Tuesday, September 29, 2015


My father lived a very full life of 94 years.  He started out as the youngest of four boys [not an enviable place in terms of ‘pecking order’].  He grew up in a two bedroom, one thousand square foot house located just 30 yards from five sets of railroad tracks in the little village of Tolono, IL.  His father, my paternal grandfather, was a section boss for the Illinois Central Railroad where my dad swung a pick alongside his older brothers – 8-10 hours a day for a dollar during the Great Depression [which, believe me, was not ‘great’].  He learned Morse code and applied for an Operator’s license.  He succeeded and was later promoted to train Dispatcher [think… air traffic controller for trains].  He married my mother and they raised a daughter and three sons.  I was the middle son. His wife, his children and his work were my dad’s world until he was introduced to Jesus as a 38 year old.  The Lordship of Jesus changed my father from the inside out… and a good man became a great man [as God measures greatness].  Ken Idleman Sr. became a Christ-follower, a churchman … and, as a result, an even better husband, father and provider.

I spent the last 48 hours of his life beside his hospital bed.  Dad’s lungs and heart were worn out.  But he was lucid right up to the last night of his life… as he fell asleep… and awoke in the presence of the Lord.  He taught me three vital life lessons in his last 48 hours:
  1. Legacy matters.  It is the one thing you leave behind that will survive.  You will quickly be forgotten after you die.  Just as you cannot remember the names of your great great grandparents, your posterity will not remember you.  But your influence will survive you… IF it is a legacy of unpretended devotion to what is right and true in God’s sight. 
  1. Love until the very end.  I remember how my dad looked at my mother as she left the hospital room on the last night of his life.  My own eyes took a picture of the expression on his face. He knew it would be goodbye for a while.  He would have to go on alone, without her, after 77 years of being with her, nearly every day.  And I remember the look on his face as he turned up on his side, managed a weak smile and said, ‘Good night K.D.’ It was his nickname for me.   It was the unmistakable look of love.
  1. Leave well.  I remember some of his last words to me… “ I would like to live longer [!]… But if it is my time to cross over, I am ready.  I am not afraid.  It is well with my soul.”  That testimony was absolutely the best gift my dad ever gave me.  In his hospital room he wanted it quiet.  No TV, no cell phones, no laptop computers. [I tried to get some work done as he quietly rested.  But he said, “K.D. I am going to need you to turn that off.”  It was so uncharacteristic for Dad to be that assertive.]  Curtains open, light on in the bathroom, door open to the hallway.  When on that last night I asked, “Dad, don’t you want to take your teeth out?”  He simply said, “Not tonight Son.” He knew. I pulled the sheet up over him and read part of Romans 8.  He labored for breath as he softly sang a verse and chorus of Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  I laid my hand on his and prayed.  He said good night and fell asleep… and as I reflect today I am thinking… what a way to go! 

Pray with me… Father in heaven, You have truly given us everything we need for life and godliness.  And we praise You for being our all- knowing, all-seeing, all-loving, ever-present, all-powerful God.  We want to praise You while we live and we want to praise You on the day mortal life slips away… giving way to the life without limits in Your presence that you have always wanted for us Your children.  In the Name of Jesus, the One who makes it possible, we pray, amen.

Pastor Ken

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