I want to let you into a very personal part of my life: the story of my dad.
Early life and dreams
My dad was born in 1928 in Beckenham, south east London. Unfortunately Dad’s parents separated early on in his life, which affected his upbringing and education, alongside the struggle of growing up through the Second World War years, 1939-1945. He had a religious upbringing which he didn’t associate with happy times, so at the first opportunity, he turned his back on religion and matters of faith.
My mum had a similar story, only she came from an even poorer background. So, when my parents married in 1953, they resolved to create a family life free from religion, and a home which would become a loving and supportive atmosphere for their children to grow up in. Hence, my sister and I were provided with a stable positive environment at home, and were always offered plenty of encouragement to pursue our dreams.
The question of faith…
My sister became a Christian around the age of 16, which came as a surprise to the family. Perhaps even more of a surprise was me then also being born again at the age of 16, and my mum at around the same time. Dad was supportive as always, but still not at all interested personally in God and church. He championed me in my sporting endeavours and my education, and my parents were both very proud when I started medical school and eventually qualified as a doctor.
As life progressed, Dad still showed no interest in Christianity. Meanwhile, my career turned a corner in 1988 when I was asked to lead a small church at the same time as being a full time GP. As the church grew it took up more and more of my time, so in 1991 I made the decision to work half-time as a GP, and the rest of the time leading the church. Again, Mum and Dad were supportive as always, but perhaps a bit disappointed in this turn of events.
A new life in Christ
At Christmas in 1992, we held a family gathering at our house, and Dad asked if he and Mum could stay one more day in order to come to our church on the Sunday to hear me preach. He was interested, he said, in seeing that part of his son’s life. I already had a sermon prepared called “How much did Christmas cost the Father?”. It seemed very appropriate, but I was somewhat nervous.
That Sunday, I finished my sermon and asked if anyone in the meeting wanted to receive the new life that Jesus offers. To my absolute surprise and delight, my Dad walked to the front of the meeting towards me. There was not a dry eye in the room as we hugged, and then he prayed, and was gloriously born again on 27th December 1992. On that day Dad’s spirit became alive; John 3:6 tells us “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” He was spiritually alive, and he went on to bear much fruit in his life as he and mum pursued God together.
Mum died of cancer in 2006 and although Dad missed her enormously, he still pursued life with vigour. He would visit our family and stay with us in Kent, and he thoroughly enjoyed being around Eastgate Church as it grew and developed. In fact, he was there on that special day when we finally opened the Eastgate building – one of the four generations of our family who attended that day. What a legacy he built with his life.
A few years ago it became clear that Dad’s memory was starting to fail, and it was with great sadness that we saw him deteriorate into severe dementia. That vibrant mind became dulled by an evil reality. However, the fruit of the Spirit remained evident in his life and he continued to bring joy and pleasure to those around him.
When we were together, he and I, we enjoyed praying with one another, and as Dad’s mind descended into the grip of dementia, I made sure that we kept up this great habit. I insisted that I wouldn’t just pray for him but with him and with an understanding that his spirit was undiminished despite the struggles of his mind, I noticed that when we prayed, he was somehow more alive.
In the early part of 2019, Dad’s deteriorating health made it necessary for him to move into a nursing home. He was welcomed into his new home, Eckling Grange by the wonderful staff there. As a Christian care home, they provided opportunities to worship on a regular basis for all the residents to enjoy. Dad certainly engaged in these sessions with gusto, belting out the old familiar hymns he had come to love (a great act of redemption). Of course whenever I visited Dad, we prayed together and he would bless his whole family.
The end or the beginning?
On 29th August 2020, I went to visit Dad for the last time on earth. The nursing home had advised the family to come quickly to say our goodbyes, as his health was obviously deteriorating rapidly. I went with Kim, my wife, who was also close to Dad, and we sat with him, talking lovingly, recalling family memories, holding his hand and praying for him.
After a while, Kim said her goodbye and left me alone with Dad, just him and me. I thanked God for his life, his legacy and also his future, and as I sat there the enormity of eternity dawned on me powerfully. This was the ultimate part of a victorious earthly reality that was about to translate into a heavenly one. In that moment, I felt God challenge me about my eternal perspective: the ultimate goal of Christianity is to enjoy God throughout eternity and this life is just a prelude. So when did Eternal life start for Dad? Eternal life actually began for him on 27th December 1992. Was my Dad really dying? Certainly his body and mind were fading fast, but what about his spirit? Suddenly I recognised that Dad is a spiritual being and he was about to get a new body, an eternal one. His earthly body was dying, but his spirit could not die; in actual fact it was entering into new realms of life. I also realised that I had been praying for Dad and not with him, yet he was no less able to pray in the Spirit and bless me than he had been before. In fact I became certain that at this particular moment in time Dad would want to bless his family more than ever. Not only that, but Dad’s closeness to heaven probably made him even more powerful spiritually.
So, right there and then, I decided that I would ask my Dad to bless me, his whole family and our respective churches, certain that something very significant would be imparted to us. I had no clue quite how to do that, as the idea had never occurred to me before, so I decided to simply hold his hand, stay quiet and open up my spirit to receive from his spirit. And something happened! I cannot describe it, but I know that I received an impartation that was not just for myself. After a few minutes I let go of Dad’s hand and stood up. It was finished.
I watched for a very short while. Despite his frail body and failing mind, there was no disguising this spiritual giant, whose impact upon me and this world has been profound, and whose legacy will endure. Eventually, it was time for me to leave the room and I knew what I was going to say in my last earthly words to my wonderful Dad.
“See you later Dad”
“OK” he replied clearly.
Dr Pete Carter