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.