My father’s name is Kenneth Charles Copps. I say is because that is still his name, even though he passed away early in 2002. He was known as Kenny to family, friends and co-workers; but for the last 30 years of his life, I called him Bag. An unusual nickname you might say, and it was. I’ll save you the backstory as to its origin, and probably just as well given the ‘G’ rating of this blog.
I loved my Dad as much as any son has loved his father. In my eyes he was the complete package: hard working, patient, and possessed of a down-to-earth wisdom that guides me to this day. He was a family man first and last, providing for his wife and 2 boys with nary a complaint; and oh, how he loved to laugh. His whole body shook (picture a dog shaking itself off coming out of the water and you get a picture). It didn’t matter if you told him the joke or if he was repeating one for the 100th time, his laughter was a whole-body work-out.
I believe much of the happiness in my Dad came as a result of what he had overcome in life. As a child, frequent ear infections left him hearing impaired from an early age. This proved no deterrent in his schooling, as he graduated from high school at the age of 16.
He then entered the workforce as a tool and die maker/machinist apprentice. He worked his way through the training, making himself one of the best in his trade. Unfortunately, that did not translate into a high salary in those days, so he took on a second job as a dockworker.
It was at this job that he suffered a near fatal accident, as a cable broke on the crane that was off-loading material. The pallet crashed to the dock, glancing off my father’s head, crushing his right arm and breaking both his legs. The injury to his arm was devastating. The surgeons did all they could to save it, but remember this was 1958, and medicine was nowhere as advanced as it is now. Though he kept his arm, he lost use of his ring and pinky finger and worse still, the bone that allows you to rotate your palm upward was pulverized.
As he began the long process of convalescence, the doctors told my Dad he would never work again. But they didn’t know him! He worked feverishly on his re-hab, getting both legs back to full strength. What he was able to do with that right arm was simply amazing. He not only went back to work at his machinist trade, but he resumed participating in his favorite sport, bowling. The only change he made was to switch to a lighter bowling ball and even with it, he still excelled. Basically, those who didn’t know his story (and if he had on long sleeves), wouldn’t have realized that there was any disability there at all.
My Dad retired at the age of 66, having worked the last 17 years at a job that finally paid him for what his abilities were worth. He and my mother then had 5 wonderful years of retirement, tending to grandkids and their garden, traveling and relaxing.
Unfortunately, all those years of working around the metal dust of machine shops, along with his 30 years of smoking cigarettes, brought on COPD, something he would not be able to overcome.
By this time, I had sobered up and had begun to live a life that at least began to resemble the one my Dad had lived. A growing faith in Jesus Christ had been born in me as I realized He was the only answer for my addiction. My Dad, a once a week church attender, was nonetheless interested in what was going on with/in me in this regard even though outwardly he seemed content that his weekly attendance was all he needed as far as God went.
He welcomed my prayers for his healing as his disease worsened, to the point where he would allow me to lay hands on him as we sought a miracle from God. In my private prayers, I asked God to restore the health to my Dad’s longs, that he might enjoy many more years of happiness that I believed he had earned.
Yet, no matter how hard or often I prayed, Dad’s health steadily declined. I was deeply saddened as I watched him waste away before our eyes. Finally, the call came from my mother, he had been admitted to intensive care with little or no chance of coming out.
I spent most of the last 96 hours of his life with him as doctors, nurses and family came and went. We talked, while he still could; followed by him listening to me and lastly to just looking with deep affection at each other.
Not knowing why all my prayers had seemingly gone unanswered for healing, it occurred to me to ask Dad what was next for him when this struggle ended. He whispered, “I hope I’ve been good enough, I hope I go up to heaven.”
I have come to realize that what I said next was inspired by God: “Bag,” I said, “how would you like to know for sure what’s next.” I then briefly explained why Jesus had to do what He did; telling Dad that the forgiveness of God was a personal thing that the Lord had accomplished by dying for us and then being resurrected. “If you believe Jesus did that for you, Bag, and if you will ask Him to forgive you, you can know without a doubt where your next stop will be.”
A peace came to his face and eyes as he whispered, “Yes I believe, please forgive me Jesus.” Six hours later my Dad passed away, physically.
Later that night, with my emotions on a roller-coaster, I fell into a fitful sleep. It was then that God revealed to me His greater purpose. While I had been praying for my Dad’s health to be restored, God had been after his heart. I awoke realizing that God had answered my prayers after all! I had been praying, somewhat selfishly, to be allowed to have more time with my Dad. God, in His wisdom and immeasurable love, was making it possible that we could be together forever in heaven. My heavenly Father had indeed healed my earthly Dad.
If you are reading this and share in the assurance of eternal life through Jesus Christ, and if you get to heaven before me, look up my Dad. When you find him, ask if it’s ok to call him Bag. Then enjoy that full-bodied laugh.