Wednesday, September 4, 2019

More Pictures

A few more pictures to share . . .

My Dad's Army Air Corps Uniform. I had it out to get ready to ship to my brother in Florida who requested it. Dad was a Staff Sergeant.

At the luncheon after the funeral, with my girls. They took good care of me those couple of weeks. :-)

With my brother and sister.

My brother and some of his family (not all could make it) are with us here, including his wife Lisa, his youngest daughter Olivia (who always had a special bond with her grandpa), and her son Daniel (the really little guy at the end of the table!).

Some cousins who stayed close to us and Dad over the years: Sally, Kathy, Reene, and Jackie, and spouses. They're the ones that would call Dad "Uncle Bee" - which I had always assumed was because of his initial . . . Uncle Bill = Uncle B. But I learned that was not the case! Rather, when you handwrite "Bill" with loopy L's, it looks like the word "Bee!" So that's where the name came from.

My sister and son Rob in the background, but also some good friends from St. Mark's: Bill and Dottie Atz, and Mrs. Buss. So glad they were able to come!

After the luncheon, my sister and I went back to the cemetery to visit some of the graves of other family members. Here are my Dad's parents, William Sr. and Eleanor Douthwaite, along with (I think) her parents.

We were surprised when we returned home from the funeral to find this blanket in our mailbox. The people at the Sunrise (my Dad's Memory Care) sent it to us. Such kindness, brought a tear or two . . . 

As my wife and I were waiting for the necessary folks to come and tend the body of my father, in the wee hours of that Monday morning, we were thinking of what we might get the Sunrise as a token of our appreciation to them for caring for Dad and to remember him by. We came across this metal sign and ordered it in those wee hours. Why this sign? Well, the past few months, my Dad had taken to saying "happy!" quite a bit. It caught on with the aides and kind of became something they said. So we bought this for them to hang in the unit as a memory of him.

My wife and I went over to the Sunrise yesterday to give it to them. I hadn't wanted to go last week - not yet. But with my wife leaving for a trip today and my having a trip next week, we thought we'd better go. So we did, and it was good. The ladies all greeted us so warmly and were delighted with the sign. We had some good hugs and smiles and I think it helped with the healing. We didn't see all the ladies that took care of Dad, though, so we'll have to go back to see them . . . and to see where they decided to hang the sign. :-)

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Here are some pictures of the memorabilia we had on display for Dad at his funeral.

On this board are, of course, some pictures of Dad and Mom together. But also their marriage certificate, pictures of my Dad with his dogs (he loved 'em!), and with his grandkids. My wife and I looked for more pictures of Dad with us, his kids, from when we were little - but we realized they are all on slides! We didn't have any prints. We'll digitize those slides in the future so we have those pictures, too. Also, at the bottom are several pictures from these precious last few years, Dad with us and in his Memory Care. 

Finally, there's a bookmark on display, on the left side. A bookmark? That's odd! Well, it has the words "Little things mean a lot" on it. That was a special song to my Dad and Mom, and one we played for Dad a lot his last week with us. Go to YouTube and look for that song sung by Kitty Callen. Give it a listen. It's pretty good.

On this board is my Dad's High School diploma and a picture of his baseball team and the letter that he earned. He was a pitcher on that team. We also found his Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from "The Augustinian College of Villanova," and some of his Army training certificates, his honorable discharge, and his dog tags. Pretty cool to have all that.

Here's his baptism certificate that we found after he died. (For the significance of this, read or listen to the sermon I preached for him, posted earlier in this blog.)

And here is the back of his flight jacket. A number of years ago, the jacket was rotting and falling apart, so he cut the back off and framed it. This was his squadron in World War 2, the Army Air Corps 13th Emergency Rescue Squadron, operating in the Pacific to find and rescue downed aviators. My son will be inheriting this.  :-)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Legacy of a Father

My nephew, Rev. Adam Douthwaite; my brother, Rev. William Douthwaite; me, and my son Robert, who served as crucifer for his grandfather's funeral.

A lot of people wonder what their legacy will be; what people will think about them after they die. Some people devote a lot of time to this, but the judgment of history and time is something that proves quite elusive to control. 

Here is my father's legacy. Not one that he set out to make for himself, but the gift of God. Three pastors (so far) from him. He was often asked if he was a pastor to have two sons who were pastors. He would reply, "No, I'm not a pastor, I just raise 'em!" :-)  For the record, he was an electrical engineer. My son (so far) is following in his steps.

