Published December 11, 2012
This past week was a difficult one for our family. My father, Rev. David P. Heil, went to be with the Lord on Tuesday morning, December 4th, at 2:20 a.m. "Pop," as we always called him, was 93 and had been in declining health for some time.
Saturday we had a funeral service labeled a "Celebration of Life Service" which one attendee later said was the most joyous funeral she ever attended. As we in the family greeted those who came, we heard countless stories from people who were married by Pop, who were comforted in times of grief by Pop, who found their lives changed because of Pop's ministry, and, especially, those who surrendered to the Lord under Pop's preaching.
The following is adapted from remarks I made at the service:
I'd like to add two small words to the "Celebration of Life Service" heading in the service bulletin. I'd like to this to be "Celebration of A life OF service." That lifetime of service is probably why you are here today.
If you read the obituary, you know that Pop originally wanted to be an accountant. He went to Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, studying toward that end. That was his plan. But, for this young man, God had other plans.
One day, while working at his desk in Philadelphia, the Lord made it clear to him that He wanted him to go a different direction. Pop says suddenly he saw doors closing regarding a possible CPA career. But the Lord began opening doors to ministry.
So Pop answered that call. At Temple University, he earned two Master's Degrees Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology. In 1939 he was licensed to preach in the Evangelical Congregational Church. His career would including pastoring at six different churches in that denomination, later serving as a District Superintendent in the conference. Preaching was Pop's lifetime work. I never knew him to have any other kind of employment.
In recent years, as he saw his health declining, he became rather frustrated. When his driver's license was lifted a few years ago for medical reasons, he became even more frustrated. But I think the reason he gave for that frustration was telling. Sadly, he told me, "...now I won't be able to help people anymore." And that was a major change. He had devoted his life to helping people.
During this period of decline, he gave me some sage advice: "Do all you can for others while you can. Because the time will come when you can't do it anymore."
Pop's favorite verse was Isaiah 40:31: "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
In recent years, Pop's strength continually diminished. In the last week or so of his life, he was very weak.
But as of 2:20 Tuesday morning, the Lord renewed his strength.
As of 2:20 Tuesday morning, he mounted up with wings like eagles.
As of 2:20 Tuesday morning, he can run and no longer be weary.
As of 2:20 Tuesday morning, he no longer needs a walker or a wheelchair he can walk and not faint!
2nd Corinthians 5:8 reminds us that, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We know that's where Pop is now. No more pain. No more confusion. No more frustration. No more of those things that dominated his life for the past few years. They're all gone overcome in Christ!
Pop is finally face-to-face with the One he spent a lifetime telling others about.
Sure, we sense a tremendous loss but just for now. As Paul said in 1st Thess. 4:13, we don't sorrow as do those who have no hope. We know we'll see him again and we'll have a lot more time with him there than we've had with him here.
The last time I talked to Pop when he was able to respond two days or so before his passing as I was about to leave his room I said, "See you later, Pop." Struggling to respond, he said, "Will you?" I said, "Yes, I will." And I meant it. By God's grace, someday I will.
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