When I was growing up I had the privilege of having a mom and dad
that loved each other. Oh they were normal parents in every way, they
had arguments, they made mistakes, but we kids knew that mom and dad
were in love. It was evident in the way they looked at each other,
the way they spoke, laughed, cried and submitted to each other. We
knew they loved us too.
My dad was a pastor and mom was the perfect pastor’s wife. His
greatest fan and biggest critic, mom stood by him and also did
Children’s church and VBS for as long as I can remember. Countless
hours were spent planning events, printing the bulletins, shoveling
snow, turning on the heat (building a fire in the old days), and
setting up tables and chairs. Countless hours turned into countless
years, serving God together was their greatest joy. Dad and mom
literally gave their lives for the Lord’s work.
As a child I wanted a dad that had a cool job like a logger, fireman
or policeman, a real man’s job! I was kinda embarrassed that dad was
a pastor. I didn’t want to be anything like him. All he did was work
and do stuff for other people and was, I thought for the most part,
A few years ago, at one of our regular family gatherings at mom and
dad’s house, dad and I were visiting and listening to a conversation
my mom and sister were having in the kitchen. Suddenly dad burst into
laughter. Surprised I said “dad, what’s so funny?” Referring to
something my mom had said to my sister he replied “I never knew that
about your mother.” He continued to chuckle finding great joy and
satisfaction in discovering something new about his bride of 56
years. “I said how could you not know everything about mom after all
this time?” With a sparkle in his eyes he said “Son, she still
surprises me, I’ll never know everything about your mother!”
All my life I guess I just assumed that mom and dad knew everything
about each other. They knew all they could know but yet there was
still much, much more to discover.
Having suffered several strokes and various other serious physical
aliments dad was now confined to a wheelchair and was living full-
time at a nursing home. Mom was there every day, several times a day.
They continued to share their life together. They would both tell us
“there is joy in this journey.” We experienced it too. We watched
them discover how to love and live life with this new challenge of
sharing life together but living apart from each other.
Christmas night 2006, they both came over to celebrate Christmas at
our house, the whole family and a few friends were there. It was
another memorable family celebration. After dinner, dad took a nap on
the couch and was wide awake when it was time to go. When he and mom
returned to the nursing home that night they were both compelled to
share the gospel once again with dad’s roommate. This time, when
asked if he wanted to give his life to Christ dad’s roommate said
“YES!” The attending nurse who was there also asked if she could
accept Christ! Yippee, two for the price of one! A couple of week’s
later dad went home to be with his redeemer.
It was a sweet time for our family, great family memories and no
regrets. Dad was no longer suffering; his life work here was
My parent’s life and testimony has impacted many. Dad did indeed
finish strong; with mom by his side they finished strong together,
sharing the gospel of Christ right up to the end. Dad loved my mom
and took delight in discovering new things about her; he loved people
to the point of personal sacrifice. Dad loved his Savior and took
every opportunity to tell others about His love.
Now, as a man, husband and father I would love it if I could be half
the man my father was, I want to be just like him. I want a marriage
like my parents had.
Gary & Cathy O’Neal own “For Keeps” pre-marriage and marriage
coaching in Coeur d’Alene