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My Dad Died a Year Ago – Here’s What I Learned

 A photo of my dad and me when I was a year old.   This is a tough day in a tough season. My Dad died a year ago today. That last week, I sensed he was slipping and didn’t want him to die alone. So I pulled a chair into his room at the nursing home and slept beside his bed. His last …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

 A photo of my dad and me when I was a year old.


This is a tough day in a tough season. My Dad died a year ago today.

That last week, I sensed he was slipping and didn’t want him to die alone. So I pulled a chair into his room at the nursing home and slept beside his bed. His last words to me were to whisper my name softly in my ear several times.

He and I had a lot in common. But we were different in a lot of ways too. He was methodical and I’m more spontaneous. He liked classical music and I prefer jazz.

But one way in which we are very similar is that we’re purpose-driven. He was offered an appointment to the Pentagon and a probable promotion to general, but he didn’t see the purpose in being a “paper pusher.”

Realizing that he was more of a practitioner than administrator, he decided to take a job as a professor at the University of Missouri. 

At the age of 61, Dad was tired of the bureaucratic requirements of governmental regulations. Wanting to leave suburbia, he and my Mom decided to go back to their roots in the wilderness – specifically, the Gila Wilderness. And at that point, he and my Mom began the greatest adventure of their lives working as missionaries for 19 years in Kijabe, Kenya.

Dad worked in the pathology lab, seeing slides and blood work from some 60 corresponding clinics. He and and my Mom became beloved in the missions compound on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the beautiful Rift Valley. Dad’s birthdays were a special cause for celebration with a long parade banging on pots and pans through the compound.

He also felt called to return to Viet Nam to bring healing to that broken land. He developed great friendships in the medical community there, making 24 trips back to help train Vietnamese pathologists and blood bankers.

Interesting – I’m 61 years old now too. The same age as my Dad when he launched into a new adventure. As I look at his life, I take courage that, in this crazy virus-ridden world, there are new challenges for me. If my Dad could launch out and do hard things to bring hope to people, so can I. He gave me a lot of gifts, but that may be the greatest one.

Some of you knew and loved my Dad. Thank you for that. It has also been a gift as I’ve tried to live up to his legacy.

Comments (12)

  • Seth, Great tribute to your father…thank you for sharing this…really touched my heart. Blessings, Gary Grogan

  • Meeting your Dad will remain with Sola and I forever. Reading of his exploits in Africa warmed our hearts. Seeing you pour into him till the end was a great lesson, one we hold dear. Thank you for opening your heart…and pressing into Abba’s, regardless.

  • Brian and Cathy Gray

    Wow! Wish I could of met both of your parents! You sharing them has blessed and encouraged me as I am also 61. One day we will all be together! C.

  • Thank you for your vulnerability, Seth. I was glad to see your dad before he stepped across the great divide. Love you.

  • Bless you, Melinda. This is so hard! I pray that God watches over your grandma in this sheltering season. May she beat the virus and serve the Lord on the other side of that.

  • Seth,

    My heart goes out to you. My father passed away in 2006. I had the honor and privilege of being in his hospital room for 4 weeks before he died. I slept on one of those little chairs that fold out into a bed. It was one of the hardest times of my life but not the hardest. As you know. I also had that same privilege with my mother. I’ll never forget ever it is etched in my heart watching them both passed from this life to the next life. I am so sorry for your loss in the memories though they are beautiful does not take away the pain or the loneliness of not being with them anymore. I’ve been reading a book about crisis and Trauma and loss it took me seven years to be able to read this book and now on chapter 6 I had to put it back on the Shelf. Grief is a lot of work and it takes time. I wonder how different this grief would be if I was in a relationship with someone who knew these people that I lost. However I am in a relationship with the person who knew them the best and that is the heavenly father. May you be comforted by the Holy Spirit as he whispers in your ear how much he loves you Seth.

  • You got me in tears at the very beginning: “…I sensed he was slipping and didn’t want him to die alone.” This is what is tearing my heart in two…that my grandma is 92, alone, sick with Covid-19, and possibly dying alone. Death is difficult as it never was God’s original plan, but somehow it is made more human when we can hold the hand of our loved one and reassure them as they graduate. Some even reassure us!

    In any case, what a wonderful gift that you were able to spend that last week of your Dad’s life with him. Not doubt it was excruciating, but at the same time, I’m sure there was no other place you’d rather be.

    Thank you for sharing some of the details of his life. How encouraging to hear of the brand new adventure God had for him and your Mom at an age that some think is the time to settle in and avoid risks. I’m inspired!

    May Holy Spirit comfort and encourage you today as you reflect deeper about your Dad’s legacy.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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