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The Blessing of a Written Tribute

with Bryan and Stephanie Carter | November 21, 2006

Today on the broadcast, Bryan Carter, the senior pastor at Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, tells Dennis Rainey how he honored his father with a tribute which he presented to him on Father's Day. Joining Bryan is his wife, Stephanie.

Today on the broadcast, Bryan Carter, the senior pastor at Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, tells Dennis Rainey how he honored his father with a tribute which he presented to him on Father's Day. Joining Bryan is his wife, Stephanie.

The Blessing of a Written Tribute

With Bryan and Stephanie Carter
|
November 21, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

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The Blessing of a Written Tribute

Bob: It was a number of months before Bryan Carter's father went home to be with the Lord.  Bryan wrote and presented a tribute to his dad.  Today he looks back wondering, "How would I feel if I hadn't written that tribute?"

Bryan: I probably would have had a lot of regrets, because I never would have cleared the air.  You know, our relationship wasn't perfect, but the tribute allowed me to clear the air with my father.  You know, I had a new view of my dad.  He wasn't just a man.  I could celebrate him, because I truly loved him.  It was authentic.  I didn't have to make anything up, because I knew my dad.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 21st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we'll hear how the decision to write a tribute deepened a relationship between a father and his son.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We're talking this week about one of your life messages, and it's interesting that as God impressed this life message in your heart, He gave you rather unpopular life message to share with others.

Dennis: Well, you know, you say it's my life message, and I was just thinking as you were sharing it, I think it's one of God's life messages.  Because when He came down to the planet to etch His commandments, which were meant to represent who He was and His character, one of those commandments, the fifth commandment, was to honor our mother and our father that we might live a long life, and that it might be well with us as we live our lives.

Bob: It's interesting, too, as you divide the Ten Commandments in half, the first half is about our relationship with God, and the second half is about our relationships with one another.  And He starts talking about our relationships with one another by saying, "Honor your father and your mother."  That's the beginning point for all of human relationships.

Dennis: Yeah, that's the first commandment that has anything to do with our human relationships, and it's interesting that God points us backward to our parents.  And He calls us to do some business with them, because he calls us to honor them.

 A couple of friends join us on FamilyLife Today – Stephanie and Bryan Carter from Dallas Texas.  Bryan, Stephanie, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Stephanie: Thank you for having us.

Bryan: Thank you.

Dennis: Bryan is pastor of Concord Church down in South Oak Cliff of Dallas, and has become a good friend, as I've had the privilege of being his mentor over the past four or five years.  Stephanie and Bryan have two lovely daughters.  I got a chance to hear one of them on the speakerphone last night when we got a phone call from the babysitter, and she was going to bed.  Caitlin was buttering up her mom and dad, boy, it was "Yes, sir," and "Yes, ma'am."  I was impressed.  I really was.

Bob: You never heard that around your house.

[laughter]

Dennis: Our kids could have done with a little more …

Bob: Yes, sir and yes, ma'am.

Dennis: A little more of those manners.  You know, we are talking about honoring your parents, and I have to read one of my favorite letters of all time I've ever received here on FamilyLife Today that has to do with the message of my book, "The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents," and, well, I'll just read it.

 "Words cannot express my gratitude for your broadcast and your book.  After listening to your broadcast, I was motivated and excited to write a tribute to my parents.  We were planning a big 80th birthday celebration for my dad in June, and this would be the perfect gift for my dad.  Writing is not my gift, but with the help of your book and the information on your website, I was able to write a tribute.  It brought me great joy as I expressed in writing the love and gratitude I have toward my dad for all that he means to me; for all the love he has shown me through the things he's done for me, and for all the memories that are so dear to my heart.

 When I finished writing the tribute, I read it to my husband.  Being overwhelmed with great emotion, I broke down and, through tears, said to my husband, 'I love my dad so much.'

 Well, the big day came.  I had the tribute ready along with the pictures of me and my dad when I was a baby, a young girl, and of my wedding day.  I wanted to read it aloud, and there were a lot of friends and relatives there, and I knew it could get very emotional, and I was about to chicken out and just give it to him, but my daughter said, 'Mom, you just have to read it to him.  It will mean so much more.'

 So through laughter and tears and with great emotion I read that tribute to my dad.  When I finished, my dad said, 'That is the best gift anyone has ever given me.'  I gave my dad lots of hugs and kisses that day telling him how much I loved him."  Now, listen to this – "I never had any idea that that would be the last time I would ever see my dad this side of heaven.  My dad died of an aneurysm the very next day. 

