Father’s Day Without My Dad

My dad, Carol Ruff, died on December 25, 2012 after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in the summer of 2012. The remainder of the year was filled with doctors appointments, hospital stays, and tough decisions. I had the great privilege of preaching my dad’s funeral. I can’t say how many funerals I have officiated over the past 15 years. I can say however this one was the most difficult. This is my first Father’s Day without my dad. I have been thinking a lot about him lately. For some reason I don’t believe I have grieved his death. I want to share with you the words that I shared at his funeral service on December 29, 2012.

Growing up, we had a rather difficult life. We moved around a great deal. Dad was a dairy-farmer and this migrant, nomadic lifestyle caused us to live wherever there was housing. By the time I had entered the 7th grade, we had moved a total of thirteen times; from south Florida to the mountains of North Carolina. My dad battled many personal demons. He lived in two different rescue missions (Tifton, GA and Paducah, KY) for approximately eight years after his divorce from my mother. This was a rough time for him. During his stay at the mission in Tifton, he enrolled in a faith-based alcohol rehabilitation program. During this three month program, my dad gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ. I remember the day he called me to share the news. He was so excited. Needless to say, I was extremely excited and proud of him. Jesus made a difference in my dad’s life. The change was evident and real. Allow me to share that change with you. My scripture:

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:1-8)

The apostle Paul speaks of a change in natures. My dad’s nature changed as well.


My dad moved from serving himself to serving others. Up until that point, his life was all about him. If my dad had a bad day at work, he would quit. I can’t say how many times we moved simply because my dad got mad at his boss over something silly. In his new nature, after Jesus saved him, he began to think of others. He served and worked at the mission where he was a resident. He volunteered with activities at the church he attended.


My dad could stay mad at someone and hold a grudge better than anyone I knew. If you offended him there was a pretty good chance he would not forgive you. After Christ came into his life, he understood the need for and necessity in extending forgiveness. Why? He had experienced forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Dad had a desire to mend broken relationships. My dad and my brother Jason had not spoken to each other in a long time. He set out to make things right with him and with my mother. Forgiveness from above leads to forgiveness among others.


Let me qualify this statement. My dad loved us before he was saved. However, he could not properly love us until Christ took hold of his heart. He understood love finally and as a result relationships meant more to him. Again, the apostle Paul wrote about our new bodies and our new natures.

1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 5:1-5)

Paul’s words are most comforting. While we wait for our new heavenly bodies, while we wait to see Jesus face to face, we have a guarantee, or a deposit, of what is to come. That guarantee is the person of the Holy Spirit living inside every believer. I miss my dad today. I really wish I could talk with him. This is the first time that I have written about him since his death. Maybe this is the beginning of my season of grief. I hope so.

3 thoughts on “Father’s Day Without My Dad

  1. Happy Father’s Day, Stephen! I suspected that you had buried those emotions. There was just too much to deal with when all that was going on, When you returned, you pretty much jumped into you schedule, and kept going. You know that all you church family love you & your family. You have been available to me when I called, and I thank you ever so much ! Allow yourself to talk and to heal. Thank you for all you do!  


  2. Psalm 68:5 describes God as “A father of the fatherless…” yet another way He meets our individual need and will never leave or forsake us. I have an idea how difficult this day/week/month has been, and experienced similar feelings the first Mothers’ Day after losing my mom. I would angrily and resentfully turn the TV off when all the mushy commercials would come on, and I still struggle with it. Daily prayers for you continue. Grief is healthy and necessary and I pray you experience it and progress through it at your own speed and with God carrying you when necessary. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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