A Tribute to My Dad

I still remember “the call.” It came 39 years ago today, at 1:00 p.m. I was home alone, in my college apartment, watching a baseball game on TV. When I answered the phone, Mark Murrow greeted me with a dim voice. I’d never had a call from Mark before. He lived next door to my parents, about an hour’s drive away. “Why would he be calling me?” I wondered. Soon, it became clear.

“Your dad has had a heart attack. You need to get to the hospital as soon as you can. He is at Northwest Medical Center.” He told me where the hospital was, and I hung up.

Jumping in my 1975 Ford Maverick, I head for the nearby Tenneco gas station. After buying just enough gas for the trip across Houston, I was off, driving like a crazy man. Then it happened. At 1:20, a peace came over me as I sensed a clear voice from God. “You can slow down now. He’s gone.”

He’s gone. Those two words would change everything for me.

When I arrived at the hospital, I went to my mother. We hugged, cried, and prayed. Then I called my brother. When he arrived an hour later, I told him the grim news. The rest of the day remains a blur.

But let me return to those two words: He’s gone.

The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). I confess I have honored my dad more in the past 37 years than I did in my first 19. There were too many times I did not obey his words or honor his position. I suppose that’s called “being a teenager.”

I had a special relationship with my dad. There are so many great memories: playing catch, fishing all night, birthday parties, vacations, cub scout outings, ball games, and my favorite – the night he slipped into the church sanctuary to hear me preach my first sermon.

So today, on the 37th anniversary of his death, I honor the memory and legacy of Lester I. Denison. A farm boy and product of the Depression, he served his country heroically in WWII. He started his own business, raised two good kids, and was faithful and wonderful to his wife.

It has been said, “The greatest need in every male’s heart is to have the approval of his father.” I suppose I’m still seeking my dad’s approval. I want him to be proud of me . . . as I am of him.

Lester I. Denison was many things: military veteran, business owner, Sunday school teacher, and entrepreneur. But to me he was just “Dad.” That makes this my saddest day of the year. On December 15, for the 37th time, those two words still ring in my ears as if spoken just seconds ago . . .

He’s gone.

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