Four Sundays ago, family members gathered to celebrate my Dad’s 89th birthday. His children, his sister, grandchildren – family sitting around the conference table, with Dad (the amazing Fred Kehoe!) at the head, wearing a big button with “It’s My 89th Birthday!” There was cake and ice cream and birthday cards, which Dad read multiple times. There was laughter and stories and comments about curly hair and facial hair and gray hair. Then after the cake was consumed and most of the red icing wiped from face and hands, Dad said, “Let’s pray. I’ll start and Jama can end (because I was to his right). And if you don’t know what to pray, just say, ‘Lord, bless Fred a ton. Or a ton and a half!'” Then Dad prayed a beautiful prayer asking for the Lord’s touch on all of us. And we all said “Amen!”[Listen to Dad’s question to Mom at the end of this video. And giggle along with us!]
Three Sundays ago, family members gathered at my Dad’s bedside, loving our Mom and Dad, his health declining with every breath. For days I held my Dad’s hand and stroked his arm, sitting near him, giving him all my love. At one point he was determined to hold my thumb and I told Mom, “I think he’s challenging me to a Thumb War.” We surrounded him and played hymns on YouTube, placing our phones on the pillow near his ear. How Great Thou Art and The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace and Just a Closer Walk with Thee and Peace in the Valley. And we sang along, doing our best to add Kehoe family harmony. It was a holy time.
Nineteen days ago, his wife and his children encircled him and prayed and sang and held his hands and caressed his arms. We loved him until his last breath, and in that moment of his home-going, the words of the hymn “To God Be the Glory” played: “Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.” The moment for all of us was tearful, tender, and sacred.
It became the moment
…that my Dad was the happiest he’s ever been …that my Dad was restored in mind and body …that my Dad was embracing Jesus …that my Dad was ushered into the Kingdom surrounded by his loving wife and adoring children …that I was a daughter most blessed to have a father who was always there to love me, to show me Jesus, and to lift her up to the True Father …that I thanked God every day for my Daddy.
And I will for all of my life as I hold memories of love and fun and prayer and encouragement and laughter and play and wisdom and counsel. For my Daddy who bestowed countless happy and loving and holy moments. I am altogether happy. He was my leader, my patriarch, my friend.
Twelve days ago, family members and a host of friends gathered to celebrate the wondrous life of my Dad. They came. Long-time friends and just-made friends and beloved family. Friends and colleagues of mine, of Steve of Doug of Julee. All to love love love and honor my father, to embrace us, to share our grief and joy, to weep with us, and yet to rejoice. Pastor Kevin Holt spoke the truth, likening the life of Fred Kehoe to Barnabas, meaning “son of encouragement.” This was my Dad: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” ~ Acts 11:24.
Oh Dad, what a true father you are: always there for me. . .
A true father is always there. He is there to grin with happiness when his eyes fall upon his infant daughter. He is there with arms to catch her when she takes her first steps or stumbles. He is there to pick her up and teach her at the youngest age, that failure can turn into success. He is there to help her tie her shoes, cut her meat, and work on math assignments. He is there to play with her and tickle her and massage her little toes. He is there to keep her from making mistakes, yet helps her find her own way. He is there to hug her and kiss her and hold her on his lap in the “king’s chair.” He is there to teach her and tease her and laugh with her. He is there to lecture her, prepare her for the tough grown-up things, and point to truth and integrity. He is there to put up with her teenage moods and sensitive nature, comfort her tears and rejoice in her joys. He is there to pray and praise, to build up her faith and encourage her. He is there to believe in her talents, strengthen her commitments, bring guidance and wisdom. He is there for big and small events, when she graduates, to smile when her name is called and feel proud. He is there to embrace her and kiss her before she goes to live away at college. He is there to see her become a working woman, to walk her down the aisle. He is there to hold his grandsons and be a role model to another generation. He is there to watch her grow as the lines on his face grow. He is there to welcome her home, always, and let her hug him and smell the smell she remembers from childhood, the warm, protecting, comforting smell of dad. But most of all, he is always there to love her, to show her Jesus, to lift her up to the True Father. And she is always there to love him back, and to thank God for him every day of her life.
…And Dad, my hero, like heroes do, represents the best of ourselves, and reveals those noble qualities of loyalty, determination, courage, patience, perseverance, focus, and fearlessness.
He is admired and respected and he made our family brave and strong. He saw what was possible, and taught us that with God “all things are possible.” It was often my father’s faith that strengthened me.
That’s what a hero does – encourages, is selfless and generous in spirit, who gives and helps others, who cares so deeply.
My Dad, my hero, carried me in his arms
Carried my on his shoulders
Carried me on his back
Always, always he carried me in his heart.
He comforted me strengthened me taught me teased me humored anointed me… and loved me and loves me still. Every single moment.
If I am loving and confident and funny and strong and faithful. If I am positive and plucky and courageous and hopeful. If I speak Jesus and scripture and family and football. If I am all these things, then thank my father, my hero.
He is my patriarch leader advisor prayer-warrior coach teacher medic playmate trainer motivator preacher guide captain champion intercessor…. Hero.
But mostly, my Daddy. I love you and will miss you…until I join you and my Jesus.