By Jim Denney
It’s Friday night, and I’m remembering my dad. He died five years ago, early on the morning of May 17, 2014.
Less than a month earlier, we had held a big birthday party for my mother. That was the last time I saw my dad.
His death came unexpectedly in the early hours of the morning. I had just spoken with Mom and Dad the night before, and everything seemed fine. We had a good talk and ended the call, as we always did, saying, “I love you.”
To this day, when I hear a story my dad would enjoy, I think, “I need to call Dad and tell him—” And then I remember . . .
But I also remember so many good times, and so many things he taught me.
I remember being five years old when he convinced me I was ready to ride a bike. I had my doubts, but I climbed onto that red Schwinn bike and made him promise he’d hold on. He said he’d hold on for as long as I needed.
I felt him steadying the bike as I peddled. Then, from a distance behind me, I heard his voice — “You’re doing it, son! You’re riding the bike!”
I looked behind me and saw him standing a good twenty feet behind me. I panicked. The bike wobbled and veered off the sidewalk toward a tree. I fell off onto the grass — and was amazed I wasn’t hurt.
I look up and saw Dad grinning at me. “You did it, son! Good job!”
“You said you’d hold on as long as I needed you.”
“And you were riding by yourself. You didn’t need my help anymore.”
I picked up my bike, climbed aboard, and took off, solo. My dad was right.
Some of my earliest memories are of him teaching me to memorize Scripture. There was John 3:16, of course, and Ephesians 2:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6, and all of the 23rd Psalm.
I later learned that he had read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation — not once, but at least forty times during his life.
He was the most Christlike man I’ve ever personally known. He worked for one employer, a bank, for his entire career. In the 1960s, his branch manager embezzled tens of thousands of dollars, and was in the process of framing my dad for the crime when the auditors caught him. My dad forgave him.
As Dad approached retirement, the higher-ups in the bank tried to force him out. They transferred him multiple times, and tried to make him miserable. Their plan was to get him to quit early and forfeit his pension. He continued doing his job well and refused to let anything get to him. And he forgave them.
There are very few people of whom you can say, “He had no enemies, not one.” But I can honestly say that about my dad.
In 2014, Dad was looking forward to meeting his first great-grandchild, Benjamin, who was in the process of being adopted. Mom and Dad prayed for Benjamin every day. Benjamin arrived in July, and Dad missed meeting him by about two months. But Benjamin knows that his Great Grandpa Denney was praying for him.
At Dad’s funeral, my daughter described his passing this way: “He went to bed that night, and he woke up the next morning in heaven.” Five years later, I still miss him every day, and I still find comfort in that thought.