It was pretty hot outside as Grant and I stood with our families around Grant’s father’s memorial marker in the Beaufort National Cemetery.
Thankfully, the giant live oaks around us provided some shade from the midday heat.
Both sides of our families were there for the small memorial service Grant had planned in honor of his father on the day before our wedding.
Everyone chatted until Grant’s voice broke the conversations as he welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming.
“I thought since everyone was in town this weekend, it would be a great time to get together and remember my dad and honor his life,” Grant began.
“What I want to spend a few minutes talking about today is the importance of finishing the Christian life well. The great apostle Paul said at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.’
A lot of people start the Christian life well, but they fail to finish well.
The Christian life is a journey,” Grant continued, “Just like John Bunyan talked about in his classic story, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’”
We are constantly faced with challenges and hardships that test our faith.
To help us run the race well, I think it’s important for us to remember other Christians who have lived their lives fully for Christ.
And that’s why I want to remember my dad today. I know he wasn’t a perfect man, as some of you here can attest.” Grant cast a smile over at Kelly’s brother and sister who were present.
“But my dad did live a life of faith until the very end. He left me a godly legacy, and for that, I’m so thankful.”
I could see tears starting to well up in Grant’s eyes as he spoke.
“There have been so many people who have come up to me throughout the years and have told me how much of an impact my dad made in their lives.”
Grant then held up a picture frame that he had been holding by his side, “I’d like to pass this photograph around and just share a quick story about my dad for those of you who didn’t know him.”
Grant handed the picture frame to my dad who was standing next to him, and it slowly started to make its way around the group as Grant began to share his story.
As y’all know, my dad was an F-4 pilot in the Marine Corps. One weekend his squadron had a mandatory function at a beach house in N.C. The pilots were told not to bring their wives because they would be receiving their call signs.
After the weekend was over, when my dad arrived home to my mom, she could tell he was upset. My mom asked him what was wrong. He went on to explain how awful the function was. The function turned wild, and unbeknownst to him, strippers were brought into the party.
My mom asked him what he did. My dad went on to explain that since he couldn’t leave since it was a mandatory function, he sat in one corner of the room all evening with his hand over his eyes.
‘Seriously… that’s what you did?’ My mom had asked; not because she didn’t believe him, but just because it was hard to believe that he was able to do that in a crowded party with so much temptation. But my dad told her that he had.
After my dad died, someone gave my mom this photograph that I have here with me today.”
The picture reached me and I looked at the photograph that I had seen once before. It was a picture of his dad at the party. While you can’t see the strippers, you can see Grant’s dad in the back of the room, with his hand over his eyes.
I looked over at Grant’s family as he shared. I didn’t see a dry eye. Kelly hadn’t just been Grant’s dad; he had been a brother, a son, a husband, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a friend to those who stood there.
“I share this story with you,” Grant continued, “because it’s a classic example of some of the challenges that we as Christians face on a daily basis. But just like my dad, God will give us the grace to respond like Christ.”
Grant’s voice was heavy with emotion, the way it often gets when he talks about his dad, and I could no longer see him clearly through my own blur of tears.
“That’s all I wanted to share today. Thank you so much for coming.”
Grant then asked a childhood friend of Kelly, Cliff, who was in town for the wedding, to share a few stories about his dad.
After Cliff shared, my dad closed in prayer. He thanked God for Kelly’s life and for the godly legacy that he had left Grant and all of us. He prayed that all of us would live our lives fully for Christ until the end.
It was a short service, and maybe what some people might think was an odd thing to do on a weekend of joyful wedding festivities. But I knew that what my soon-to-be husband shared that day not only brought honor to his dad, but it brought honor to Christ.
It hadn’t been easy for Grant to open up to everyone and share his thoughts about his dad. But he had felt like God had wanted him to do it, and I loved him even more for that.
I smiled as I thought about the legacy that Kelly had left for Grant. But what made me smile more was that even though Kelly died when Grant was just a toddler, Grant had become so much like him.
Grant’s life could have been so different if his dad hadn’t been a strong Christian. His dad could have died, leaving no legacy at all. Grant could have been just another sad fatherless child statistic.
But God was faithful. And just like the verse says that Grant’s mom had clung to and taught Grant ever since he was little, God is a “father to the fatherless.”
He had provided Grant with another father who raised Grant the way that he thought Kelly would have wanted Grant to be raised.
And now, as I watched Grant stand there as a grown man, I realized that God had brought things full circle.
He had done what He always does, He had worked all things together for good.
Everyone was talking again and sharing stories as people began dispersing from the service.
“Hey, are you okay?” Grant asked me as he walked over to me and noticed my tear streaked face.
“I’m great.” I said, as I grasped his hand.
Grant smiled at me and then said, “I’m going to go get some BBQ with the guys. See you tonight at the rehearsal.”
I took a deep breath. “See you tonight.”
To be continued. . .