“Where are you going?” Mom asked.
“To Bay Street to buy the newspaper.” So, with that, he took off. There was no time to figure out if she needed anything from the store. As if on impulse, he left the house. A man on a mission!
Mom began washing the dishes, unaware of what the day would bring. Soon after Dad had gone, a vehicle door slammed.
“Who’s coming so early in the morning?” Mom wondered and walked over to the window.
The birthday card
Dad stepped in with the newspaper and a thin brown package. And opened the bag and pulled out a large Christmas themed card.
“I bought a birthday card for Pirkko.” He said as he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.
Why did he buy it that day? Did he know something? He must have remembered my birthday was coming up on Christmas Day.
“But it’s your birthday.” Mom said.
Dad viewed others more than himself. His eyes shone, and with childlike exuberance, he played the tunes. Mom stepped back as beautiful music jingled from the card. He smiled from ear to ear as “Happy Birthday to You” vibrated. I imagine he sang it with the music in his gruff voice and off key!
Though it seemed unordinary, Mom planned her day, but hid the thought in her heart. Why would he buy this card so early? Twelve days before Pirkko’s birthday. Her husband usually made this purchase the day before Christmas.
Dad sat in his favourite chair in the kitchen, opened his newspaper, and slurped another cup of coffee. Then, almost immediately, strolled to his bedroom to lie down.
By one o’clock, Dad had rested, read his Bible, and meditated on scriptures. While looking at the wall clock, he asked Mom, “It’s time for the Christmas service at Saalem Church. Do you want to come?” She could not go because she had promised to babysit at a friend’s house.
An hour later, a sudden change of plans jolted mom like a bolt of lightning. I rushed to get Mom from her friend’s house and brought her to the hospital to her husband’s side.
He never returned to his earthly home. He slipped into eternity as he slid onto the floor near his bench. A lady who sat beside him wondered what happened to him. Maybe he dropped something on the floor.
My dad had never mentioned how he wanted his funeral conducted or what kind of casket he liked, but he had one desire. To leave from God’s house or while preaching.
God was merciful and granted him his wish. That day, he preached his last message and reminisced about his childhood Christmases at a Christmas gathering of older people.
Dad’s final sermon (Finnish) two weeks before his passing on YouTube Part 2
Dad’s final sermon (Finnish) two weeks before his passing on YouTube Part 1
A heart attack snuffed his earthly life, but his spirit moved to heaven, right from the church pew. Apparently, he finished the race and kept the faith. One day I’ll ask God why so soon.
At first, Mom refused to accept her husband was gone as she slapped his dead body on the chest. She repeated the words. “Why did you leave me?”
A precious memory
After the initial shock wore off, we began our grief journey. We could hardly believe the suddenness of losing Dad. So unexpected. No one was ready, especially in the Christmas season.
Dad often visited our home and walked in without knocking, which we appreciated. Seven days earlier, he came to celebrate and bless our oldest son on his 14th birthday on December 6th. That’s been a precious memory.
Though time is a great healer, there is more to grieving. Time after his passing became a blur, and Christmas was no longer the same.
I’m forever thankful for having had a father, though imperfect and flawed in many areas, who pointed me to God at a very young age. And I have a heavenly Father I can depend on to be there whenever life seems sad and overwhelming.
Dad’s earthly voice stopped that Thursday, December 13, 1990. But he left his example of faith if we listen with our hearts. Angels joined a heavenly chorus of the ultimate birthday song for his 67th. Dad was home singing a new song in his new language and angelic voice.
The mantle of reading the Christmas story from the Bible at our family Christmas Eve celebration fell on me as the oldest child. So, I read the Bible account of Jesus’ birth to my mother and the rest of the family for years. Until Mom joined Dad in heaven and we moved to Southern Ontario.
Even after 33 years, I miss my dad and his quirky ways, but I will always be thankful for my birth on Christmas Day, and the reminder of the birthday card lives on. And his legacy of faith.
Since we don’t know the day or the hour when we sing our last song or breathe our last breath, may we be reminded of eternity. Like my father used to preach about his salvation experience as a young man, we can focus on God’s grace to continue a life of faith. However, if you’ve never made Jesus your Lord and Savior, ask him to come into your life. God made a way for eternal life by sending his Son to die for your sins, and give you a future and hope.
For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
What is your Christmas tradition that changed? I would love to connect.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16