I sang for my father

Sorry folks.  The title of my blog today is an obvious rip-off, playing on the name of the famous stage play and feature film (1970) by Robert Anderson, “I Never Sang for My Father.”  I confess I missed the film in the 70s (too many other things going on in my 20s…) but saw it recently with my wife in an off-Broadway production.  If you missed it too, I’ll describe it briefly.  The play hits home for many who struggle through a final season of life with an aging parent.  Walls of resentment, bitterness and regret block a college professor’s (Gene Hackman) final attempt to reach his father (Melvyn Douglas) who cannot come to terms with the way his children have lived their lives.  Depressing, huh?  And what does this have to do with a blog on BibleSettings?  Well, read on.

Just this Friday past, I had the wonderful privilege of sitting with my father through the final moments of his life.  As my brother and I watched him reach for his last breaths, we held tight to him and to each other, thanking God for the influence of this remarkable man upon his sons.  Yeah and, by the way, I did sing for my father.  I used to sing a lot in an earlier life.  And though the talent was marginal, dad always delighted in whatever I produced.  A pastor, he frequently took me along for funerals, weddings and special services to provide music.  What in fact he was trying to do was to give opportunity for me “to use what God had given me for His glory.”  Things like this were important to dad.  “God gives us things, and He expects a good return on his investment,” he’d say.  So I sang for my father.  And then in 1992, Dad joined me in Israel on one of my trips.  It was the first time he’d been out of the country since his service tour in Europe during World War II.  Dad, a “homebody,” took a chance that this pilgrimage to Israel guided by his eldest son would yield something for him.  What pleasure it gave me to watch dad delight in the sites and sounds of Israel!  He struggled a bit to keep up with the physical side of things, but spiritually and biblically, the trip opened up new vistas of understanding for this man who loved the word of God.  And then some months later to hear mom describe the changes in dad’s preaching and appreciation of the Bible as a result of that trip?  For me, that was heaven.  It was like singing for my father all over again.

I wish you could have known this man who was responsible for so many good things about me.  But alas, a blog format cannot contain the description.  Perhaps the following short biographical sketch which I wrote just this afternoon for his memorial might help a bit.  He was such a contrast to the character in Anderson’s play.

John Robert Widbin, 88, native St. Louisan, youngest son of Frank and Bertha (Mueller) Widbin, World War II veteran (European theatre), successful businessman, loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and treasured by countless friends throughout the world, passed from this earth into the presence of his Lord on Friday, July 20th.

Though Bob had no formal ministerial training, at great effort he became a superb pastor, theologian, and churchman in the truest sense of the terms, serving three congregations over more than a half century of ministry.  More importantly, together with his beloved wife, Lois, he loved God and served Him with a passion that reached unfathomable proportions in faithfulness to Christ, uncompromising devotion to the Church, and an availability to people that defies description.  Many owe their livelihood, their marriages, the well-being of their families, even their very lives to his well-timed intervention and compassionate influence.  No one could have known Bob ‘just a little bit.’  To know him was to know him well, for he shared his inner life and his radiant smile so naturally.  Even advancing years could not erode his spirit.  Surprisingly, they left him free of bitterness and regret.  He lived his later years as he had his earlier:  youthfully and vigorously attending to others.  And in the end he faced his eternal destiny confidently and without fear.

We shall miss him terribly.  He simply was one of those remarkable individuals who just made everyone and everything better.  The work he leaves behind lives in eternity.

That is the kind of person I want to be as the years catch up with me.  Maybe this week you take a good look at the influences for good upon your life?  Whether a relative, a friend, a teacher, a parent.  Be that kind of person for those who come behind you.  And don’t forget to sing for your father while you can.

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