This is going to be a strange Father’s Day for me, my three brothers and my sister. Our wonderful Dad, Bob Copenhaver, passed away on May 22. He went peacefully in his sleep, which was a blessing, but it was sooner than any of us expected even though he had been declining for several weeks. He was 89 years old. For the first time ever in our lives, there is no need to buy and send a Father’s Day card or gift for Dad. It will be the first of our “year of firsts” that follows Dad going to Heaven. It’s the first time in 68 years that Mom doesn’t have to fix him a special Father’s Day breakfast.
Which, as I write this (and the light bulb just went off in my head), is really cool! Not only is Dad in Heaven with his dad (our Papaw), but he has been celebrating an eternal Father’s Day with his Heavenly Father!!! And Dustin is there as well! That makes me smile! 😊
But I digress...let me get back on track…
The night before Dad’s funeral, the pastor of our church had the family get together with him to share memories of Dad/Daddy/Grandpa, even though he has been Mom & Dad’s pastor for 19 years and knew Dad well. He said he likes to do this because it gives him a sense of who a person is in their family’s eyes and hearts; it helps him personalize his message at the service. (You may have noticed I called it “our” church. Even though we all live in other towns, cities or states now, Baptist Temple Church in Uvalde, TX was our church home from birth until we left home. Mom & Dad have been there for almost 70 years, and it is that longevity that prompted this post.)
As I look at this picture, my heart is filled with love and reflection. You can see the church wall in the background beneath dark cloud-filled skies. The clouds look like an appropriate setting for a funeral, trying to put a damper on the day to match the sad occasion. But then you look at the faces in the picture, and they are smiling. These are the grandkids (all but 2), and although the occasion is somber, their hearts are full of their Grandpa’s love.
The night before, with the pastor, they had shared stories of Grandpa involving goats, under-age drivers, various ways to enjoy a summer day in water without a pool; hearing a bobcat at the farm (and not knowing if it really was one or if it was just Grandpa); getting to ride in his truck (and not knowing where you were going – to help a friend or get ice cream); helping him fix something (he was always fixing something); following his instructions to do something that was borderline dangerous (but doing it anyway because Grandpa said to and they trusted him); hearing him laugh, and listening to him tell stories. It was an evening of healing laughter and flowing love.
The building behind them is symbolic of the roots on which the Copenhaver family tree grows. Dad was a man of strong faith. He and Mom raised us in the church – going to Sunday School, summer church camps, being part of youth group or singing in the choir. Their faith was the foundation on which they parented. That did not mean that we were all perfect (far from it), but our parents believed what Solomon wrote when he said, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). If you were to ask my Mom if that’s true, she would say “Absolutely.”
And the roots get deeper and spread wide as the tree continues to grow. These grandkids, like “us kids”, spent a lot of time at Baptist Temple when they were growing up. In fact, almost all of them lived in Uvalde for several years. (The only exceptions were our two boys…being a military family, we never lived there.) Many of them are believers in Jesus because of Grandma & Grandpa. Our two boys accepted Christ at a summer church camp that Grandpa helped lead and were baptized at the church. He was an example to all his kids and grandkids of how a person of faith lives. And how faith is shared by the way one lives.
The tree gets thicker…Now these grandkids are grown, and many have families of their own. There are 12 great-grandchildren (so far), and the parents of these have a solid foundation and example of how to raise children.
And Dad’s love of God continues to be an influence…
Last November, Dad called Dean one day to ask for help writing a letter to the grandkids and great grandkids that would accompany their Christmas gift. He wanted to share how the love of 2 people (he & Mom) resulted in 5 kids, then 10 grandkids, and now 12 great grandkids. But the most important point he wanted to make in the letter was not how blessed they are to be in this family, but that Jesus is the most important person of all, and he wanted them to know how much more He (Jesus) loves them…even more than Grandpa! He wanted his gift to them to be an understanding of the importance of knowing Jesus.
So, the message of the importance of faith – having it as the roots upon which to build the foundation for your marriage, your family, your life – is the message Dad would want me to leave with you.
One of our most common pieces of advice for anyone is to be a fruit inspector. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit, and a good tree won’t produce bad fruit. So, if you are seeking wisdom from someone, be a fruit inspector and see what type of fruit their life is producing before you heed their counsel. My Dad’s tree produced great fruit! He was a server, a helper, a giver, a friend, a counselor, a witness for Christ, a mentor, and a Dad to more kids than the ones on our family tree. His harvest was abundant! How is the fruit that grows on your tree?
I’m fairly certain you didn’t miss the fact that our family was together in Uvalde, Texas. Dad passed away on May 22 – just 2 days prior to the horrendous shootings at Robb Elementary. We (Mom, Dean & I, and my brother Larry) were in town that day. I have shared two thoughts with people about that event. First, it is not a political issue of gun control that needs to be dealt with initially. It is helping build strong families by building strong marriages that will help our country heal and diminish the frequency of such senseless events and lost lives. Second, I don’t know what Heaven is like now (before Jesus returns), but I love to imagine my Dad completely without pain, standing tall and strong with no broken legs, arms, fingers or toes; able to see and hear perfectly. On the night he died, I imagined Jesus reaching down to take him by the hand as he drew his last breath. Then I imagined Dustin welcoming him Home with a big ol’ Dustin hug. Then, 2 days later on May 24th, I imagined Dad in heaven, standing by to welcome 19 children and 2 teachers as they came into heaven and greeting them with “Hi! Isn’t Jesus amazing? I’ve been waiting to meet him my whole life! I’m Bob and I’m from Uvalde, too! I’ve only been here a short while; would you like to explore Heaven with me?”
That’s the kind of giving man my Dad is.
Robert (Bob) Copenhaver
Feb. 23, 1933 – May 22, 2022
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