Thanks for Dinner, Dad
“Rats,” said one. This was greeted by a delighted chortle from the backseat, where sat the other, smiling at beating her sister this time to thank Dad for the dinner we had just enjoyed at the restaurant. The rules are: you can’t say it until we return home, the driveway counts, first to remember, wins. No prize. Just satisfaction.
Our oldest daughter started this game years ago. But last night, our youngest raced her to the thanks. She must have been primed for the punch because, the second our wheels hit the driveway, out came the: “Thanks for dinner, Dad.” Then the groan from the front seat, admitting defeat.
I had no part in creating this game. It was all them. In fact, last night I was cautioned because I thanked Dad as he signed the credit card slip at the restaurant. That doesn’t count, I was told. You have to wait till we’re home.
At least I can still play, even though it’s my husband I’m thanking and not my dad because we all call him dad. Even me, when the kids are around.
But today I am marveling at the message in this game, created by the kids, refereed by the kids, perpetuated by the kids: the race to thank their father for his generosity to provide a lavish meal, at no expense to them.
What a meal was set for us at a table in a long ago upper room. By His grace, we get to eat it. And we don’t have to wait till we get home to play.
Thanks, Dad, for dinner.
The Power of a Life Well-Lived
In honor and remembrance of John F Rilling, my dad, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday today.
Fret not yourself because of the wicked,
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
and your right as the noonday.
It’s amazing how people come out of the woodwork when they hear time is growing short. A deadline really motivates, especially when it’s imminent. That’s what happened when my dad received his diagnosis. People he hadn’t heard from in decades started writing, emailing, and calling. Each one had the same message: were it not for you, I would not be who I am today.
It was heartening to hear that my father’s deeds had borne fruit as they echoed through the years. Though Dad appreciated the sentiments shared, it didn’t change things. He would soon die in his home of many years. A man of modest means, he was never wealthy, never famous, never in the headlines. As the world measures, he had very little to show for himself.
It doesn’t seem fair that a man who lives an honest life, works hard, cares for his family, supports his friends, and mentors his co-workers, just perishes. I hear daily of those who lead tarnished lives with questionable business practices, extravagant spending, and expendable relationships, and yet they prosper. The Bible may say that the wicked “will soon wither, soon die away,” but I see plenty who are flourishing. Why bother to lead a good life when this is what it gets you?
My thinking did an about face when a kind friend offered, “While the wicked may prosper, they never leave a legacy.”
So true. The stories which follow the wicked are best forgotten, but those shared after a life well lived are told and re-told. They magnify the goodness and continue to inspire. Dad didn’t plan what people would say about him after he was gone, he had just made regular deposits in other people’s lives, and the interest compounded over the years. This flowed freely in loving remembrance after he left us.
Not long after the memorial service a group of employees from the neighborhood Starbucks came by the house with a gift. In recognition of the many hours Dad had spent at the Johns Creek Starbucks welcoming and conversing with patrons, they had framed a green Starbucks apron. At the top was Dad’s photo encircled by the apron ties, and underneath were the words: John, honorary barista of store 8202.
When a good man dies, we’re left to tell the stories of his life, not only to remember him but to take meaning and purpose for our own. While the wicked may flourish for a little earthly while, the righteous leave a legacy of goodness and mercy that inspires even greater things. One might even say that it gives such a life power over death itself.
—Wendy Rilling LeBolt
Today: Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Concurrently published in the Lenten devotional booklet distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, Vienna, VA.