I was able to share a tribute to my father at his memorial service last Friday. The video and text are posted below:
I want to thank you for the overwhelming support you all have offered my family during this time. These have been hard days, but there have also been blessings for us along the way. Our mourning began almost two years ago when my dad was first diagnosed with stage four cancer. Many people don’t get to say goodbye to their loved one, but we had two years, and we made some wonderful memories. My dad’s cancer reminded us that every interaction we have is a precious gift. I could share so many things about my dad, but today I want to tell you about two interactions I had with him over the past two years.
The first of these interactions came shortly after his terminal diagnosis. I had come home from Chicago to spend time with him. For most of that weekend it was life as normal. We ate meals together, and I helped my dad with a few projects around the house. But just before I left on Sunday morning, the flood gates opened. My dad and I sat in the living room crying together. In that moment he told me a couple of things I will never forget. He said; “Through my life I have tried to teach my children how to live well, maybe now God wants me to show them how to die well.”
My dad did both of those things. He showed us how to work hard, think critically, and love sacrificially. And most importantly, he showed us what it meant to follow Jesus. In his final weeks my dad was a man in pain, but also a man at peace. He used his last days to tell us how much he loved us. As his body was failing he used his time and his words to bless others. When the time came, he let go in confidence that his Savior would receive him with open arms.
The second interaction I want to share with you occurred during these last few weeks of his life. We thought we were going to lose him three weeks ago when his kidneys began failing. All of us kids came home, and when he temporarily recovered we had some beautiful conversations with him. That Sunday morning before I left, we were gathered around his hospital bed and my family asked me to pray. I went over to him, I took his hand, and I just started crying. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t speak. I, the pastor, couldn’t pray. And in that moment my dad squeezed my hand and prayed for me instead. He prayed that God would comfort me, and that God would somehow use his disease in my ministry in the years ahead. That wasn’t the last time I saw my dad, but I could not have hoped for a more meaningful goodbye.
I know many of you here today have also had powerful interactions with my dad. He showed you kindness, he encouraged you, he believed in you. This was the kind of man he was. And by most of our definitions, he was a good man. But my dad knew that his eternal salvation could never be obtained by living a “good” life. He would often pray at meals that God would forgive us for our sins. He knew he had sins. We, his family, saw his sins too. His eternal salvation was not determined based on his record of good deeds and bad deeds. He knew his salvation came through faith in Jesus alone. Jesus lived the perfect life my dad didn’t live, and he died a sacrificial death so that my dad could live again.
Cancer is an evil disease. My dad was just one of its many victims. Cancer has the power to destroy bodies, but that is all it can do. It will never take a child of God out of God’s hand. Because of Jesus, cancer will never have the last word. The suffering that God’s children endure on this earth is only temporary, and their salvation is eternal. If we know Jesus, the pain that now covers us has been sentenced to this earth. My dad lived and died confident of this truth.
My dad told me one other thing during that first interaction we had almost two years ago. He said, “Enoch, I work at a hospital, and people who work at a hospital see a lot of death. I hope that when I die my coworkers will see something different about my death.” It was my dad’s desire that those around him would see the way he died and seek his Savior. My desire is that everyone here today would make the same choice my dad made. I hope and pray that you would admit your sin before God, and that you would throw your weight fully on Jesus for salvation. I know this is what my dad would want for you.
The Haven family mourns today, but we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We mourn knowing that Jesus has broken the power of death. My dad is gone, but he is free, and one day when we see our Savior face to face, dad will also be there. We look forward to that day.