Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy, wherever you are.

Today my father, Merritt Bernhardt Ketcham, would be 101 years old. He was born on November 18, 1907, and died on April 16, 1970. He was a moonshiner in Missouri at age 12, a ranch hand and cowboy in Wyoming at age 18, an orchardman in Idaho in his 20s, a husband, seminarian, and father shortly thereafter, and a preacher and public servant for the rest of his life.

I don't know what he would think of my life choices if he were still alive. But I do know that he loved me and my sister and brother and mother deeply and would have done anything he could for us. I believe he would have wanted me to be happy and fulfilled, whether we agreed theologically or not. I believe our values were similar in most ways.

My own belief about what happens when we die is that we move to a new level of understanding of life. I can't articulate that any better than I have. A physical heaven in the sky seems unlikely, but it does seem possible that there is some new place to go.

Whatever it might be, I hope that his spirit understands my choices. I know that with every choice I have made over my lifetime I have asked myself the question "how would Dad view this?". There were choices I made that I was pretty sure he wouldn't like and I took those roads anyhow. There were others that I knew he'd like and still others that I knew were right for me, whether he would approve or not. So I've lived my own life but my father's values have stayed with me.

Thanks, Dad, for being my guiding light, for marrying my mother whose love still sustains me after these many years without her, and for giving J and B and me the moral plumbline you did. Your favorite non-Biblical quote is inscribed on one chamber of my heart: "This above all, to thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day---thou canst not then be false to any man." And one of the Biblical quotes you loved is on the other chamber: "What does God require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"

Every time I preach, every time I offer a prayer or a blessing, I feel your presence. As I write this Sunday's sermon, using the theme "Count Your Blessings", I'll be counting mine and you are one of the greatest (and biggest--at 6'6") in my life. Thank you.


Miss Kitty said...

May your father rest in peace--I'm so glad that you had the time with him that you did.

"How would Dad view this?" I ask myself that all the time. I, too, hope my dad would be proud of the good/difficult choices I've made, and understanding about the crappy ones.

ms. kitty said...

I bet he would, Miss K, even if he howled with laughter over all the kittehs! He'd love Myrtle Mae, I betcha, and be proud of you for your kindnesses.

Mile High Pixie said...

[hand on heart] our dads teach us so much, and we benefit greatly from their presence, even when they're gone.

My verification word is "preaders". Is that what we are, your preaders? We pray and read your blog, I guess!

ms. kitty said...

I think you've come up with a very useful word, Pixie!

I've read somewhere that fathers are the most influential people in their daughters' lives. I'm inclined to think that too.

Jan said...

Lovely testimony for your dad. I'm glad.

LinguistFriend said...

It is fascinating that the comments on fathers so far come only from women. My father was difficult, although I largely shared his important values. Many fathers are difficult, I think. Fathers have a hard job; in terms of their traditional role, they are placed on the outside of the family to deal with a violent world, while women are able to develop a gentler aspect by merit of thus being shielded. It does not always work that way, but it is our Western image; I have known families in which these roles were reversed. I have long recognized through your recollections of your father that he contributed a great deal to your ministerial persona, so that many of us must be grateful to him. That is the real immortality; my first trip up into the clouds in a DC-3 dispelled the idea of any other. But I looked.

ms. kitty said...

It is interesting, all right, LF. I am aware that many men have a less-satisfactory relationship with their fathers. Women may fare better, if their fathers are kind and respectful.

I thank you for your kind words.

Joel said...

I wish I could remember him. I can extrapolate a lot of what he must have been like by what I see in the three of you.

ms. kitty said...

Joel, he loved you dearly and was so happy to have a grandson. And he would love you dearly today, as we do.