If you'd like to read my brother's thoughts on this day, click here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Funeral Sermon

Here is the sermon I preached at my Dad's funeral. Again, if you want to watch and listen instead, here is the link to the video my brother made on his cell phone.

16 August 2019
St. Mark Lutheran Church, Ridley Park, PA
Funeral Sermon for William Douthwaite

Jesu Juva

“The Promise of Nothing”
Text: Isaiah 55:6-13; Romans 8:26-39; Philippians 1:18b-26; Matthew 28:1-10

I wrote this sermon when Dad was put on hospice for the first time; when we were told he only had ten days to live. That was three and a half years ago! God gave us the gift of these extra years, which were so precious. So, with a little editing . . .

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you go with us to Mount Hope cemetery today, you will see those words etched into my father’s headstone. Those were his words. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

And I think the older he grew, the more precious they grew, because it seemed like he was being separated from everything and everyone else. All of his immediate family has been gone for some time now. When you’re the youngest child, I guess that’s to be expected to some extent. But that has been the case for quite some time now - not just that they were all taken from him, but that they were so soon. Too soon.

Of course, the separation that hit him hardest was when his Nancy was separated from him. Being ten years older, he said, he always thought he would go first. A not unreasonable expectation, we would say. But that our Lord called her home frist, and almost 15 years ago, is another indication of what Isaiah said: that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts not our thoughts

Then for the past almost six years, he was separated from his home - from the home he had lived in for almost 50 years, the church, here, that he was a member of for over 50 years, and from some of you that he had been friends with for 50 years. That grieved him too. He loved it here. He loved all of you. He didn’t want to be separated from you, but knew . . . but knew that it was needed. A bum hip, a tired body, and a failing memory were making it too hard to stay.

So Dad, I think, was a lot like the apostle John in this regard. John was the last one too. At the end of his life, he was separated from his home, in exile on the island of Patmos. In the book of Revelation, John sees visions of the martyrs who went before him - and I always think he saw his friends in that group in heaven wearing white robes. Peter, his brother James, Andrew, and the rest - they all went before him, too. 

But then Dad was like the apostle Paul, too. For Paul’s words from Philippians that we heard were his words: My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary . . . Dad didn’t know why staying was necessary; he wanted, like Paul, to go home. He said it many times. All the separation was hard for him. Hearing another friend had gone before him - especially his good friend Jack Buss - was hard for him. He wanted to go to that place Jesus had gone to prepare for him.

So how very, very precious these words of Christ for him, and for us today. As he, and we, live in the midst of a world of separation: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. Nothing. Not even a failing memory.

And the answer why is very simple: we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. More than conquerors through Him who was separated from His Father for us; forsaken on the cross for us. More than conquerors through Him who loved us so much that He entered into our death with us, enduring the condemnation of our sin for us. More than conquerors through Him who then brok the seal of the grave for us and rose to life again. More than conquerors through Him who then baptized us into His death and resurrection, that we might rise too. With Him. And never be separated from Him. Baptism is that inseparable bond where Jesus binds Himself to us, so that nothing can separate us from Him. Nothing. Yes, His Word and promise combined with that little bit of ordinary water is . . . that . . . great.

And Dad knew it. Jesus had planted that faith in his heart and made it grow and flourish over the years, as Dad was fed by the Word he heard preached here by so many pastors over so many years from that third pew on the left - right in front of the pulpit. That was his pew. And as his faith was strengthened by the Word of Absolution he heard pronounced here so often, and as he was fed by the Body and Blood of the Lord at this altar. Jesus was holding onto him.

And that’s why a few years ago, Dad wanted to make sure of his baptism. One day he started thinking about the fact that while he thought he had been baptized, and was pretty sure he had been, he didn’t have a certificate, and all that had witnessed it were already gone. The church wasn’t even there any more. But he wanted to be sure. It was really important to him. To have the nothing of baptism - the nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus - that was so important to him. 

And so my sister started making phone calls and investigating and following up . . . and finally found a pastor who had the records from the old church that had once been there, and Dad made a copy of the page showing that he had been baptized on April 20, 1924. And just how important that was to him is shown by the fact that he kept that page in special folder all its own, which he kept in his fireproof lock box with all his other really important papers.

