I know this is longer, but a couple of family members asked for it. Here is what I said about this time last week.
My name is Matthew Harris, and for those who do not know me I am Fred’s youngest son, and I am also a preacher. Yes, that means there are three preachers talking today at this funeral. So this may take a while.
I do feel compelled to say a couple of things about my dad. In part I am motivated by a funeral, I attended some time back. Everyone who stood up to speak talked about the man as “Strong willed” and “determined.” What everyone in the room knew and no one wanted to say was that sometimes he could be a hard-headed jerk.
Well, for those of you who knew my dad and loved him, you also knew he was a hard-headed jerk sometimes. He was strong-willed, stubborn and sometimes mean. I know that everyone here cared about him, and you each have a good story about him, but I am also sure you have some difficult stories too.
What I want to tell you this morning is behind that hard exterior was a soft heart.
Many things he did in life were motivated by goodness.
For example, you might know my dad loved to hunt morel mushrooms. He would do anything at times to get out into the woods. What you might not know is that my dad could not eat them. They made him sick to his stomach. I know he loved to hunt them, but he also found great joy in giving them away. He would bring them home for mom or his kids to enjoy. In a good year, he would drop them off to everyone he knew. For him, the joy was found in the finding and the giving.
You might also know that he loved to fish. He especially loved to walleye fish. He planned his year around it, and nothing would stand in his way. What you might not know is that the first thing he would do is put a big package of walleye in the freezer for this seniors group here at Church. He wanted to make sure he had enough to cook for them at least once a year. He then tried to get a package together for his card club or Sunday school class. He loved to catch fish, but he also loved to cook them for other people. He gave away much of what he caught.
You might know that my dad loved to trap. He spent many winters out in the ice and snow. He loved to catch animals on his trap line. What you might not know is that most of the money he made from trapping went to buy Christmas gifts for his family. He would work hard for the joy it brought him, but also for the joy it brought to his family.
It might have seemed that my dad was always hard-headed about what he wanted to do, but most of it had a selfless side you might not know about.
The second thing I know about my dad was that he continually repeated himself.
He had certain phrases he loved to say over and over.
For example, for as long as I can remember I have asked my dad, “What do you know pop?” He would always respond by saying, “It takes a big dog to weigh a ton.” Then when I got tired of hearing it, I would say, “Don’t you know anything else?” He would then say, “It takes a tiny dog to weigh an ounce.” Always the same.
Another thing he said over and over was after he fried his fish. While eating, he would say something like, “I will just put these on a paper plate and set them out on the table. They are good to walk by and eat all day.” He said it over and over.
My brother and I must have heard him say a thousand times, “Be nice to your sister, she is not the sharpest tool in the shed.” (I’m joking.)
One of the other things I heard him say the most was, “You know what the good book says, ‘Life is by the twinkling of an eye.’” He always said with such confidence and backed it up with some statement that this phrase was in the Bible. It wasn’t until I went to Bible College that I discovered that the Bible does not say that at all. What it says in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is “… in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
It is a passage about the second coming of Jesus. I don’t know whether dad just interpreted this passage his way or whether he heard someone explain it one way and he just believed it. He took that one statement and understood it to mean that the twinkling of an eye in that passage was speaking of this life on earth. He took it to mean that this life was a flash, a twinkling of an eye to be lived preparing for Christ’s return. He believed we should live every moment preparing for eternity, because this life ends quickly.
He lived this out in a couple of ways that I saw. After his first stroke, I went to visit mom, and I sat down in his chair. There to the left of it was a Bible. I picked it up and page after page of notes written in the margins. There inside was a Sunday school lesson. He was preparing to teach on Sunday morning. He read and studied and taught the Bible until he was no longer able.
He life and teachings made an impression on not only me but also my family. You see, the last time I was in this Churches auditorium was when my dad baptized my son. (Right up there behind me)
My dad’s life was a testimony of faithfulness to God as we prepare for eternity.
I know he was not perfect. Sometimes he was mean and self-centered. We are all that way. But behind that tough exterior was a kind man who loved the Lord. He tried to do his best through this life to be ready for eternity. I think he did a good job.