A “Passing the Torch” Article (originally published Feb. 2010)
My father, my cousin, me, and my aunt. Easter 1974
I’ll never forget the morning that my father addressed the Heath church of Christ for the last time. It was only a couple of years after doctors told him that he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). His body was now weak and frail and slouched in a wheelchair. His voice was slurred and barely audible. I was around six or seven at the time, but even a child knew that this was a powerful day.
He said something that morning that will stay with me for the rest of my life. “We’re all going to die, but I’m blessed to know that my time is coming soon.”
My father, Paul Nicklaus, was born and raised in Benton, Arkansas. He met my mother at Crowley’s Ridge College. She was a minister’s daughter who had already decided that she was NOT going to marry a preacher. Apparently, it was love at first sight.
Dad preached in the Benton, Illinois area for a few years before we moved to Kentucky. He attended the lectureships at Freed-Hardeman, preached in several gospel meetings, and loved working with the youth. His keen sense of humor and easy going nature made him well liked. Friends say he had a passion, love, and respect for the Word and if he were still living, would be well known in our brotherhood for writing and speaking.
Although, that Sunday morning was the last time he was in a pulpit, it wasn’t his final sermon. He continued to preach by the way he lived the remainder of his life, influencing the other residents at the nursing home, making the nurses laugh, or encouraging those that visited. That was his greatest sermon.
Dad died on a cold, December day in 1980. He was only thirty years old. His love for God and his faith in Christ live on in the lives of his children and grandchildren.
I see him from time to time in the eyes of my children, my brother, and my aunt. He comes to mind through the zeal and humor of friends, who themselves are Gospel preachers. I think of his love for the church every time I pick up a Gospel Advocate or Christian Chronicle. And rarely do I see a sign for a congregation of the Lord’s church and not think of him.
I became a Christian at the age of twelve in that same little church building in western Kentucky and try to drive by every time I’m in that neck of the woods. My father’s faith in the midst of great tragedy showed me that no matter what we’re faced with in this life, God’s comfort, grace, and plan for our future is even greater.
Dad was already in a wheelchair by the time this picture was made in the late 70s. He had to have help getting in the room for the picture.
We all have that special teacher or preacher who has blessed our lives. Share your thoughts or memories in the comments section or write a Pass the Torch article of your own. And never miss an opportunity to let someone know how they have touched your life.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.