My dad passed away from cancer in 1999. He was only 73 years old. Recently, I came across a letter that I had written to him just a few weeks before he died. Mom told me later that he had kept it on his bedside table and would read it often during his final days.
As I reread the letter I’d written him, I realized that some of what I said might encourage you, especially if you or a loved one are nearing the end of your earthly life. The following are excerpts from that letter:
Dear Daddy, I love you. It’s as simple as that. You are a wonderful dad. You’ve made me laugh with your silly sense of humor and you’ve touched me in so many ways and taken such good care of me.
I remember when you sat with me to watch the morning glories close at sunset. Earlier that day you had told me they would close up and I wanted to see for myself and you stayed with me.
One day when I was about 4 years old, I accidentally fell in the pool. I can still remember the sound of water splashing as you jumped in after me, and then the feeling of your strong arms when you plucked me from the bottom of the pool. My terror at not being able to swim was immediately replaced with safety and security.
You’ve also shown me what it’s like to be a responsible, honorable person. Jesus taught us to pray to God as “Our Father”. Because you’ve been so faithful to Him, I’ve found it very easy to know God as a loving Father who cares about me, who loves me and who wants the best for me.
I remember all those years of faithfully going to church on Sunday. When we would go to Communion, you’d get up first and stand at the end of the aisle to let all eight of us go ahead of you. You were so quiet about your faith but, when things got tough, I remember that you and mom would gather us together and we’d get on our knees to pray as a family. I don’t remember being afraid. Maybe you had been laid off, or one of us kids was in trouble, or some other catastrophe had befallen us. Somehow, all I remember is the amazing fact that my parents thought that it was important that God be involved in the problem.
That’s why I’m writing this letter, because things are serious and it’s time to talk to God. You told me the last time we visited that you had talked to God, and everything was going to be okay. That warmed my heart so much to hear you say that, because more than anything I want to know that you still seek God in your life just like when I was a little kid.
One of my favorite parts of the Gospel is the story of the thief on the cross to whom Christ said, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise”. Because the thief believed that Jesus was Who He said He was, he was assured salvation from hell. He had a direct, one-way ticket to Heaven where God would be waiting with open arms, just like the Prodigal Son’s father who had waited so long for his son to return.
I want you to know that you will be with Jesus in Paradise, Daddy. Just like me and mom and all the rest of this earth who has believed in Him. God has given you peace. The thief on the cross believed in Jesus. The Holy Spirit must have quickened in his heart so that he knew that the good man beside Him was God. Maybe a few weeks earlier, the thief had sat at the fringes of the crowd during the Sermon on the Mount? Maybe he didn’t feel worthy enough to press closer, but the things that Jesus was saying touched his heart? Because he was a thief, he had to make a living and got himself into trouble. Pretty soon, he was condemned to death and on that fateful day he found himself hanging on a cross next to the good Teacher and Rabbi that had spoken such beautiful, healing words. He believed. He was rewarded with Paradise.
I love you, Daddy. I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I’ve cried a lot lately and I’ve felt helpless. But I believe in Jesus, too. And I believe in our loving Father in Heaven who is waiting to receive you with open and loving arms. Just like the day you scooped me up out of the water, God will scoop you up into His presence because He loves you much more than I ever can imagine.
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!”
But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NLT)
Paula Aiton is a member of the Koinonia Church worship team and a freelance writer, musician and artist. Her blog, ‘God’s Glory Girl’, can be found at godsglorygirl.com