Funerals are for the living, not the dead. My congregation has heard me preach this many times. It is for us to remember and to help us move towards our new normal.
Yesterday we buried my father-in-law. And I had the honor of giving his eulogy. Honestly, my husband and I did not think it would be as difficult as we discovered. We thought we were ready. My father-in-law had been ill for a long time. And we knew he was ready to be free. But the weight of grief and sadness was more than we anticipated.
I shared this yesterday with this qualifier:
I am not sharing as his son but as his daughter-in-law and (in some ways) his pastor.
My FIL was an only child. He was born to Ernest and Clarice Bastien in Canada. They later moved to the States where he met and married his wife and they had four sons. Don was an incredibly talented craftsman. There is a story of him unassembling his car engine, cleaning each piece as he laid it out on a sheet, and then re-assembling the engine. According to “legend”, the car still ran. But his mother was quite upset about her ruined bed sheet. Don was also a gifted woodworker. He set up a small woodshop in his kitchen. And over the last ten years, he has made several handcrafted cars, trucks, and other projects for the grandchildren.
I have been part of the Bastien family for almost 31 years. Don and I had a unique spiritual bond. I find it difficult to articulate it to others. But when I close my eyes I see him sitting in the back row at the YMCA during the early years of our church plant. We talked about God in brief, stolen moments over the last 15 years. We talked about forgiveness, guilt, shame, and God’s presence. And I believe he would want me to share his heart and his faith. But to do that I have to tell the rest of the story.
My FIL was an alcoholic for 40 years. By the time I met Don in 1987, it was rare for a day to pass without intoxication. In 1992, I had my own spiritual awakening and I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. After a few months, I created a prayer list with Don at the top of the list. Each day I asked God for two things: his sobriety and his salvation.
One night I had an intense burden to pray and I spent several hours asking God for intervention. That night God’s peace came and it was as if God was saying, “you have what you have asked”. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things are becoming new”.
It would take almost ten years to see that prayer come to fruition. On February 8, 2002, Donald Bastien surrendered the bottle and gave his life to Christ. He received both sobriety and salvation in keeping with God’s promises.
I remember the day that he confessed his faith to us. Don was at our house working with Rob on his truck. Don stopped and said, “I haven’t had a drink in over a year and now I know what it means to have a personal relationship with God”. Then he went back to work. Later, he asked for forgiveness and then gave us time to heal.
We planted our church in December 2010. Don started attending and he came about once a month or as his health afforded him. He told me, “I go to the Catholic church for communion. Then I come here to learn about God”. During his last major health crisis, he shared that he spent each morning with God in prayer. He would sit at the kitchen table and pour over his devotional and scripture while he talked with God in is own words.
After Don passed last Sunday, we discovered his journal. It was written on yellow legal paper in classic “dad” style. Here is his testimony in his own words:
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
This is a day to remember. Today makes 9 years sobriety. One thing that I can honestly say I did this myself, and I’m damn proud of it. There are some people that never thought I’d make it this far. Guess I proved that I could do it. Don’t know about tomorrow, but today is good. I feel confident that as long as I can keep my faith in God, I’ll be ok. I know that without His help and guidance I wouldn’t be writing this tonight. I find myself talking to Him constantly, and thanking Him for all the little things. In the past, a lot was taken for granted, but today I know better. Things happen both big and little, that I just know with all my being that it happened because God wanted it to be. No matter what the situation, there’s always a time and place for it to take place. God watches over us at all times, and no matter what it is, God has a reason or purpose for us to do what we do. I drank a lot of years for a reason I don’t know why. But on February 8, 2002, God said I had had enough. It was time to stop drinking! My life has had many changes, some good and some that still need working on. Not unusual. Today I feel grateful for everything I have. God has always been good to me. But it’s just been lately that I can really realize how good, and I thank Him every chance I get. Right now is a good time for God and me to celebrate the good fortune I have because of Him. (But for the grace of God, there go I) Signed, Me
My FIL was asleep in a recliner for 40 years. Today he is wide awake and his faith has been made sight! See you on the other side of glory!