 Writing that tribute has helped me deal with my dad's death.  When a loved one dies, we can often have regrets of what we did not say or do.  Guilt can seep in and overwhelm us.  But it has brought me great comfort knowing that I was able to express my love and gratitude to my dad on that very special day that I will never forget.  I cannot thank you enough for what you have done in making my last moments with my dad a real treasure.  I am forever grateful."  It's signed, "Sincerely, Debbie."

 You know, not everyone has a dad like Debbie, but it's interesting, she wrote it, she read it, and she cried her way through it and had no idea at the time she did it, it would be so meaningful.

 Bryan, as we shared earlier this week, our relationship started in a mentor relationship with you being a protégé, so to speak, and one of the assignments I gave you in that first year of when I was mentoring you was to write a tribute to your dad, and you shared earlier how that was a great struggle.  But you finally did it, and you got your brothers to also write a tribute as well, and then you scheduled a family gathering, I assume, to be able to share these publicly?

Bryan: It was Father's Day.

Bob: And is it custom for you to be home with Dad on Father's Day?

Bryan: No, we rearranged our schedules.  Two of us live in Dallas, one lives in Oklahoma City, and so we planned a special day with our families and everyone to gather in the living room just to celebrate my dad on this special day and to share our tribute.

Bob: Now, you had worked hard writing the tribute.  Once you had it written, how did you have it prepared so it could be presented?

Bryan: After having gone through the process of writing it out, typing it out, I took it to a local Hobby Lobby, and they helped me to make it look as nice as possible – worth being put on the family wall.

Bob: Stephanie, you've already shared this week that your relationship with Bryan's dad, there were some hard feelings there.  As you read what your husband had written to his father, what did you think?

Stephanie: I just thought it was really beautiful, and the main thing that I got out of the tribute was just forgiveness, looking past – just some of the past hurts not just that he had done to me but also just to my husband.  And, really, the key was forgiveness.

Dennis: Tell us about the setting of the day.  You and your brothers, I assume, added a little ceremony to it.  It added a little flare and flavor?

Bob: I guess you went to church first, didn't you?

Bryan: For some reason, we weren't able to all go to church that same day, for whatever the reason may have been, but we ended up driving there, and we all got there that Sunday afternoon, and while there that morning, my father was in his favorite chair, and there's a stool in that living room.  We pulled up the stool, and we started with my oldest brother.  So the camcorder has been set up, the children are in the room, everyone is watching, my mother is in her favorite chair, and my brother, my oldest brother, he begins to read his tribute right there next to my dad, looking my father in the eye.

Bob: Now, did your dad have any idea that this was going to be a different Father's Day than any other?

Bryan: He had no idea.  I mean, we totally wanted to honor him, but he had no idea.

Bob: No idea what was coming.  So he's in his favorite chair, your brother is right next to him, and he pulls out the tribute and starts reading it.

Bryan: He starts reading it to him.  And you can see my dad is shaking his head, he's nodding his head.  It's a rocking chair, so he starts rocking a little bit quicker at times, and he's nervous, because he doesn't know what's coming next.

Bob: What the punch line?

Bryan: So you can kind of see it in his eyes that he's, like, "I don't know."

Bob: There might be a setup for something here.

Dennis: Stephanie, you'd watched Bryan's dad over a number of years.  What did you think of that moment?

Stephanie: He was used to being in control, so at that time he didn't have the control, and it was just like my husband said – he was nervous.  I remember, he was rubbing his feet together, he was rocking, and then – this was the one thing I really noticed – his mother was extremely nervous.  I mean, she couldn't even sit still.  She would get up.  She'd go – I don't know what she was doing, but she'd get up and go change something or bring something back, then she would sit down.

Dennis: I remember when I called Bryan, and he reported what had happened, he reported the same thing.  He said, "My mom was just all over the house.  It was like she couldn't handle the intensity of the sharing that was taking place."

Bryan: It was just a powerful moment because in the tribute you try to recall the memories, and I think my parents, they were shocked at the memories that my brothers were able to recall when my brothers were four and five years old.  It just was an intense moment for our family.

Dennis: And so it was into this setting that you had the opportunity to introduce your tribute.

Bob: The baby brother steps up.

