Photo: My Dad, Walter Leroy, at age 19 when he entered into the Army Air Corp. He was a member of the WWII Greatest Generation.
I know. This post could be considered “too early” for Father’s Day, and you would be correct. However, I am writing it today because it has been 19 years since my dear dad passed away on May 30, 1995. Of course, I still miss him to this very day. However, I want to share a very special and spiritually uplifting event that happened while my dad was so ill with mesothelioma (inoperable lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure) in January, 1995.
The following information that I am about to share is more personal “proof” (if one wants to call it that), of why my faith in and through being born again in Jesus Christ has been strengthened over more than 20 years of Bible study. What’s more, we can add this testimony of a spiritually given gift to what was previously shared in my former post, Why I Believe In Jesus Christ.
Permit me to backtrack a bit.
In the summer of 1994, my mom and dad were visiting my family and I here in California. As I mentioned above, my dad had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer (due to asbestos exposure) and had been going through chemotherapy treatments. These treatments made him weak. So, we didn’t do the usual sight seeing excursions as we had done during visits in the past. In fact, the one day we did go out, he quickly became very tired walking around a shopping area in LaJolla.
When we came back home, my discussion with my dad turned towards God. He abruptly said, “God is punishing me.”
This shocked me at first, because I wasn’t sure if my dad ever even thought about the things of God. He hardly ever went to church when I was a kid and I often worried about his relationship with “the Man upstairs” as he liked to call Him.
We had a brief conversation about who and what was really responsible for him contracting lung cancer. He was tired and wanted to rest so I asked him if we could talk more about it later. He said yes, but we never did that day.
Soon after that brief conversation, my parents were on the plane back to New Jersey.
In January of 1995, my dad had taken a severe turn for the worse. My mom was convinced that he had “a matter of days” to live. I boarded a plane and flew out to see my dad and talk with him about the Lord. On the plane, I had little booklets called, “Our Daily Bread” that contained excerpts of Bible verses and brief commentary about them. I started to highlight the portions of Scripture that I would share with him.
I have to be honest and state that I felt completely inadequate to witness to my own dad! However, I realized while studying Scripture on the plane that I was focusing on my felt needs rather than focusing my attention and energy towards the leading of the Holy Spirit Who would ultimately help me in my inadequacy!
I can’t say that I was “scared” to share the gospel with my dad; it was more of a worry that I wouldn’t “do it right” and end up pushing him further away from the Lord. [Been there, done that?] He never spoke to me about spiritual things while I was growing up so I just assumed that he was agnostic.
When I arrived at the house in N.J., I was so saddened to see my dad in such bad condition. He was bedridden, couldn’t move, drowsy from medication, and incontinent. My dad had always been a big, tall, and very strong man. To see him at half his normal weight and weak like that was very difficult. I waited until I was in my former bedroom upstairs in the house and cried my eyes out.
I helped my mom tend to him physically over the next few days, but I also asked him if we could continue our discussion from the summer about “God punishing him.”
During our discussion, I discovered something about my dad that I never knew before. When my family and I were attending the Catholic church during the days of my youth, my dad typically stayed home. He would usually watch sports on TV. What I didn’t know is that he would often flip through the channels during the commercials and watched Charles Stanley’s (Christian preacher) broadcast! I was certainly thrilled to hear that! It gave me an “in” to share the Bible with him.
I referred to the Scriptures I had highlighted in the booklets and shared the verses that would (hopefully) lead into sharing the gospel with my dad. Sometimes he would tire easily and ask me to stop. This went on for about 3 days.
On that third day, I presented the gospel message to him and asked if he would like to repent of his sins (as I had done, and we all need to do!) and ask Jesus into his heart for the salvation of his soul.
HE SAID YES!!
My mom (she is now 90 years young!!) was nearby sitting on a chair and we all prayed together! I was so thrilled that my dad, in what was close to the 11th hour of his life, made the eternal decision for Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! Praise God!!!
We continued with our Bible studies until the day came when it was time for me to fly back home to my family in California.
Before that day arrived, an unusual but exciting thing happened on one glorious afternoon! I hesitated to share this incident with others at first because I thought that people might not react well to it. Or, I thought that they might simply claim that my dad must have been “doped up” and didn’t know what he was saying.
This is what happened.
We had just finished our Bible study and my mom was in the kitchen getting lunch ready.
While sitting near my dad’s bed, I heard him say, “Alright Joe.”
I said, “What dad?”
My dad said, “I was talking to my buddy Joe.” [Note: My dad often referred to his friends as “buddies” – especially in the military.]
I said, “Joe? Who and where is Joe?”
My dad said, “He’s right over there,” as he pointed to the empty chair where my mom usually sits.
