It was the first weekend in May, 1997. My brother, Dave and his wife Dianne, came with my dad and mom to Michigan for Acacia’s graduation from Hope College. Dad wasn't driving long distances anymore; he was getting weaker. He had been fighting type 2 diabetes for a long time, and his heart had sustained a lot of damage.
The graduation was held outdoors and it was pretty cool, so mom and dad skipped the actual graduation ceremony, but were a part of the dinner celebration after it. We had a great weekend of family time, playing cards and celebrating Acacia’s accomplishments.
As they were packing up and heading out the door to return to WI I hugged Dad and as always told him I loved him. But this time he didn’t just receive my hug and declaration of love; instead as soon as I said it he responded with a one word question, “Why?” I was taken back a bit, and said, “Why do I love you?” “Yeah, Why do you love me?”
I hugged him again and said, “Because you are my dad, and you are such a good one.” It seemed to satisfy. We continued on with the process of them getting into the van and leaving.
That was my last conversation with my dad. A week later he died in his sleep on the night after Mother’s day.
I have relived that brief conversation so many times. It still brings me to tears today. I’ve regretted that I didn’t say more, that I didn’t give him a long litany of all the reasons he had given me through 45 years of life to love him. I’ve regretted I didn’t say more on a hundred other occasions. But, I’m also thankful he asked, and I did get to say that much.
In my devotions today I read the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet at the home she shared with Martha and Lazarus. As I read the familiar passage in John 12 I noticed:
Martha served…and loved Jesus.
Lazarus fellowshipped around the table…and loved Jesus.
Mary worshipped…and loved Jesus.
In the chapter before, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so of course they loved him. But, they loved him before that. I wonder what their response would have been to Jesus if he had asked them, “Why do you love me?”
Why do I(you) love Jesus? How do we choose to demonstrate that love? And, who else needs to know why we love them?