This post is an adaptation of the eulogy I read at my father’s funeral on February 2, 2019. It’s of an intensely personal nature so it may make some readers uncomfortable. I hope my story is encouraging to those who have also loved and lost, but I won’t be offended if you decide to skip it.
Connecting Via “Lemonite”
Order an Arnold Palmer at your local bar/diner/restaurant and you’ll receive a non-alcoholic drink named for the famous golfer who invented it. It’s half iced tea, and half lemonade.
Not to be outdone, my Dad made up his own special drink which he ordered every time we went out to eat.
Whenever a waitress asked for our drink orders, he’d consider his options, then say, “Can you make me a half lemonade and half Sprite? I call it Lemonite.” Then he’d pause for effect. “Or Sprite-Ade. I copyrighted it, but you can use it if you want.”
Usually the waitress would laugh a little and then return later with the drinks saying, “I have a Coke, a coffee, and a… “Lemonite,” to which Dad would beam.
I’ve tried Lemonite, and it’s not that good. It’s kinda like battery acid or anti-freeze. And I’m not sure he even liked it. My Dad preferred Root Beer any day of the week! Why would he do that? It’s weird.
For the last 20 years or so of his life, he drank that gross drink instead of root beer because it was his quick and easy way to make a connection with the servers. That’s it!
As a pastor and chaplain, my Dad’s humor helped him connect with people. It opened doors that allowed him to show God’s love to the hurting and lost. That’s what he was made for, so that’s what he did.
Connecting with Kids
Dad had plenty of gags like this. And he had a whole trunk load of them for the kids. He had a bunch of napkin drawing jokes he could do. (ABCD Fish? MNO Fish! – Ask me about it sometime. I’ll show you.) He had a barrel of riddles and gotchas like this one:
DAD: What does J-O-K-E spell?
DAD: That’s right! What does P-O-K-E spell?
DAD: Right! What do you call the white of the egg?
DAD: Nooo! The white of the egg is called “the white of the egg!” The yolk is the yellow part.
But his greatest way to connect with kids was with his Donald Duck voice.
Dad did a killer Donald Duck voice. When we went to Walt Disney World together, he did it to the real Donald Duck and they both nearly fell over laughing.
That voice was his favorite way to quickly make friends with every kid he met, and they couldn’t help but love him when he did it. (Never mind that a lot of kids don’t know who Donald Duck is these days.)
Dad and the Duck
Dad truly loved Donald Duck. I wonder if that’s because he related to him in some way–as though he saw something of himself in the duck.
Like Dad, Donald always meant well. Whether he was decorating the house for Christmas, going on a bike ride with the nephews, getting ready for a date with Daisy, or mowing the lawn, Donald’s attitude was positive and ready to make things great for everybody else…
Those stupid chipmunks would come in and mess everything up!! That’s when Donald’s other identifying characteristic would show up, his temper.
Like Donald, Dad had a temper. Many of people who knew him as a pastor, hospital chaplain, counselor, or friend knew fun and caring Pastor Fred. We lived with him.
But also like Donald, Dad’s temper, no matter how bad it got, was soon forgiven by those he loved–a grace he never took for granted.
The Parables of Jesus
When Jesus was on earth, being “God with us,” healing and teaching, showing The Way, he often taught in parables. Parables are stories about ordinary things that don’t appear to be about God’s Kingdom, but really, they are.
There’s the parable of the lost sheep, the sower and the seeds, the parable of the talents, the prodigal son, and the lost coin. Jesus used these simple stories to communicate something of far greater significance and meaning which guides us toward faith in God even today.
The Parable of the Duck
I’m going to share with you a new parable from an unlikely place. This story is surprisingly deep considering the source. But I’m hoping it will communicate to you something very powerful about God’s Kingdom and my father’s lifelong faith.
Watch this video with your heart. Then read on below to understand its meaning.
The Parable Explained
Cute, huh? This was the last text message my Dad and I shared together. He was in his hospital bed suffering a slow and uncomfortable death.
Wanna know his response when I sent it to him? “What a quack up!!” No kidding. I have it saved right here on my phone.
So what does this amusement park commercial say about God’s Kingdom? What does it tell us about my Dad’s faith?
So much more than you think.
It tells us to Love God’s Word – The Psalmist writes, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103 NIV).
Like that little duck loved that comic book, my Dad loved God’s Word.
It tells us to Be Like Jesus – Paul said, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).
Like that little duck, my Dad saw what his hero, his Savior, did and did all he could to be like Him.
It tells us God is With You – The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
The storms came for that little duck, and my Dad as well. But even in the darkest times, God’s Spirit was close at hand.
It tells us The Sheep Know The Shepherd’s Voice – Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:14, 27-28 NIV)
My Dad not only knew the duck’s voice, He knew his Shepherd’s voice and followed him faithfully.
Finally, the Parable of the Duck tells us that A Kingdom is Prepared – Jesus told us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to aprepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3 NIV)
On January 17, 2019, like that little duck, my Dad also ran into the arms of the One he loved, his Savior, who embraced him and welcomed him into his promised reward.
My father believed this with his whole heart. His faith led him to seek God passionately throughout his life, to humble himself and repent, and to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
I’m so full of incomprehensible joy knowing that he shared that faith with me, and you, and everyone he met – even if it meant using Donald Duck’s voice to do it!