Let me begin with an apology. I have no excuse for not writing anything for my blog since Christmas. It just didn’t happen. For those of you (if you’re still out there) who actually read this, I make no promises to write more regularly. I would like to, but I know myself too well.
Here’s the big news. It has been one week to the day since my father’s funeral. My dad, Larry Sayler, passed away on Sunday, March 22nd, from complications resulting from surgery. His death was sudden and tragic, and he will be missed greatly.
I had the honor to speak on behalf of the family at dad’s funeral. It was a difficult thing to do, and odd. Usually, as the Pastor, I can be somewhat disconnected from the raw emotions and grief experienced by those who come to the service. Not that I am cold and unfeeling, but usually I can maintain some distance which allows me to get through the service and minister to those in need. Not this time. And I am really glad that Dr. Marsh, the pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian did such a wonderful job. My job this time was different. Rather than help bring our attention to Christ and the promises of His gospel, I got to speak about my dad. I don’t know how well I did, it’s all just a blur now. But I thought I’d take a moment to share here some of my thoughts.
When we lose someone close to us, one of the things that we notice is all the stuff they left behind. As we sort through it, our thoughts turn to what we stand to inherit, and what we have already received. My brother and sister and I have been given so much from my father (both good and bad), and I thought I’d share with you just a few of those things.
I would like to blame some of my poorer attributes on my dad – would like to, but I can’t. Dad could be stubborn, when he made up his mind, there was no moving him. No matter how much his doctors said pushed diet and exercise, dad wouldn’t. I see in myself some of these same characteristics, and while I’d like to say that’s his fault, I know well and good whose responsible here.
But one thing I can say is that I have inherited dad’s sense of humor (or lack thereof). The first time Dr. Marsh (who I knew from Sterling College) preached at Eastminster, my dad, who was a member there, came to Dr. Marsh after the service and said, “I believe you know Ethan Sayler.” To which Dr. Marsh replied positively. Then my dad said, “I live with his mom.” Silence. That was how my dad introduced himself. His favorite movies was “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” and he and I would stay up late to watch Dr. Who. If you know either of the two, you will understand my dad a lot better (and me).
I have also inherited many qualities of my father that have made me a better man.
I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come by, called, or have written in the time since my dad’s death to say how dear a friend my dad had been to them. If dad considered you a friend, you knew it, and he would go to great ends to help you with anything you needed. To a fault, dad would give of his time, money, and wisdom to help a friend in any situation. He was a fierce and loyal friend, and I pray that I can be that kind of friend to those God has placed around me.
Dad was also a man of great faith. When I was younger, I didn’t understand this. When I was in High School, it kind of put me off – all those old books and old ways of thinking. But now I understand how rich and deep his faith ran. He loved Scripture, and had a daily walk with God through the study of His Word. Dad and I really connected when I was in seminary. He loved those conversations when I’d call to talk about what we were studying. Often, I’d email him at midnight a copy of a paper for him to proof-read, and he’d have it back to me in about 30 minutes.
He loved reading Barnhouse, Boyce, and even Calvin. He was a Five-Point Calvinist, and he knew his salvation rested in God’s grace alone. And dad loved the old hymns, didn’t care much for the new praise music, for him it lacked substance and meaning. That was dad.
Ultimately, dad was a loving and devoted husband and father. He never missed a concert, game, performance that Aaron, Amanda, or I were in. At every cross country and track meet, which had to be the most boring things to watch, dad was there, with his orange hat, cheering us on. He was incredibly proud of his children (and their spouses), and wasn’t embarrassed to brag about them to everyone. And then he had grandchildren. All TWELVE of them. They were his joy and delight, and he loved every moment he had with them.
That was dad. Even with all his bad jokes and stubborn ways, he was a man of loyal friendship, profound faith, and great devotion to his family. You might have been blessed to know him, but we were definitely blessed to have him as a father. As we remember dad, let us carry with him the very best of who he was.