When I think of my dad, a smile usually comes across my face. He was a good man with a heart for God, full of integrity, and he had a contagious sense of humor.
I have many memories of my dad. One memory was when my dad took me fishing. It was the first time my dad had taken me and it was just us two. I was so excited to get this time with my dad! As the youngest of 5 children, this was a rarity. My dad had always instructed us kids that when you go fishing, there are two rules. Number one- no talking; you had to be quiet for the fish to “bite”. And rule number two- you catch it, you clean it.
My dad and I had about a 10 or 15 minute walk from our house to the fishing spot. I knew that once our lines were cast into the water there would be no talking until the walk back home. Being a female and gifted with words, I talked the whole way to our fishing spot. My dad didn’t say much as I recall. I believe it was mostly, “Uh-huh”s, and “Mmm”s and an occasional chuckle.
As we got to the spot and put the worms on our hooks and cast out our lines, true to my dad’s words, there was no more talking. There were times I was tempted to talk, but I knew if I was disobedient then there would be a discipline. Plus I wanted to do everything I could to make sure this time alone with my dad happened again! We had caught a number of fish. My dad’s went into a container with some water in it. Mine kept getting thrown back in because he said they were “too small to keep”. I was actually ok with that because as much as I wasn’t crazy about rule number one, I definitely was not interested in following rule number 2!
As the time went by I got a “bite” on my line. This time was different than the other times. This was stronger and much harder for me to reel back in. My dad even broke his own rule number one and started telling me, “Ok, reel it in nice and slow Sharon” and “Hold it tight. That’s it!” After we saw the fish, my dad was impressed.
I remember holding my pole in one hand, holding the line in my other hand, and watching the fish wiggle back and forth trying to get off. As I looked at “him” I could hear my dad’s voice in my head saying, “You caught him; you clean him.” I decided that I didn’t want to clean him, so I took the fish off the line and put him back in the water just like my dad had done with all my other catches. My dad must have not noticed what I was doing, because when he heard a splash, he turned to me and asked where the fish was. In a determined little girl voice I said, “Well you always say that if we catch it, we have to clean it. Well, I don’t want to clean it, so I put him back in for someone else to catch and clean.”
After my dad heard what I had to say, I remember watching my dad slowly hang is head down. I wondered if I was in trouble. Then he lifted his head and said, “You know what Sharon? You’re right, I did say that.” Then he really shocked me by saying, “In the future, if you ever catch a fish like that again, I will clean it for you.”
As I think of our fishing story, I’m reminded of a Scripture passage. At Matthew 11:28-30, it says “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” This Scripture reminds me of the fishing time with my dad because he saw that expecting me to clean the fish just because I was the one who caught it was too much for me to bear. Now, yes, my dad probably wanted to eat the fish too, however the truth is- he didn’t have to offer to clean any future fish.
I miss my dad dearly and look forward to spending eternity with him. And by the way, true to his word, my dad did clean all “worthy” future fish that I caught.