Like most people, when I hear Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” song, it is haunting, moving and one of the toughest songs to listen to. It is all about opportunity missed and relationship that does not connect within a father son context. And it has that infamous lyric, “And when I hung up the phone it occurred to me, He had grown up just like me, My boy was just like me.” Over the last two weeks, those words have reverberated in my mind. Not from opportunity missed but to see Sunshine fulfilling what the Lord has called him to do. Permit me to share three, short stories.
I date my kids. I started with Casey when he was three. What did we talk about then? Thomas the Tank Engine and “Here comes the Fire Truck.” I don’t really care deeply about either of those but they meant a lot to him and he had lots to say, so I listened. Over the years, those gave way to many things: the Bucs, drums, God, girls, school, sex, career, the church, cerebral palsy, and love. When Casey got engaged, we took our monthly date to another level. We got hockey tickets and would go to dinner before our monthly game. We intentionally talked about different aspects of marriage, being a husband and eventually a dad. On the morning of his wedding, I said to him, “I have poured everything I know to tell you to this point in your life.” It was a moment that neither of us will ever forget.
Casey is in Grace Family’s MIT (Minister in Training) program for individuals who feel a call into professional ministry. It is a tough program that includes college bible courses, on call responsibilities and pastoral care involvement. He also had to give his first sermon. I watched him do this at our Married Life large group on Thursday night. In front of 160 people he shared on the Nature of God is Love. I watched as a dad, not as an Executive Pastor. When he shared how cerebral palsy didn’t define him, tears streamed down my cheeks (as they do now). When he shared a picture of me at the age of seven, he said this. “You might think this is me. It is not. It is my dad. I don’t look at this picture and wonder if I am his son. I know I am his.” He went on to tell how if we have accepted Christ, we don’t have to wonder if He loves us and we are His. Casey did good that night…real good.
Finally, Casey did his second funeral with Pastor Jerry White. The first funeral, he observed and helped in the background. The second one, he was very much in the middle of it. It was for a beautiful little girl who passed after 340 days of living. Everly was a fighter and the funeral was a celebration of her amazing fight to live. I told Casey two things before the funeral – talk slow and this is one of the toughest funerals to do, a child’s. (Every one is tough but having done a few children’s funerals, they just are difficult to do.) It was while the mother was sharing that I glanced over at Casey, who was on stage. He stood about 10 feet away, intently watching, ready to provide assistance if needed. Just like I would have done. He looked so strong and resolute; focused on helping this family and loved ones resolve their questions and pain. He was doing what God has called him to do. He was a bridge for others to see God in a difficult time.
“He had grown up just like me, My boy was just like me.” Those lyrics are haunting. But in this case they are wrong. He isn’t just like me. He is his own person, with his own expression and he owns his relationship with God for himself, not me. I am humbled and I am proud. And I look forward…to today, tomorrow and the next, to see what new lives he will impact.