‘Teacher’ – my tribute to my dad

shot of dad taken for a local paper on his 25th Anniversary as a minister

My dad died a couple of weeks back. The funeral was last Friday. It was a true celebration of his life. A few people have asked to have a copy of my speech so I thought I’d put it up here on my blog>>>>

Hi everyone, thanks for coming to celebrate dad’s life with us. We all really appreciate it.

The other day my cousin, Karen facebooked me some memories of dad from his earlier years. I didn’t know any of this really and it’s a lovely insight into dad’s character:

Dad as a young man

“Your dad was probably my first crush.
1959, and my mom was all excited because her baby brother was coming for a visit. She hadn’t seen him since he was only a boy and he was 19 now. I have to tell you…I wasn’t very excited about his upcoming visit. He was a GROWNUP…and he didn’t have any children for me to play with. Another grownup in the house only meant another authority figure. I was six years old….and wasn’t impressed with authority!

As soon as I met your dad, I was impressed. He had a mustache!!! I never met anyone with a mustache before and thought that was COOL!!

My parents planned a weekend in Washington D.C. Again, I was not impressed….I didn’t see what all the fuss was about~looking at all these white buildings (the capital, the White House, and countless monuments). Boring, boring, BORING!!! The buildings in New York City were much taller and more impressive. Still, he managed to make the weekend bearable by holding my hand and paying special attention to me.

When we got back from the weekend, the fun began. My mom would drive us over to this little lake so we could go for a swim. Up until then…..the correct way to enter a body of water was to wade into the shallow end and slowly get yourself wet. Your dad broke the rules!!! He stood on this big rock at the water’s edge, and shocked the daylights out of me by DIVING into the water. A beautiful dive…hands over head, and did a streamline cut into the water. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was there ANYTHING Uncle Fred couldn’t do????? I immediately wanted to try this, but my mom wouldn’t let me due to my age. I guess she figured I was hard enough to keep an eye on me, without me diving into water when I couldn’t even swim! But years later, that memory stayed with me and I DID learn to dive. (Thanks, Uncle Fred!!!)

1961, and the family was planning a trip to England. It was the first trip back since my Mom left. I was 8 years old. I was sooo excited about flying in a plane for the first time….and also excited about seeing Uncle Fred again. The rest of the trip didn’t really impress me, because I’d be meeting all these relatives that I didn’t even know. Mom tried to “pump me up”…telling me I was going to meet my OTHER grandma and some cousins…but the cousins were younger than me, so there would be no play time. Still….I was going to see COOL Uncle Fred….so I guess I could “suffer” through the rest of the trip.

From the moment I saw your dad, he made me feel special….as if I was a long-lost friend…someone who was important. My little 8-year old heart was in love!!! AND!!!!….he had a motorcycle!!!! I never knew anyone who had a motorcycle!!! And it had this little contraption stuck to the side of it that made it look weird. He explained that it was a sidecar, and asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I couldn’t believe my luck…NO ONE had an uncle as cool as my Uncle Fred. Wait til the kids back home hear about this!!!!!

The most vivid memory of all though was when he took me to a little park that was down the road from my grandma’s house. It was across the street, and maybe about 8 houses down the road, and there were swings and other childhood attractions. But the coolest thing about the park, was the stone wall at the back of it, and the other side of the stone wall there were train tracks. Now…..I wasn’t a stupid child….but I also wasn’t the brightest either. I was a good student, and could do all the age-appropriate things a child my age should be able to do but I just couldn’t tie my shoelaces! Your dad lifted me up on that stone wall….and taught me how to tie a bow.

Looking back now…as a grownup…I think to myself, surely he had so many other things he could have been doing~he was probably 20-22 years old. He could have been with his mates….or a girlfriend…or doing ANYTHING other than spending that time with me. Yet there we were…just the two of us That single memory is the most precious thing I brought back with me. To this day, I STILL think of your dad when I tie my Nikes.

What a special young man….so warm, so loving, and sooooo very personable.

Picking up on Karen’s point about dad taking the time to show her how to tie her shoe laces the main thing I’d like to share is about what an awesome teacher dad was. My sister chris always talks about how he taught her gymnastics and used to walk on his hands in the garden when she was little. Here are some of my memories to add to this:

Getting the basics.

Ok, I’m 4 years old and dad has a cricket bat in my hand. We were living in Torquay at this point and we’re going over and the techniques for batting and bowling. Dad pointed out that Cricket teaches you a lot – it teaches you

  • you have to be in it to win it
  • that balance and timing are everything
  • that you must always keep your eye on the ball
  • …and play with a straight bat.
  • That you need to continually adjust to what’s happening
  • and that it’s all about the war, not the battles…
  • …It’s about the bigger picture, not the quick win.

I wasn’t the most naturally talented player but I managed to go on to captain the school team and I’ve always tried to apply Dad’s lessons as best I could to the rest of life – get the basics right, understand and apply technique and then build up layers of experience up from there…That you can compete with people with more natural ability than you if you out-think them.

