Thank you for coming. Thanks for your love, support, and shared memories. My guess is that many of you are here because of what I believe was my dad’s greatest quality. It was this: In the over 1000 rounds of golf I played with my father, I never saw him treat another human person without a measure of respect. Whether we were golfing with a person of means or a vulgar drunk, my dad would offer them a handshake and dignity.
Each of my siblings has been raised to work hard and do it with integrity. It was my Dad’s dad who said that if you lose your integrity you lose everything.
My dad was born the 4th of 4 children, 10 years younger than his next oldest sibling. My Grandma Lucille would make him cake and cookies for breakfast. (This is the same grandma who would later let me eat a whole pound of bacon by myself.)
Dad grew up in a home of a Veterinarian father who gave his life to his work. In high school, dad stayed out late and did his own thing, often spending late night hours working on cars. He was gifted at sports and in music, succeeding in high school football and basketball and singing in high school and into adulthood. After a less than stellar year at the University of Iowa, Dad regained footing when he took a year off to work, met my mom through his sister Donis, and soon was back in school at Upper Iowa University.
After marriage and college graduation, he began to work with his father-in-law’s farming operation and other businesses in Sumner, Iowa. For over 10 plus years, my dad honed his skills as a farmer. He gave his life to his work, but life as he knew it came to a crashing halt in the farming crisis of the early 80s. He told me a few years ago, it was one of the hardest experiences in his life. He felt like a failure as a man, and didn’t know how he was going to take care of his family.
To restart life, Dad began selling property and casualty insurance with Farm Bureau. Soon, the entire family moved down to central Iowa, eventually landing in Indianola in 1990.
Over the past 25 years this has been his home. He’s raised a family. He’s worked. He’s golfed. Along the way, he found ways to serve family, friends, neighbors, and clients. My dad was who he was. He never offered a limp fish handshake, nor changed his personality and opinions to fit in with the crowd.
He was Jon Proctor. My dad. Your friend.
But he wasn’t perfect. He made poor lifestyle choices, possibly the very choices that ended his life so early. Dealing with complex emotions and relationships was never his thing. I heard from one of his Farm Bureau employees from the early 90s at the visitation that Dad wasn’t the easiest guy to work for…my Dad could be demanding at times. And since he was a fix-it guy, I think he often found emotions and relationships to be a bit too messy.
I remember a few different times growing up when my dad would come and get me late at night and tell me I was driving to retrieve a sibling from some nefarious adventure. His line was always, “Matt, you’re driving; I’m too angry to drive.”
My dad was aware of his sins and shortcomings…he knew of his need for forgiveness. In fact, it was during the middle of the farming crisis that he put his faith in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.
Here are his own words from a letter he wrote me in 2012: “Before coming to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, life was a ‘roller-caster’ of emotional and spiritual ‘ups and downs,’ and it was difficult for me to understand what God’s mission for me was to be. Only after He challenged me with trials which I never thought I could ever have to encounter, did I come to discover that I truly had to place my faith in Him, because there was no way I could ever deal with what this life has in store without having Him guide me and to be the sole source of trust.”
My dad was aware of this truth found in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is one of the greatest truths in the Bible. It means that God offered His Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for sinful people. Jesus takes the penalty for our sins. He becomes sin for us. Though Jesus never sinned, was holy, and good, Jesus dies for sinners to make them righteous…justified. Those who believe in Jesus can be right before God. But it’s not our good deeds that make us right with God, it’s Jesus’ deeds. The only thing a Christian brings to the table with regard to their salvation is their sin. We bring nothing…we’re just beggars asking for the bread of forgiveness, and God grants it.
Today, we honor my dad. He had a fun personality, worked hard, and served many people. But let us not deceive ourselves. My dad did bad things. He sinned. He needed forgiveness. He needed grace. Just read the lyrics of the songs we’re hearing today. They are songs about a God who saves sinners. They are not songs about how impressive we are. Dad sang those songs because he knew truths like the one found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13
NIV 2 Timothy 2:11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
Those who die in Christ live forever with Christ. Even though we are faithless at times, God remains faithful. We must put our hope in God, for alone we are hopeless. The best way you could honor my dad today is to place your trust in the Savior and Lord He professed.
Today, my dad is gone. This is a tragic thing. There’s a special place in the human soul that longs to be close to their Dad. We want their blessing. We want their affection. We want to make them proud. I already miss my dad’s strong hands, gentle hugs, and insightful advice.
But a number of years ago, I was properly taught that only the heavenly Father can satisfy the longing of the human heart for a strong and loving father. Even at my dad’s best, he couldn’t satisfy the ache in my soul. My dad was flawed, weak, and broken. Only God is loving enough, powerful enough, and good enough to meet this need. God is the protector of widows and a father to the fatherless.
I turn to my heavenly Father for these longings, but I also hang on to my memories to not forget my earthly father.
I’ll never forget the special weeks a number of years ago when Dad helped me finish the basement in my current home so that his 3 grandsons could move in to a nicely remodeled bedroom (he did a similar project for my sister Heather). Dad took my oldest son golfing on a few occasions and found different ways to connect with each grandchild. As an adult, I’ve learned to frame walls, dry-walling, and an assortment of skills from my dad. More than anything, he’s given me the courage to tackle life and projects with great confidence.
One of the interesting things about my dad is though he helped his kids and friends in many ways, he always grumbled his way through the project. I would’ve swore that he hated every second of working on my basement. He groaned, whined, and complained, claiming he’d never do big projects again. Lo and behold, he continued to help others with projects.
Similarly, a number of years ago, we were moving my sister and we had all sorts of problems, claiming then, he wouldn’t help someone move ever again…only to help many others move beyond that claim. This was my Dad…a little rough at times…but a willing servant. I’ll miss him.
I’m thankful for my dad. I’m thankful for this person who taught me so much. I’m thankful my father was a professing Christian. For our hope lies not in our golf game, investment portfolio, or deeds accomplished. Our hope lies in promises like these from the lips of Jesus Christ: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”