As many of you know, I recently had to make an unexpected trip back to America for the funeral of my Dad. I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for that phone call with the sad news that someone you love has passed away into eternity. His death was quite unexpected as he had only been sick for a couple days. Even though he was 91 years old, he was in fairly good health. But we know that it was his time to go, and God in His mercy took him home quickly.
How to you say goodbye to someone you have loved all your life? How do you come to grips with the fact that you will never see them again on this earth? How do you grasp the reality that you will never hear their voice again or never be able to tell them that you love them again? It has all been very surreal, and I know that I have not yet fully grasped these facts.
I talked to my Dad for the last time a week before he passed away. I usually try to call them each week on Saturday evening. He always would ask about how the family was and if everyone was well. Then he would ask about how the work was going in Africa. He would always remind me of how proud he was that we were in Africa where the Lord wanted us, doing the Lord’s work. Then he would tell me how much he missed us and ask me when we were going to be back to America next. When I asked him how he was, he would always say how thankful he was that he and Mom were well and together, and God was taking care of them. He would then remind me that he prayed for us every day, and before we hung up he would always say, “I love you. So good to hear from you.”
I am going to miss those phone calls. I am going to miss hearing his voice. I am going to miss seeing him the next time we go back to America. Yes, I know that my Dad is in heaven, so I don’t sorrow as those that have no hope. But I still sorrow. It still hurts. The grief still catches me at unexpected times as I think of him, and then remember he is gone, and the tears flow.
Many of you never met my Dad, so I want to share with you a little bit about him. He was born August 2, 1927, and was raised during the depression years. He was a country boy, raised on a farm, and as a young boy he learned to make do and to do without. He also learned the value of hard work. My Dad was saved at a revival meeting when he was a teenager and called to preach a few years later. Once he answered that call, he never looked back. He was ordained in 1951 and preached for 52 years, pastoring several churches all in the state of Missouri.
My Dad loved life and he loved to laugh. He loved to tell funny stories and jokes but was not very good at telling them because he always ended up laughing so hard before he got to the end and couldn’t finish them! He loved his wife (he called her Honey) and his 7 daughters, his 7 sons-in-law, and all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved the Word of God, and he loved His Savior.
He taught us that knowing Jesus Christ and having a relationship with Him was the most important thing in the world. He taught by his words as well as his example. Every morning, if you got up early enough, you would find him reading his Bible and praying. I know that my Dad prayed for me every day of my life. I am going to miss those prayers.
Dad showed me what it meant to love Jesus and how important it was to share the love of Jesus with others. Again he taught those things by his example, because that was what he did. He never met a stranger he couldn't talk to, and it wouldn't be very long into the conversation that he would ask them about their relationship with Jesus Christ.
My Dad loved gospel music, especially the old hymns. Everywhere he went, he sang about Jesus. My Mom used to joke that if she lost him in the store, she could soon find him because she could hear him singing! When we were young, my sisters and I sang together at home and in church a lot. After we got older and started moving away, the one request Dad would have as we would gather for family get-together's was for his girls to sing. His favorite song was Wonderful Peace, and as we would sing it together, he would sit with tears rolling down his cheeks.
As I think back over my life, my heart is flooded with many happy memories of my Dad. Memories of early morning fishing with my Dad (I was his fishing buddy); of sitting on his lap as he read his Bible or read a story to us; of my Dad laughing until tears ran down his cheeks; of my Dad singing everywhere he went; of my Dad always being thankful (I rarely heard him complain about anything); of family devotions every night and hearing my Dad pray for each of us; of seeing how much my Dad loved my Mom; of my Dad kissing me goodnight and telling me he loved me; and of hearing my Dad preach.
I have many sweet memories of camping trips together as a family; of vacations spent at my grandparents and swimming in the creek; of sledding down the big hill in the winter time; of suppers made by him of potato soup and cornbread; of breakfasts of biscuits and gravy; of playing games together (his favorites were Pit and Dominoes); and of laughing together as a family.
My Dad taught me how to ride a bike; how to put a worm on a fishing hook; how to plant a garden; how to milk a cow (at least he tried but I wasn’t a good learner); how to swim; and how to drive a car. My Dad made the best homemade ice cream, and he always insisted that a hand-cranked model was best. No electric ice cream freezers for him! He would let us help turn the crank until it got too hard for us. Then he would put a pillow on top of the ice cream freezer so we could sit on it as he finished cranking it.
Last year my Dad and Mom had to move from my sister’s house into an assisted living apartment. As they were packing up things to move, my Dad handed my sister a sack with some Bibles in it. He told her that she was to keep them for him and after he died, he wanted her to give one to each of us girls. My sister put the sack away and quickly forgot about it.
After my Dad passed away, she remembered what he had said and went looking for the sack. In that sack she found 7 Bibles that my Dad had used over the course of his 52 years of preaching. Each Bible had a personal note in the front, addressed to one of us girls. What a joy to get my Bible with a note from my Dad, encouraging me to stay faithful and to keep serving the Lord!
Each of the Bibles is well-worn and falling apart, attesting to his love for the Word of God and how he loved to read it and study it. In the Bibles also are his sermon notes in his handwriting, pieces of paper with different verses of scripture and what they meant to him, and notes in the margin written by him. It is a precious gift to me and something I shall always treasure, because I know how much he loved the Lord, how much he loved the Word of God, and how much he loved me.
I know many of you ladies have been praying for my Mom and my family during this time. Thank you so much for your prayers. It has been a very bittersweet time. But I am thankful that God gives grace, and the promises of the Word of God assure me that I will see my Dad again one day in heaven. I am thankful for a long life well lived, for a godly testimony, and for the godly heritage he left behind. I love you, Dad! Until we meet again in heaven…
Beverly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and Doug Hammett have been married for over 35 years. Since her father was a pastor and her husband was already a pastor when she married him, she is well acquainted with the blessings as well as the problems of the ministry! Bev’s favorite things to do are read and spend time with her family.
In Autumn of 2010, Doug stepped aside from his position as senior pastor at LVBC to reach and train men in Botswana and South Africa. Beverly continues to write for our ladies publication, giving her unique perspective of life in the ministry, and now life on the mission field. You can read more about their ministry here.
Read Beverly’s articles here and her salvation testimony here.
What a blessed testimony Bev.Though sorry to see him pass away, thankful for the legacy he left for his family and that you will see him in eternity!
Bev, every bit of this memorial is a treasure. I imagine that this was “easy” to write – because I can well imagine how as each precious memory came to mind, the next one was toppling over it! But also very difficult to write. I can’t imagine, as I was weeping right along with you. I hope your mom is doing ok, and this reminds me to pray for her again. I hope you are doing well, too. ❤️
Beverly, so saddened to hear of your Dad’s passing. I have many fond memories of coming. To your house while in nursing school and playing your piano and your Dad would always get me to sing in church. Life passes so quickly. I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to a Godly dad. I lost my dad in 1999 from a brain tumor. What incredible peace to know that we will be reunited with them in heaven for all of eternity. Will pray for your mom, she is a sweetheart. Love, Brenda Hamm Ritchie