Matthew 10:29-31 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid. You are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
In the hours after Dad died, all eight of us, his children, sat around his bed in Tahlequah, Oklahoma trying to absorb what had happened. He received the diagnosis of cancer on his birthday, October 20, 2008, and died just three weeks and two days later, November 12.
Dad was taken from us too soon—not just because of the brevity of his cancer struggle. For years he had devoted himself to caring for our mother at home. When she was finally placed in a care unit with advanced Alzheimers in 2007, Dad emerged like a person reborn. He deliberately reconnected with his children and grandchildren, traveling to visit us and taking part in family gatherings. For months, he called Karis every day. She was able to visit him briefly during that three-week window, before having to be re-hospitalized herself in Pittsburgh, in a severe health crisis made more difficult by her grief for her Granddad.
In a talk at Dad’s funeral, one of his grandchildren told us he had discovered that during an August family reunion in Guatemala, Dad had spent individual time with each of the seventeen of his grandchildren who had been able to attend. Karis, sadly, spent those days in the hospital in Pittsburgh. Several of the other six who missed the Guatemala time came to his service.
During Dad’s funeral, we also learned that Dave’s father had just died! So instead of returning to Pittsburgh with me to be with Karis, Dave flew to Florida to join his brother and sister in saying an unexpected goodbye to his father.
I kept wondering, yesterday, while we celebrated with joy the wonderful fathers God has given to our family, how many people around the world were grieving the loss of their fathers, uncles, or grandfathers to COVID-19. Since Karis died, I’ve been more acutely aware of how holidays and other special dates can be filled with both joy and sorrow, thankfulness and regret. So I was grateful for this Matthew lectionary text yesterday. Our heavenly Father knows. And he cares. Not just about the mixed emotions of yesterday, but about the challenge today to live forward into his “Don’t be afraid.”