Bryan: The baby brother.  So I came, I read my tribute, and, Dennis, it makes you look him in the eye, and that's tough for a man to look another man in the eye at times and say heartfelt things to him.  I mean, it's one thing to describe, but to look someone in the eye and say, "This is what you mean to me.  This is the legacy you've planted in my life.  This is what I appreciate about you."  That was tough.

Bob: Read to us what you read to your dad that day and, as much as possible, read it for us the way you read it to your dad that day, can you do that?

Bryan: I'll do the best I can.

Bob: All right.

Bryan: It's entitled, "When I don't remember what was said; I remember what I saw.  A tribute to my dad, Grover C. Carter, Jr."

 I saw my father go to work every day, and I rarely remember a sick day.  I saw my father go door to door in our neighborhood to help families burned out of their homes.  I saw my father put up a basketball goal in the neighborhood for young boys to get off the streets.  I saw my father establish a Neighborhood Watch Program.

 I saw my father lead his family every Saturday at 10 a.m. to the nursing home for church services.  I saw my father take care of his parents and ensure they received proper care as they aged.  I saw my father love my mother and bring her flowers from the rose garden in the backyard.  I saw my father pass the mechanic and carpentry skills he gained from his father to his children. 

 I saw my father sacrifice every evening for two years building a new church.  I saw my father take directions from his eight-year-old son about getting to Mercy Hospital when I was sick with asthma.  I saw my father never look at another woman but to love my mother faithfully.  I saw my father lead his family to evangelize the lost through door-to-door ministry and even allowed me, at five years old, to hang the white "Sorry we missed you" tract on the door.

 I saw my father require me to do a Sunday school review before I could go outside and play on Saturdays.  I saw my father push me to serve as assistant pastor, against my desires, but because he saw something in me that only God saw.  I saw my father take his seven-year-old son to feed the ducks, just father and son.  I saw my father make changes in his parenting style with a son 10 years after his first two sons. 

 I saw my father and mother attend nearly all of my high school basketball games.  Dad, I saw you break the cycle of alcoholism, substance abuse, and crime that existed in the Carter family.  Dad, I saw you teach me about the importance of hard work, character, and integrity.  Dad, I saw you studying the Word of God late at night and early in the morning in the middle bedroom.  Dad, I saw you play me one-on-one in basketball until I started beating you.

 Dad, I saw you make a little basketball goal before they were popular so I wouldn't get in my brothers' way.  Dad, I saw you teach me to drive in a car that was difficult to drive in order to prepare me.  Dad, I saw you instill in me the same work ethic that your father and grandparents instilled in you.  Dad, I saw you raise three boys to complete college and achieve great success in life.

 Dad, I may not always remember what you said but thank you, because I will never forget the model of what I saw.  Dad, you did a great job, and I thank God for allowing me to be your son.

 Written by your son, Bryan Carter, presented on Father's Day weekend, June 14, 2003."

Dennis: What's it like to read that again?

Bryan: It's tough.  It's – the last time I read it to him was a few days before he passed.  Cancer had its way with him, for the most part, and I crawled up into bed with him, and I read it to him all over again.  He probably – he couldn't respond much, but …

Dennis: Do you think he heard you?

Bryan: I don't know, I think he did.  He couldn't respond much, but I think he did.

Dennis: Did you help do his memorial service?

Bryan: I did.  I had the privilege to preach his eulogy and help plan out his service.

Bob: How do you think his memorial service was different for you because you'd done this?  I mean, let's go back four years.  Dennis has never made the challenge, you've never gone through this process, your dad passes, how would that have been different?

Bryan: I probably would have had a lot of regrets because I never would have cleared the air.  The tribute allowed me to clear the air with my father.  our relationship wasn't perfect, but it was growing, you know, I had a new view of my dad.  He wasn't just a man.  I saw who he was in terms of him being a child of God.  I just saw my dad in a new light.  And so it was a celebration of his life, but it was authentic, because I loved my dad.

 There were some times when I had some bitterness, but I saw that, I didn't see my dad.  But by going through this process, I could celebrate him, because I truly loved him.  It was authentic.  I didn't have to make anything up because I knew my dad.

Dennis: You know, what you're describing, Bryan, is what happens to a lot of people when we don't work through it and forgive.  The resentment, the anger, the lack of forgiveness, holds love captive.  But when you forgive, love is no longer in bondage. 

 I have a question for Stephanie.  Have you written a tribute to your parents?

