If I ever officiate at a graveside service not properly dressed, I think my mother may come back to haunt me. She always made sure I had a nice trench coat for services done on a rainy day. And, she expected me to wear an acceptable wool coat for the chilly ones. When I packed for Charlie Goin’s funeral service in Oklahoma this week, I made a slight mistake. I grabbed the black wool coat from the closet that had belonged to my father. It’s the coat he wore during the winter months for the daily commute to downtown Chicago in the late ‘60’s. I was just a little guy in the first grade at the time.
When I put the coat on, I realized the sleeves were short. Could it be the fault of the dry cleaners? I promptly looked at the tag inside. I soon realized I was wearing my father’s coat. I immediately missed the comfort of my own wool coat. And then it hit me. Perhaps, now is the time to wear my father’s coat….
Charlie was only a few months younger than my father. He was born in 1926. Both men trained with the Army Air Corps during the final months of WWII. If the war had not ended when it did, they may have never returned home. Charlie made a huge impact in my life.
2018 has been marked by a number of funerals for me. Many of those services were for longtime family friends, or people from church that treated me like I was a son. Consequently, it has been an emotionally charged year. But as the year begins to wind down, I realize that it is time for me to wear my father’s coat.
It would be difficult to list all of the people, who are much older than me, that have shaped and influenced my life. Men and women alike, who are a part of my parent’s generation, have taken me into their hearts over the years. Each of them found ways to encourage me in their own special way. My biological parents have been gone for many years now, but I have never been without parental guidance.
It’s my turn now. Wearing my father’s coat at Charlie’s funeral turned out to be a good thing. It served as a gentle tap on the shoulder that my time of service has arrived. Now is my opportunity to give to the next generation. In fact, I think it is a primary role at this point in life. I will tolerate the sleeves being a little short, because now is the time to wear my father’s coat. There are people to encourage. There are fatherless men and women who need to know that an old guy out there cares. I have important work to do this winter, so before I leave the house I will grab a wool coat. I will wear my father’s coat.