A few months ago a father died. It happens all the time, but this father died in Japan and the story of his death went world-wide. It happened in the small rural town of Yubetsu during a severe March snowstorm. Mikio Okada left work to pick up his nine-year-old daughter Natsune from school, but they didn’t make it home. Mikio’s truck got stuck in the drifts of a driving blizzard…about a 1/2 mile away from home.
Natsune’s mother died two years ago and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why — as neighbors described him — he was a doting father who often would go to work late so that he could begin his day by eating breakfast with his daughter.
At 4pm, Mikio called relatives to let them know that they had become stranded, stuck in a snow drift. He said that they were going to walk the remaining 1/2 mile home. But with winds up to 70 miles per hour and temperatures — not counting windchill — at 21 degrees, they just couldn’t make it. They were found about 300 yards from the truck. If that was the extent of the story it would not have gone world wide, but there is more.
Rescuers found father Okada’s body hunched up against a warehouse wall. Natsune was beneath him, craddled in his arms and wearing his coat. Mikio used his body, his coat and the warehouse wall to provide a refuge for his daughter. Rescuers said she was weeping weakly in his arms. The father gave his life for his daughter.
Here are a few thoughts on this Memorial Day weekend.
1) On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their life as a sacrifice. Regardless of the cause, there is something powerful in the stories of life sacrificed for others and it is important for us to remember. We learn from the stories of our shared past and sometimes we are inspired by the stories of our shared past. It is good to remember.
2) The world is in great need of fathers who will give their lives for their children. And sometimes the greatest giving comes not from the dying but from the living of our lives for our children. We say we would be willing to die for our kids, but are we willing to go in late to work so that we can begin our day with them. The sacrifices of a life lived well matter just as much as the sacrifice of a noble death. I’m not saying that children should be center of our lives, only God deserves and can handle being the center of our lives. I’m simply talking about truly valuing our children as gifts from God.
3) I can’t get through Memorial Day without remembering the battle fought on my behalf by Christ. For though the cross was more, it was not less than the battle of all battles. It was a battle against sin and death for my life. Through Christ’s death on the cross, I not only know the depth of God’s love for me, I am set free from sin and death. I am given a new life, a new family, a new future.
So as I remember I am thankful. I am thankful for a man who reminds me of the power of a love that gives. I am thankful for my own parents who have modeled a life of generosity and sacrifice for their children. I am thankful for people who have given their lives in battle for me. Most of all I’m thankful for Christ. I’m thankful for the way that my life has been changed by Christ’s sacrifice…which ultimately became the great victory of eternity.
That’s what I am remembering today.