Ironically, while we were looking at some of his old papers on Tuesday, we found his baptism certificate - it was on the display you saw when you came in. He had it all along. He just forgot. Toward the end, he forgot a lot of things. But Jesus never forgot him. Jesus never forgets his children.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Which is why he could say so often, with Paul, and pray for the Lord to take him home, to that place prepared for him. It wasn’t because he was so strong, so faithful, or so good - but because he had Jesus’ promise. Nothing can separate me from you, Bill. Nothing. Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword . . . or dementia? Nah. I beat it all. I am your Good Shepherd. You shall not want . . . and you shall dwell with me in my house forever.

So now Dad has been separated from us - but just for a little while. The Father who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, has now answered Dad’s prayers and called our father home. As He graciously gave him all things here in this life, so now still graciously giving him all things - including rest and peace and no more pain, as we await the day of the resurrection of all flesh. Our grand reunion with Dad and Mom, Bill and Nancy - Uncle Bee - and All the Saints who from their labors rest (LSB #677).

So we will do as Paul said, and rejoice today. That’s not the same as being happy. We’re not happy to be here today! It’s better than that. It’s that because of Jesus, because of His death and resurrection for us, because of His promises, because of His forgiveness . . . we can rejoice even in the midst of sadness and separation. Because He conquered them. Because He is greater than them. Because We Know that Our Redeemer Lives (LSB #461).

And we’ll also do what Paul says in another place (1 Thess 5:18), and give thanks. Thanks for Jesus and all that He has done for Dad and for us. But also thanks to God for giving us this man for so many years, as father, grandfather, and great-grandfather; as uncle and friend; as His blessing to us.

So thank you, Father, for this our earthly father, and friend. For giving us a father who loved us, especially when that love showed itself as a leather belt across my disobedient and rebellious butt. For giving us a father who took us to church faithfully, who had us baptized, and showed us the importance of faith and being in the Word. Who showed us by devotions every night after dinner, lighting a candle and reading the Scriptures.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a father who showed us what love is as he took care of Mom in her last days. For giving us a father who prayed - the image of that I will always remember is of him sitting in his recliner in the morning, before work, before the sun came up, with his Bible on his lap, his eye closed, and his hands folded.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a father who was a sinner and showed us how important your forgiveness. For giving us a father who struggled, to help us learn from him and giving us a chance to care for him and love him and understand that when we are weak, you are strong (2 Cor 12:10). For giving us a father who wasn’t afraid to cry, and who taught us the importance of family.

But thank you most of all, Father, that You put him in Your family. That You adopted William as Your son. That You baptized him, redeemed him, forgave him, and at 2:17 am Monday morning, took him home to be with You. And thank You for the confidence that we now have in Your Word, not only that he is with You, but that we will be too, one day. That the “nothing” that was so precious to him is also for us. That it is true: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Life Petition

Lutherans for Life has posted a petition in support of life as a gift from God. Go check it out and sign if you agree with it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Couple Days Away

Well, the funeral is over, everyone is back home. It's been quite a couple of weeks. Emotionally, physically, mentally wrung out. We're going to go away for a couple of days and try to give my daughter at least a little, mini vacation before school starts. It feels quite weird to do so, I must say! So soon after the funeral. But we need to relax a bit. I'll post some more pictures when I get back. For now, here's a link to a video of the funeral my brother took on his phone. So the quality isn't the best, but hopefully you'll be able to hear it all. It really was quite a wonderful service. :-) The first time - and maybe the only time - my brother and I and my nephew will all lead a service together and preach together. A fitting tribute to my father, and the blessing he was to us all.

Miss you, Dad.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Funeral Day

It's early. No one else up yet. My body always gets up early, so I am up. So a few early morning, funeral day thoughts . . .

Everyone arrived safely last night. Got the rooms squared away. A little time to visit.

Today will be a whirlwind. Setting things up at the church. Going over details for the service with my brother and nephew. The emotion of closing the casket. The service - hope I make it through my sermon. The committal - that will be tough. Visiting other family graves. Lunch - that should be relaxing. Then back to the hotel to relax and remember and smile for a while.

It won't be a big funeral, Dad outlived almost everyone he knew! But family, nieces and nephews that knew and loved him, some old friends from church. Kind of appropriate - Dad wasn't a big crowds kind of guy. Liked his space. Sitting at home with Mom. Petting his dogs.

Tomorrow will be the start of a new chapter, no doubt about that. And we'll see where and how God leads. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Today first.

Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness to us. To Dad.
Thank You for all that You did for him through his life.
Thank You for calling, enlightening, sanctifying, and keeping Dad in the one true faith.
Thank You for making me his son.
Thank You for making me Your son, so I know I will see him again.
Thank You.