“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
In 1980, my dad heard someone sing the Aaronic blessing.
He’d soon learned the song and began to teach it to the congregation at his church, Calvary Chapel. Then dad, who ended every sermon with a blessing, began to implement the Aaronic blessing at the end of each service. After a benediction he would pray, and then he would sing the Aaronic blessing a cappella with the churchgoers singing along with him.
I was married in May of 1980. My father chose to both walk me down the aisle and perform the ceremony. Then he and my mother commandeered my wedding plans. I had wanted a small wedding at my brother’s church. They wanted a large wedding at Calvary with the whole church invited. I chose and mailed invitations to select friends and family. My dad put an announcement in the church bulletin, inviting all the congregants to come. Brian and I chose a couple to sing our favorite songs at the wedding. Dad politely dismissed them and asked another man and young women to sing my mother’s and his favorite songs from Fiddler on the Roof.
It might sound like they hijacked my wedding, and they did to a degree, but I was their youngest child and their last opportunity to have any input into one of their kids’ wedding ceremonies. Brian adored my mom and dad and wasn’t about to tell them no. So Fiddler on the Roof it was, and the whole church was invited. Two thousand people came on May 23 to watch Pastor Chuck’s youngest daughter get married.
My mom and dad had one more surprise for us. Mom later told me Dad shared the idea with her, and when she agreed they were both excited about it. At the end of the wedding ceremony, when Brian and I turned to face the audience, Dad presented us as Mr. and Mrs. Brian Brodersen. Then as soon as the applause died down, he began to sing in his beautiful baritone voice, “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee…” The whole audience rose to their feet and began to sing it over us. It was awesome. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Just before my father died, I longed for him to bless me as Jacob in the Bible had blessed his sons.
However, I never had the opportunity to voice my desire. Dad was so ill with cancer, but he kept trying to push through and minister to others. He just added a myriad of doctor appointments, radiation, and chemotherapy to his already brimming schedule. I didn’t want to be one more demand on his life.
Then one Friday, after I’d taught the women’s morning Bible study, I learned he’d been readmitted to the hospital for cellulitis. I picked up a hamburger for his private nurse and went straight to the hospital. My oldest brother was already there, as well as Dad’s nurse. In the gentlest way possible, the doctor told my dad his body was riddled with cancerous tumors, and he gave him six weeks at the most to live. Dad was nonplussed at this news. He smiled at the doctor and thanked him. Then he asked him when he could eat again. The doctor freed him to eat, and he took the hamburger from me and relished each bite.
On Sunday, on oxygen and holding the podium for support, Dad preached his last sermon three services in a row. I was waiting at his house for him when he got home. He looked pale, weak, and stricken, and he went straight to bed. Though he was 86 at the time, somehow I still thought he would beat the cancer.
On Monday and Tuesday, he did his daily call-in radio program from his house. On Wednesday I woke up crying. I went to a surprise birthday party for a dear coworker and friend, but I couldn’t stop tearing up. On the way home I turned on the radio to reassure myself that Dad was okay, but he wasn’t on the radio. As soon as I got home, I called his house and talked to his nurse. She told me he wasn’t doing well, and my daughter and I rushed over to see him.
Dad was in his room, sitting in a recliner, hooked up to his oxygen and blood pressure monitor. Although he appeared to be sleeping, he was slipping into a coma. Periodically his nurse would ask him if he was in any pain, if he wanted food, or if he was ready for a visitor. Dad would open his eyes and use all his reserves of strength to shake his head no.
My daughter and I sat on the floor just resting our hands on him. We were silent for the most part, only expressing our love to him in soft voices every now and then. My cousin and his wife came in, and we held hands and stood around my dad. We prayed. Then my cousin, a musician, suggested we sing over him. He began to sing a song, but unfortunately none of the rest of us, not even his wife, knew it.
Looking at me, my cousin asked, “Don’t you know this song?”
I said, “No, but I know this one.”
I began to sing the Aaronic blessing over my father.
He opened his eyes wide and sang with full gusto, leading us all in the ancient blessing of grace.
As soon as he sang the last word, his eyes closed, and he seemed to sink deep into the coma. We remained there for a few more hours, but Dad never woke, responded, or spoke after that song. It was dark when we finally left his home.
At three in the morning, the telephone next to my bed rang. It was my brother, explaining to me that Dad was now in the presence of Jesus. Perhaps it was the way he expressed it to me that made me say, “Praise the Lord.” It might have been the assurance that Dad was now in glory. He was freed from the confines of his weakness, machines, and the cancer. He was glorified and in glory. His corruption had put on incorruption, and his mortality had given way to immortality.
It was about a week later when my cousin approached me, saying, “Do you realize we were the last people to hear your dad sing? Steph [his wife] and I talked about it on the way here. What a miracle! Think about it. He sang a blessing over us!”
Then it hit me. I had wanted a blessing from my dad, but I chose to sing a blessing over him. Yes, Dad took over the song, just like he took over my wedding plans, but he gave the greater blessing.
God’s grace is the greatest blessing we can give to anyone.
Grace and Peace,