My Dad died ten years ago. There hasn't been a day since then that I don't think about him, and miss him. He was a minister, in the Lutheran Church, one of the more liberal and progressive synods of the Lutheran Church. At his funeral, three of his colleagues and the bishop all gave eulogies, which was powerful, because it gave us - his five sons - a picture of how highly his colleagues and peers respected him - a side of him that we didn't really know about. For months afterwards, my brothers and I would get notes and emails from names we barely remembered - members of the churches whose lives my Dad had touched: "your Dad saved our marriage 20 years ago" and "your father performed a funeral service for my son when my own pastor would not," and similar stories. These were stories that we kids didn't know about, we were too young, but we would ask my Mom whenever we got these cards or emails or notes, and she'd have to think about it before she remembered, and then she'd say, "Oh yes, that was so-and-so, and your Dad did..." whatever the story was. All these things he did, and that was his job... and we didn't know, he was just Dad to us. He left behind a legacy of the lives he had touched, and now we were hearing back about them. It was incredibly powerful.
One time we were talking about some of his old parishes and the congregations, and I asked him out of all those years, and all those parishioners and their issues, what stuck out most for him, what was the most important role he performed? Without hesitating, without having to think about the answer, he looked me straight in the eye, and said "Being a father to my boys; raising my sons."
When I came out, at first he thought I was playing a joke, or going through a phase that would pass, but finally he said, "I don't understand it myself, but it doesn't matter; you're my son and I have always loved you, I love you now and I always will." And that was that. A year or two before he died, I asked him what he thought about same-sex marriage, and he answered honestly: he didn't know; he'd have to give it some thought, it was a new idea and he had never had to consider it (he was already retired by this time). But he took the marriage vows seriously - in his mind, he was joining two people together spiritually and forever, as the marriage vows state, and that this union was approved by God. Dad's role was merely to see it carried out. He would not perform a marriage ceremony unless the couple first agreed to and completed 8 weeks of pre-marital counseling with him. Two of these sessions would take place in his office, at our house, and we always knew when that was happening... "someone from the church is here" which meant no bothering Dad if his office door was closed. Now, we were a family with 5 rambunctious boys - loud, competitive, fighting as often as playing. Why would Dad require two of these pre-marital counseling sessions at the house? We didn't know this then, but he wanted to see the couples' reactions to the noise of children doing what children do - play, fight, squabble, run around, make noise... act like children. He wanted to see how they'd react. He took this part of being a minister with all seriousness.
After his funeral, I was standing near the door to the chapel, it was snowing outside, but one of the attendees came back from his car and talked to me at the door. He was one of Dad's caretakers in the last few weeks before he died. He asked me if I was one of his sons, and which one, so I told him. He said the most amazing thing - "your Dad said you asked him a question once about getting married and he didn't have an answer back then. But he said to me that he had thought it all over, and that you should know, he was fine with it, he didn't see any reason not to perform a marriage for anybody - as long as he could be sure the couple was taking the vow seriously, it didn't matter to him what sex or gender they were."
I cannot tell you what it felt like to hear that, and in those circumstances. But that was my Dad. Yes, I miss him, terribly.