My father, Axel Raymond Gustafson, was born to Swedish immigrant parents in Aurora, Illinois, on September 18, 1914, and died on March 1, 2008. To me, he was always an energetic, larger-than-life figure.
When I was a rookie freelance artist, my parents were visiting us from Oregon, and my father overheard a telephone conversation between an art director and me, in which I was hesitating about taking an assignment. I finally decided to take the job, and when I got off the phone, Dad asked, "What were you hemming and hawing about?" "Dad", I answered, "I'm not sure I know how to do what they're looking for!" That's when he gave me the best advice of my career. He said "Why don't you just accept the assignments and then learn how to do them?"
My father lived his life that way -- without fear or hesitation. When he was pastor of a church in Southern Washington, he took on the task of renovation the church building, and with the help of some other volunteers, did a beautiful job. Nobody told him he wasn't a builder.
Later, when Dad was pastoring in Northern California, he saw the need for a Christian School, so he found a way to get one set up, and served as principal of a thriving school for several years.
Then, toward the end of his life, Dad stepped into his most challenging role as caregiver to Mom, when her body and memory were failing, and we saw in him a patience we didn't know he possessed.
My father was always intensely interested in heaven, and even more so after Mom went there. Shortly before he joined her, he told me, "I think about heaven all the time; that's all I think about." (This was, of course, after the Superbowl, and before March Madness.)
Dad loved the words of Jesus:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
In my Father's house are many mansions:
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."