Stephanie: You know, I haven't written a tribute to my parents, and when he was going through the process, he was, like, "Oh, you need to write a tribute to your parents," and I thought about it, but I was, like, I've already told my parents and even – my dad – I had a strained relationship with my dad, and a lot of the things I communicated to him already and had forgiven him for.  But it would be so meaningful for them to have it actually written down and framed, somewhere where they can put it.  Because my whole rationale behind it was, "Oh, they already know that.  My dad knows that I've forgiven him.  The fact that he's involved in my life, and we talk, and I tell him how much I appreciate him and love him."

 In fact, when I did start telling him that I loved him, he had called his mother and said, "Do you know what Stephanie said to me today?  She told me that she loved me, and she gave me a hug."  And that was so – my grandmother told me later he was crying because he just felt that he didn't deserve it, and the fact that we had talked through a lot of issues that he really felt that I had forgiven him.

Bob: You knew, coming up here, that Mr. Rainey was going to hit you up for the need to do this, didn't you?
 

Stephanie: You know, I didn't even think about it until he brought it up this morning.  So I know this means that next time we talk, I have to have it together.

Bob: You are on the hook now, sister, I'm afraid.

Stephanie: [inaudible]

Bob: You have been caught in the web.

Stephanie: No matter what I've said.

Bob: Caught in the tribute web, right now.

Dennis: Bryan has seen this web spun before.

Bob: Spiderman strikes again.

Dennis: He's enjoying it just a little too much.

Stephanie: He is.

Dennis: I was going to ask you, Bryan, after hearing her best excuse she just gave, do you think she needs to write a tribute to her mom and dad?

Bryan: Of course.  She gave me that excuse, and I told her, I said, "You still have to write it," and I told her about how frequently they'll read it, and so I think she's on the right path now.

Dennis: You may melt your dad.  I mean, if he cried because you told him you loved him, I mean, it may absolutely turn him into a puddle.

Stephanie: I think this is going to do it.

Bryan: Okay, we'll do it.

Dennis: Well, we'll meet you back here …

Bob: How long does she have, Mr. Rainey?

Dennis: What do you think, Bryan?  You've been through this process.  What should we give her as a deadline for this?

Bryan: We can give her six months.

Bob: Okay.

Bryan: I'll give her some grace.

Dennis: Okay, we'll give her grace.

Stephanie: Well, and, you know, I can knock this out Father's Day.  Okay, okay, now I'm [inaudible].

[laughter]

Bob: You know, Stephanie is obviously not alone in this situation.  This is something she's thought about, but she's put off.  I wonder how many of our listeners have heard us talk about this, and they've done the same thing, Dennis.  They set this aside, they said, "I should do that one of these days," and we're back again to say, "Let's make today one of these days," all right?  Let's get after this assignment, because, frankly, we don't know how many more months or years God will give our parents, and there is no guarantee.  It's something that, whether it's for Christmas this year or Mother's Day or Father's Day or a birthday, this is something that I think some of our listeners are going, "Okay, all right, I give.  Now, what do I do, how do I start this process?"

 And we would recommend you get a copy of the book that Dennis Rainey has written called "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents."  It's available on our website at FamilyLife.com.  If you go to our home page, there will be a red button that says "Go," and that will take you right to the area of the site you need to be on so you can order copies of these resources or review other materials that are available.

 You can also call us at 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can make sure that whatever you need is sent out to you.

 I was just looking through a book that we are sending out this month to listeners who are helping with a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  This is a prayer guide for parents called "While They Were Sleeping," and I was looking to see if one of the character traits that they encourage you to pray for in this book, I was looking to see if thankfulness or gratitude was one of those, and it's not on the list of 12, but, interestingly enough, I was thinking "kindness" is on there, "humility" is on there, "forgiveness" is on there, "courage" is on there.  And these are some of the character traits that parents pray for as they work their way through this prayer guide, which is called "While They Were Sleeping."

 As I mentioned, we are making this available as a thank you gift this month to those of you who can help with a donation of any amount.  If you're making your donation by phone, call 1-800-FLTODAY and, as you make the donation, just mention that you'd like the book for parents on praying for your children.  If you're online making a donation at FamilyLife.com, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "pray," p-r-a-y, and we'll be happy to send this book out to you.  Again, this is a way that we can say thank you to you for your partnership with us.  We appreciate your generosity, and we're grateful to hear from you.

 Well, tomorrow Bryan Carter is going to be back with us, along with your wife, Stephanie.  We're going to hear about what happened in your church in Dallas, Concord Missionary Baptist Church, when you started encouraging the members of your congregation to write tributes to their parents.  That's coming up tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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