Tough looking cowboy with hat and mustache.

One of the most challenging journeys I have ever taken began at the bedside of my mother.

Her final moments were spent expressing love to those close to her and sharing final details and concerns. While death was near, she turned to me, her only child and instructed me to take care of my father as he held her hand, begging her to stay a little longer.

Dad knew her death would change his life, but he was unsure what the future held and was growing bitter. During their 39 years of marriage, Mom had managed the household and knew Dad would need help. But I really did not want to be the one to help.

The Difficult Man: My Father

A good fatherly relationship was missing in my life. My father had other adult children from a previous marriage, but I was my mother's only child, whom she loved and adored. Mom and I had a special bond that lasted her lifetime. That bond did not always transcend to my dad.

Dad was a former Golden Glove boxer, brawler, cowboy and construction worker. He was a difficult man, and I could not please him—nor could anyone else.

At Mom's insistence, he went to church with us but never participated. He came to my high school football practices and made sure I got an earful if I messed up a play. His anger is what drove me and everyone else away from him.

In my father's opinion, I did not meet his expectations whether I was on the football field, in the classroom or in church. I was hurt from the rejection, and in return, I bitterly rejected him.

How God Melted A Heart of Stone

My dad softened with age and made a profession of faith in Christ, but it was not until my mother's death that he started to change from within, becoming more of a follower of Christ than just a believer. With Mom gone, I prayed for Dad and me to find a way to build a relationship.

At first our relationship grew cautiously with an occasional phone call. The conversations were polite and quick. Eventually, the conversations grew longer and more meaningful. He talked about how much he enjoyed church and the new friends he had made.

We visited more often, and he eventually sold his farm and moved near me. We both learned to forgive and trust, and in doing so, we discovered many things we had in common. Because Dad had to teach himself to read and wanted to understand the Bible, we enjoyed spending time studying Scripture together.

3 Timeless Values & My New Role Model

The arrival of his first grandchild really helped my dad seek a more meaningful walk with the Lord because he viewed it as an opportunity to be a role model for his grandson. We spent many lunches together, talking and watching television and enjoying the baby. I never realized how much my dad could smile.

Before Dad died, he asked if I had ever learned anything from him. Gratefully, I can say I learned three timeless values:

  1. By faith, see people through God's eyes because He is always doing a work and making His children more Christlike.

  2. Be a follower, not just a believer. Grace costs us nothing, but discipleship will cost us greatly, so we need to be strong in Christ.

  3. Spend time with those you love, and let them know you love them.

When Dad died, I was the one holding his hand and asking if he could stay a little longer. I miss my father whom I grew to love.

Because God restored our relationship, I treasure my memories of those latter years and look forward to being united with my father again one day.

Article courtesy of Mature Living.

David Stone is a retired police detective from Florida. Since retiring, he works for the federal government handling counter terrorism issues. He and his wife, Charmaine, now live in Washington, D.C.