met your father but I feel I know him now.
    In HIS Grip.

  10. sharon rettke
    March 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    What a wonderful testimony of a “comeback” life of your loved one, Pastor Bill. It’s such a joy to honor a loved one, who at one time may have caused great pain and sorrow to many of their family members!

    Your father finished well…finishing his race with grace and dignity, so that your family can truly honor him and rejoice in his victories over the flesh, etc. Knowing that he did not live in torment of his former self but radiated the new life he had in Christ, thankfully, bringing your family great joy!

    I can identify with having a dysfunctional parent. One that I wanted to disown, many times over! But I, too, can radiantly proclaim that my mother lived her last 15-20 yrs. finishing strong since being reborn of the spirit of Christ…what a joy to have had her as a special friend and dear mother, because of Christ, and only because of Him! Christ gave us joy, in proportion to our sorrow and the years of the locust were restored!! PTL.

    From what I’m reading in your blog, you counted it joy to be able to truly say you loved your father, where many years ago, this may have been very difficult for you to say this to him!

    It’s so evident that only Christ can make old things new and restored to a place of honor (our memories) of our departed parent…I, too, am grateful for Christ’s redemption of my mother, who I am so grateful to remember with love and appreciation, rather than the former years that a heart of stone had robbed our family of! Christ truly does make all things new!

    Thank you, Pastor Bill, for your honesty in what you wrote of your father…I loved seeing how you expressed that your father finished strong! And finished well, PTL! This is what I pray that I can do, as well!

  11. March 21, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Dear Sharon, Saundra, Luke, Pastor Bill, Binky, Rick, David and Peggy, Laurie, Patrick, and Amy,

    Thank you so much for your kind words and thought with regard to my father’s passing away and going to heaven. We have felt very supported and blessed by the outpouring of love and prayers.

    God bless you all!

    I’m sorry I can’t take the time to write to you individually. Things have been pretty busy, as I am the Trustee of my Dad’s Trust and Executor of his will.

    Please pray for next Friday’s memorial service. It’s going to be a great opportunity for many to hear the gospel of Christ.

    In Him,

  12. Angela Cheatum
    April 2, 2009 at 6:05 am

    I am sorry for your loss but congratulations on promise for the eternal meeting in heaven.

    I love the fact that your Dad is with the Lord now in the better place. I pray that you and your family would be filled with presence of Jesus Christ when you feel missing him. I pray for God`s embrace on you and all.

    Love you in Christ.

  13. April 2, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Thank you, Dear Angela. The Lord is good, all the time. He’s a stronghold in the day of trouble (Nahum 1:6).

    Hope you and Jeremiah are well!

    Blessings to you both.

  14. April 7, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Hi Angela. Thanks for the condolences. God is good, and a strong comfort for those who look to Him.

    Could you email me privately with your physical address? I want to send the notes I spoke from at your wedding. I thought you might like to have them.


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