Bitter-Sweet Father’s Day; Bitter-Sweet Days

Yesterday, June 16th, 2023, my Dad would have turned 77 years old. 

That’s ancient for a McWhorter man in my clan. My daughters do not like me to mention it, but fact is, genetics matter. They matter greatly. And to my knowledge, no McWhorter man in my clan has lived beyond the age of 72 for at least the last four generations, and perhaps well beyond. 

Yesterday was sobering for me. 


Although Dad was generally “healthy as a horse” the year before his colon cancer diagnosis, or so it appeared, a mere nine months after the dreaded “c” word slithered into his life, he was gone. He was 71. And that was six years ago. In most ways it feels like yesterday. But in some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. 

But for the first time since his passing from death unto life in Christ Jesus our Lord, yesterday it hit me: if McWhorter genetics mean anything, he wouldn’t be here today anyway. And of course, I understand God has ordained every day of our lives long before we even live one of them (Psalm 139:16). But, I am speaking from a mere human perspective. Just a man. Musing on life. On the eve of what our society calls “Father’s Day.”

Yesterday was sobering for me.

Yesterday, I shared with my wife this text message from the Atlanta airport, where Delta Airlines’ 4-hour delay out of New Orleans had forced me to “sleep” in a cozy corner of “the largest and most efficient airport in the world” (according to the advertisement that played all night long on the TV adjacent to my sleeping nook).

Can’t believe Dad would have been 77 today. That would have been a record for McWhorter men! Lol. Sobering. I have 20 years left, Lord willing. 

My wife responded:

I’ve thought about how little time we may have left too and it is sobering.

So, I want to reemphasize, yesterday was sobering for me.

But that’s life in a fallen world, isn’t it? Life, and death. All mashed together. Bitter. And Sweet. Bittersweet. My memories of Dad are 99% sweet. I have written about my hero extensively on this blog before. So, suffice it to say here that my siblings and I were ridiculously blessed with a hard-working, God-fearing, Jesus-preaching, life-engaging Dad who loved us fiercely every single day of our lives. Bathed in grace. Just awash in it, really. 

The last month of Dad’s life was bitter. That 1% (or probably less if we used precise math). But death cares not. Death is supposed to be bitter. It is, after all, a judgment upon Adam’s race for our sin. A few months before Dad took his heavenly flight, he said to me:

“Every bad and painful thing that happened to me in my life, I deserved, and far worse. But God has filled my life with so many good and joyful things, and these I did not deserve.” 

Dad never got over God’s grace, especially as it was lavished upon him in the eternal salvation of Jesus Christ. Jesus got justice on the cross in Dad’s place, so that by grace through faith, Dad could “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Confession). 

So, Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. And for many of you. But so is life. But in Christ Jesus our Lord, we can praise God for His “inexpressible gift” (2 Cor 9:15). Truth is, all because of Jesus, most days are sweet, even in this sin-wrecked world. 

God’s servant Moses wrote a poem. We call it Psalm 90. It begins by celebrating Yahweh as the refuge of God’s redeemed people “in all generations.” This God who is “from everlasting to everlasting” had smiled upon Israel. But then the Psalm takes an unexpected turn. Moses begins to lament death. “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of Adam’” (v. 3). Indeed, verses 3-11 are morbid! But then again, Moses saw so much death. An entire generation, minus Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness with Moses in the lead. Imagine being a Pastor who had to bury every single adult member of your church within a forty-year span. Talk about bitter.

But then a jolting conclusion is drawn: “So, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 11).

Then Moses pleas for mercy from God. He prays for renewed joy in the Lord. He dreams of God’s glory being shown in the here and now, and to the next generation (vv. 13-16). The final prayer is, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Sweet. So sweet.   

God established the work of my Dad’s hands. I am living proof. May God favor me, and us, likewise. 

And I only have a few decades, at best, to finish the work God has given me to do.

So, God help me keep my hand on the gospel plow and my eye on the Savior. There’s so much work still to do. So much I still dream of in life. So much sweet to taste even in the midst of a bitterly fallen world. And so little time. Such precious little time. 

Yesterday was sobering for me. 

So, I work. Until Jesus comes. And makes my joy full. And takes all the bitter away forever. 

“In Thy presence there is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).   


by Keith McWhorter