Jane Austen wrote this on the day of her dear father’s death (January 21, 1805) in a letter to her brother Frank. Reverend Austen, who was in his 70’s, had not been entirely well for some time. But the final illness took him swiftly, and unexpectedly. The saving grace, in Jane’s eyes, was that he didn’t suffer. And, being firm in faith, his family could be assured that he was in heaven, where they would one day be reunited with him.
As some of you know, my own dear father passed away three weeks ago tonight. He’d had some recent health issues, but nothing to give us too much alarm. And, at 85, he was still physically active and mentally sharp. Perhaps that’s why it still doesn’t seem real that he could be gone. But like Jane Austen, I can at least rejoice in the fact that he didn’t suffer at the end, and that he led a “virtuous and happy life.” I had the honor of composing his eulogy, which began like this:
Harold will be remembered for many things. He was a family man – dutiful son, treasured husband, honored father. He was a patriot who loved and served his own country, and also revered his Norwegian heritage. He was an honest, creative, and hard-working guy with a wry sense of humor. But above all, he was a sincere and unassuming Christian – one who lived out his faith quietly and steadily to the end. He has now gone home to be with his Lord and Savior…
I could say much more in his praise. I’d love to share a picture. That’s exactly the sort of thing my modest dad would have hated, though. He wasn’t one to draw attention to himself, and usually downplayed his accomplishments. When he saw that I had dedicated my second novel (For Myself Alone) to him and to my mom, he was outwardly undemonstrative. No tears; no fuss; no gush. Nevertheless, I know he was pleased.
The book features a variety of father figures, from kindly to diabolical. But my dad’s namesake, Harold Walker, is most like him. Jo, the heroine, says about him:
“I counted myself fortunate to have been allowed my choice as to marriage partner, and to have a prudent father now representing my interests in the disposal of my future happiness.”
As in the example above, my father generally allowed me the freedom to make my own decisions. At the same time, he was looking out for my interests and my future happiness by what he taught me – what he said and even more so by the way he lived his life. Thanks, Dad.