Monday, February 6, 2012
This weekend, we said our final good byes to my dad.
We knew that we were going to be expecting a lot of people, but we had no idea how many "A LOT" would be.
We estimated close to between 400 and 500 people showed up to the visitation and approximately 230 at the service.
How incredibly humbling.
My dad was an incredibly blessed and loved man.
At 6'6" tall and close to 300 pounds, he has been frequently called a gentle giant. That description could not be any more fitting.
As I listened to stories being told of my dad, I was brought to tears many times.
Years ago, my mom and dad founded a youth center in the heart of Hammond, Indiana called "The Basement." (named because of the geographical location of the center- The Basement was located in the basement of our home church.) The Basement is located in the heart of Hammond, surrounded by public housing, poverty, and crime. Yet, at it's height, it was bringing in approximately 150-200 inner city teenagers every Saturday night.
My parents' goal with the creation of The Basement was to bring the youth of Hammond to know Christ. They wanted to give them a safe and fun atmosphere that they could come and hang out without fear of being jumped, robbed, or raped.
Don't get me wrong. The crowd that The Basement drew was a rough one. There were fights almost every Saturday night after Basement hours and there was weed that was smoked in the bathrooms, but these kids were learning about Christ every week. They were loved and cared for by adults who invested in their lives, no matter what choices they made. These kids were loved.
There was a young man who came to my dad's funeral and shared words that will forever be engrained in my heart.
This young man attended the basement when he was in Jr. and Sr. High. He came from a rough family life and was running with a rough crowd. Yet week after week, he came to The Basement. My dad reached out to him and, over time, they developed a special friendship.
This 20 year old stood in front of approximately 230 people at my dad's service and shared his connection to my dad. He said "If it weren't for Mr. P (my dad's nickname) I'm not sure I would be alive. If it weren't for Mr. P, I would not be where I am today. He loved me and accepted me, when wherever I went, I was unaccepted and and a cast off. Mr. P saved my life."
As I listened to this rough looking young man's words, I was brought to tears. My dad truly loved him. My dad, who by just being himself, saved this kid's life. How humbling.
I listened to story after story like this one. Stories of how my dad changed lives. How he loved unconditionally. How he made people laugh. How he cared.
My dad was truly an incredible man. His love ran deep and it ran wide. His love was without boundaries and he touched so many.
I was honored to hear all of the beautiful words that were spoken this weekend.