But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
Things are very quiet now, in my parents’ room. Dad’s temperature is rising. His blood pressure is dropping. His heart rate is rising. He is no longer thirsty or hungry. This earthly body is shutting down, one switch at a time. The only sound is the quiet bubbling of the oxygen machine. And sometimes Pandora country hymns.
He has finished the course laid out before him from the beginning of time. With perseverance. In triumph.
I cannot find it right now, but somewhere in the stacks of letters piled high paper boxes there is a typewritten letter from dad to Scott, in response to Scott’s description of his daily Bible reading. A warning. One can never be too careful reading those Psalms. And dad supported this caution with a story from that morning.
My parents were on every plea-for-money-sucker list. They printed for over 1000 missionaries, and of course each mission organization added them to each and every database. They had figured out that my dad methodically read each letter, opened every envelope with his dad’s metal letter opener which sat in the window sill. So the sticky web spread around and around in every direction. The mailbox was certainly full to the brim every day. This particular morning he received a plea from a missionary who very much needed money for a very worthy project where he was working in a very poverty-stricken corner of Africa. But alas, my parents’ checking account carried a balance of -$450 dollars, so my dad set the letter aside, and picked up his Bible for his daily quiet time.
I do not remember the exact verse he read, but I imagine that it was along the lines of Psalm 82:3-4, Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Or it could have been Psalm 140:12, I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor. Or maybe Psalm 10:14, The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan... O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed.
And the point of his typed letter to Scott was, in this date-stamped carbon copy, is that you can never be too careful in reading the Psalms because you must obey what you read. These are David’s psalms and he was a man after God’s own heart. And by the time he had pushed back the chair from the kitchen table, there was -$500 in the Coverdale checking account.
My parents’ house is a vintage sixties tract house, plain and simple in every way. That first night in Tucson, in November 1972, I cried myself to sleep because of this ugly house that represented everything this decision of my dad-the-rocket-scientist, to print children’s bible studies for free, meant to my very materialistic fourteen-year-old heart.
The kitchen is classic, in the push button fold-down electric burner sort of way. Very hipster. Yellow appliances. Sliding glass cupboards that never failed to whack my 6’ 4” dad in the head. Sticky silverware drawers that require carefully honed jiggling. One summer my parents decided to modernize and the counters were piled high with Home Depot flyers, graph paper sketches, and paint samples. Excitement hummed. Finally we were going to be more like other families.
But the evening before the big project was to begin, my dad started reading one of those brochures stacked up on the microwave. It too was full of calculations. Like how many Bibles in Russia could be printed up and distributed for a hundred dollars. For a thousand dollars. For two thousand dollars. And the Coverdales never got new kitchen counters.
So Andrea and I just got back from visiting the cousins in the South, all of dad’s kinfolk, Southern gentry in every sense of the word. Gracious, generous and well ensconced in the Belle Meade Country Club, they knew that our family, way oh way out west, was a little peculiar. We spent many a long afternoon exchanging stories on the dock of their eleven-bedroom river cottage, laughing over the shared memories of spilled salt and jumping off the bedroom balcony into the pool. It came out that they always thought we didn’t have a television in the house because we couldn’t afford it. Which at first I denied and begged off on more philosophical and literary reasons.
But upon consideration, perhaps my sweet cousin were right. In the big race, finishing well requires throwing off everything that hinders and entangles. Televisions weigh a lot.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Dad passed from this old body at 1:22 a.m., June 30, 2013.