The Essence of Love in the Epitome of Tragedy

I have been told by more than one source there is nothing more painful than dealing with the loss of a child. I have observed close friends as they have walked such a path. I have cried alongside my friends, but cannot even begin to imagine the depth of the sorrow they will forever feel in their loss.

Approximately 10 years ago the Oklahoma State men’s basketball program experienced the tragedy of losing 10 members of their staff and players in a plane crash. The university held a service to commemorate their loss during a home basketball game this past week. During the broadcast, a portion of the segment focused on one particular OSU player who died in the crash. His name was Nate Fleming. I would strongly encourage you to read an amazing article about his life and the life of his family as they struggled to deal with his loss.

I have been immeasurably blessed to have two daughters and two sons. The relationship I have with each is distinct and special within itself. However, there is undoubtedly a uniquely special relationship that exists between a father and son. I believe there is a burden on a father to cherish his daughters as he wishes them to be cherished by their future husbands. But a father has an inherent obligation to lead his sons to become men of character and integrity.

In all the twists and turns of Nate Flemings story and the intersections of his few years on earth, nothing was more touching to me than the love expressed by his father in the notes he would leave his son. I’m including below an example of a letter highlighted in the story.

Nov. 23, 1993

My Nate,

Sometimes it’s difficult for a dad to say the things he wants to say to his son who is so precious. There are always distractions that get in the way, and so part of the message is lost. I’m writing this down so I know you’ll hear it. You may and you do look a lot like me, but you were made in God’s image. As a child, you were perfect in every way. Truthful, sweet, optimistic, loving and ever-trusting. As a young man, He gives you the path that you choose. Human’s can’t give that choice. Not even daddy’s. You may choose the wrong path. A lot of us do. Making the wrong choice is not forever. It seems like it is. If you choose to be jealous, hateful or discontented, then you must suffer the pain that comes with that choice. Your life will be miserable, filled with anxiety about who you really are. You will be sad trying to be as good or as smart or as rich as someone else. You might even choose to be a middle-of-the-roader, someone who on the surface looks and acts confident. He might say the right things because he knows he should. All the while, he really doesn’t feel good about himself or who he really is. The real truth is that there is no gray area to live your life. It’s either black or white. Truth or lie. Honest or dishonest. The one who really gets fooled is you. I hope you’ll choose the right path.

You have so many gifts, My Nate. Be happy with who you are. Remember the game is won not on game-day, but in the work and preparation that leads up to game-day. Nothing can ever take away my love for you. My love and hopes for you are without end.

All my love,

Daddy

Wow. Just wow. Here is exactly what I thought when I finished reading this father’s precious letters to his son; when I ask my son about his day at school, when I tell him to pick his socks up off the floor, when I get on to him for arguing with his sister and when I tell him to get off the computer…am I really calling that parenting? Am I naive enough to believe that my mere presence as a peacekeeper is all it is going to take for my son to have an example of godly manhood?

If you read the article to completion you will see just how full of life young Nate’s few years on earth turned out to be. I don’t consider it a coincidence he was such an example to his friends and his community. You almost sense how Nate was empowered by his father’s love. It is not hard to imagine how easily Nate could see the similarities between his earthly father’s love and that of his heavenly father.

The bible has many examples where father’s are called to the the kind of love and instruction exemplified in this story.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged”.
-Colossians 3:21

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory”
-1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”
-Proverbs 3:11-14

Now, I’m going to wrap this up as I have a little catching up to do on a few letters of my own. I hope this story has encouraged you to consider doing the same.

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