I looked at the empty chair, then I looked at my dad. He seemed to be listening intently as he stared at the chair. There was a moment of silence and then my dad said, “Oh.”
I said, “What dad?”
He said, “He says you can’t see him.”
I was flabbergasted! Something like this had never happened to me before! I was so shocked that I forgot to ask more questions!
My mom entered the room and we had lunch. Later, I asked my mom if dad knows a man named “Joe.” She told me that he was best buddies with a guy he knew while serving in WWII and he was named “Joe.” Joe died while in the service.
I have often wondered if my dad had been visited by an angel who appeared before him looking like his friend Joe. I know I can’t prove anything and I’m not trying to convince anyone here, but this incident has stuck in my mind and will never leave.
When I was flying back home, I realized that I probably would never see my dad alive again. The sorrow of that fact led to tears which were replaced by joy when my thoughts came to the great realization that I would one day see my dad again in eternity! Why? Because he had made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior!
A wonderful thing happened soon after my visit. My dad improved a lot and was able to get out of bed and into a wheelchair. He had two last wishes. He wanted to take a ride in his antique convertible car and sit in his favorite chair to watch TV in the living room. He did both and much more in the month of March!
Photo: Dad with his antique car ( in the 1970’s – I think).
I saw this as a reprieve, sent by God!
If you had seen how bad my dad looked when I visited him in January, you would never have believed that he would have lived another 4 1/2 months!
My dad died on May 30, 1995 at around 9 a.m. in the morning.
My entire family went back for the funeral. I was asked to speak at the podium during the funeral. I was sobbing so bad on the day before as I wrote down some notes to share, so I was led to pray to God for strength to get through my comments at the funeral without crying. My notes included celebrating his life, sharing funny anecdotes, praising him for his stance as a member of the WWII Greatest Generation in the military, his devotion and love for our family, his great work ethic, his self-taught talent in art, his love for singing and performing in plays when he was young, his love for antique cars, and his willingness and enthusiasm to attend the sports events of all three kids over the years. I ended my comments by sharing his decision about Christ. About that prayer that I could get through speaking without crying? God came through for me and granted my request!
As the years passed by, I would come back and visit my Mom in N.J. at least once a year, sometimes with kids in tow. In later years, I would come back alone.
I still had the question of who “Joe” was. My Mom gave me dozens of photo albums, some of which included military photos of my Dad and his buddies. They were meticulously placed in the old fashioned type of photo albums that had slots for the four edges of each photo. The names of all of the people in the pictures were neatly written below each photo. However, in these particular albums, not one of the photos had “Joe” written in them.
Well, during a subsequent visit to the house in late 2011, I found an album that I had not seen before. I opened it up, and lo and behold, there were several yellowed photos from my dad’s military service days and the name of “Joe” was written beneath them! I was astonished and grateful at the same time! Finally, I found confirmation about the “Joe” that I think my Dad may have seen and spoke to on that afternoon back in January, 1995! I got out my iPhone and took pictures of the photos.
Photo: Military buddies. Joe is on the far left. My dad is on the far right (with cigarette in mouth).
All of these special and unique incidences, including when the Holy Spirit of God guided me to witness for Jesus Christ with my Dad when he was so ill, and the surprising time I witnessed my Dad talking with “Joe” (while I couldn’t see Joe) in the family room of my childhood home; as well as when the Holy Spirit guided me through the funeral service speech without crying are three times in my life where my faith became steadfast and solidified. I know that the Lord Jesus Christ is real, is exactly who He says He is, and that as a confessed, forgiven, and redeemed believer of Him, I KNOW that He is with me through it all…no matter WHAT happens in life.
I truly believe that experiences such as these are gifts from God designed to increase our faith. It was in the midst of my father’s impending death that I was given these gifts. At the same time, my father was given the gift of salvation, as well as a gift of reprieve to do the two things that he really wanted to do on this earth before he went to be with the Lord. Despite his bed-ridden condition, God answered his call for a reprieve so he could enjoy those two earthy gifts.
Praise God for these gifts because they are even more evidence of His glory!
When my time comes, there will be a joyful reunion with my dad in heaven!
Once I started sharing these facts with other Christian believers, they often would reveal to me that they also had similar experiences about their loved ones who had passed on! I say similar, because each and every one is completely unique. These experiences speak to the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the individual(s) that it was meant for!
Our God is a God of individual salvation, as well. No two conversion testimonies are ever alike, either! That is why each and every one of us must come to the cross of Christ individually, and answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The “world” in Greek means:
The “cosmos” includes everything that is to be redeemed…including every single human being that ever lived on this earth! The forgiveness given through repentance of sin via Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead is big enough to cover all!
I pray, dear reader, that you will consider God’s provision for YOUR salvation!