At 6 I was getting bullied at school and came home and complained to dad. He didn’t do what you might expect a minister to do! – He took me into the lounge and taught me how to throw a punch! – how to get in a position of power, where to aim, and the important strategic lesson – if you take out the leader the rest will follow!

The next day I did as he said and suffice to say I never got bullied again!

Aged 8 I was trying to copy a picture of a sailing ship and I was getting it all wrong. Dad showed me how to observe correctly, how to stub out the key elements in the right perspective and then fill in the detail afterward. On my second attempt I, by 8-year-old standards, managed to get it pretty much realistic! Again dad showed me how to get the basics right – this time looking at the world and focusing on the key things that I could build on.

Faith and knowing why you believe what you do.

This same theme continued throughout life:

  1. question everything,
  2. understand what the building blocks are
  3. and work from there.

When I was in my early teens i was the kid that would go into mum and dads room, nudge dad and be like:

  • what was before the beginning?
  • Why give free choice if we have to obey?
  • A virgin birth? really?
  • dad, why did Jesus have to die?
  • ..and many more questions….

He would patiently get up as early as 6am to explain how to rationalise, weigh up the arguments, look at the bible in the context of how history is recorded, the hebrew storying telling culture, the greek mindset, the nature of redemption and what alternatives creeds and religions teach.

Not once did he tell me to blindly believe – only what the argument were for and against and then helped me figure it out for myself. He’d say anything worth believing could stand up to being questioned.

Taking life as it comes

In my later teens there were two church splits fairly close together and mum and dad got really hurt. I remember talking to dad about it and he simply smiled and said people made mistakes and that they can let you down. But God would never let you down, he was totally reliable and that was really all that mattered in the end – if you’re conscience was clear and you were right before God.

He also pointed out that it wasn’t an accident Jesus described people like sheep. He pointed out that you need to be wary of crowds and peer pressure. he made me realise that you had to go with your gut – it could be the Holy Spirit’s lead. When the whole world was going one way if you felt you needed to go the opposite way then you needed to do it!! There’d be no peace otherwise – better to get it wrong than be ruled by fear. Particularly fear of people.

It was around this time as well that dad took a full-time teaching job as well as running a church. He’d travel a 100 miles a day, work 5 days a week and then run bible studies, mid-week meetings and two sunday services on top of that. He didn’t like it but he did it anyway because it needed to happen and that was that. Dad was always very pragmatic. If this was the reality then so be it, move on.

Again, these things stayed with me. He was a strong man. Someone you could believe in and he taught basics of understanding people and dealing with whatever came your way.

Equipped for life

As I grew up and left home he’d quote the apostle Paul in saying that I had to walk in the light God gave me. Same for my sister. We both ended up with slightly different theology to dad and he was fine with it. Despite being a scholar and minister for 50 years he was happy for us to find our own way.

Dad always wanted people to know WHY they did, thought and believed the things they did. He knew this would help them thrive and be equipped for life. I’ve met so many people in life since who are happy to teach but in reality are threatened when people surpass them. Dad was a consummate teacher and delighted when this happened.

When I was 16 he taught me to play guitar. We’d just jam country songs for hours. Later in life he’d tell people:
he taught me how to play..
but then I taught him to play properly!

He was delighted I surpassed him. So it was with everyone he taught. His legacy continues as the people he mentored have gone on to set up churches, bible colleges and head up the Baptist Union amongst a great many other things. If you listened to dad you did well.

Leading by example

Dad taught even until his last days. In the 6 weeks in the hospice he became one of the staff’s favourite patients as he taught us how to die.

Some things you just can’t teach. You have to live them and lead by example, and he did.

I’ve never seen anyone handle their bodies degeneration and their end with such dignity. He shone peace, grace and assurance throughout the whole process and it was inspiring for everyone – staff and other patients alike. My sister and I made a pact that we wouldn’t eulogize anything we hadn’t said to his face. As I recounted these stories to him and thanked him he kept just saying it was common sense. It wasn’t of course, we all know common sense is the least common but for dad this kind of living was just normal.

So there we have dad:

  • A loving and caring teacher
  • Gracious and dignified
  • Someone who’s lived a life blessing, challenging and nurturing others

…and as cousin Linda said – someone who gave the best bear-hugs ever!
We’ll miss them…..and him.


About finchleymusic

Businessman, Singer/songwriter, traveller, worship leader & mentor
This entry was posted in Belief, Faith, family/relationships, People. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ‘Teacher’ – my tribute to my dad

  1. JohnG says:

    If it’s true that a peron is judged by the quality of those he leaves behind, then though I never met him I’m confident that he must have been an outstanding man. He must have been very proud of you too!

  2. Elaine Owen says:

    Ian, that is a fantastic tribute, he was an outstanding man, even in their busyness and your Dads illness your mum and dad remembered my son and gave him £10 toward his trip to India last year with WYFC. It seems helpful and thoughtful to us but to a 15 year old teenager it was a real witness that ‘older’ people 🙂 could demonstrate such care and kindness to even ‘know’ about the trip and want to help. I couldnt make the celebration of his life so i am so pleased to read your tribute here.. thank you x

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