Reflections On The Life And Death Of My Father Brian Connor

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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It is hard to find the words to describe the true essence and character of my father Brian Connor. He touched so many people in his lifetime with Christ’s love, and this was his greatest joy. His memory will live on and his legacy will resonate through the lives of many people.

Brian used to call me his angel and Amy his princess. Ever since we were children, he told us we could be anything we set our hearts on. He told us to shoot for the stars and never settle for less than the best. He was our biggest fan in our successes and our biggest advocate when we faced challenges along the way. I knew I was deeply loved and that I could tell my dad anything – I always felt safe and secure. My dad’s steadfast love formed a strong foundation from which I grew into my true identity in Christ, while the balance of healthy boundaries and freedoms he set allowed me to spread my wings in this world. I am eternally grateful to God for such a loving and devoted father, and his lasting imprint on my life.

Brian was a man who loved a good practical joke. Whether it was putting bang snaps under his secretary’s toilet seat, putting sardines in Amy’s sandwich when packing her school lunch, or rubber banding the water spray in the kitchen sink so that the first person that turned it on got squirted, he had a free spirit that engaged life with a smile. To my surprise, he burst out in laughter the first time I got sent to the principal’s office – I think it reminded him too well of his own childhood endeavors. My favorite bedtime stories were about the mischief he got into growing up and all his boyhood shenanigans. My dad was in no way a “stuffy” religious leader; rather, he was a man who knew the value of a good laugh and how to create an environment of joy.

I remember the time my dad found out I skipped school with a friend to avoid standardized testing. He called me into his room and asked me if I was at school. I struggled inside with what to say, but decided to be honest so I told him “no.” To my surprise, he responded, “Okay Carey. You are a good student and I don’t care if you skip once in a while as long as you are always honest with me.” It was grace in situations like this that proved I could trust him to look out for my best interests while also letting me engage life to the fullest. Not once did he impose legalistic rules or “holy” expectations upon us. Church and “religion” were never forced upon me; instead, a genuine love, joy, and grace were simply modeled to me through the rhythms of life.

My dad loved to spend time with his friends and family. He would occasionally take me out of school to “play hooky” and go fishing with him (while excusing the absence to the school due to a “family affair”). Amy and I gladly shared his favorite pastimes with him: crabbing and fishing at Folly beach, camping in rustic cabins in the woods, going to baseball games, watching football on Sunday afternoons, night shrimping (as he taught us how to throw a cast net), or taking the boat out to picnic and collect shark teeth. I even remember as a child, my dad taking us in his boat to an island and teaching us how to shoot his shotgun at cans he set up in the distance. My dad enjoyed doing these things with us and even said to me once that if he had sons instead of daughters, they probably wouldn’t have been as much fun.

As a child, I never knew who would be living in our guest bedroom or joining us for holidays. The wounded, broken, and misunderstood found unconditional love and refuge in Brian’s home and office. He welcomed all just as they were, with open arms and an open heart.

Brian modeled his life and ministry after the Good Shepherd who protected his flock from the wolf and was willing to lay down his life for them (John 10:11). My dad felt called to help people in spiritual bondage find freedom and wholeness in Christ. As a result, there were many times the enemy threatened us; however, my parents refused to bow under the enemy's intimidation. They took God at His Word and didn’t allow seeds of fear to take root. God honored their child-like faith and surrender and faithfully protected our family while they loved and ministered to people right where they were, in the midst of their darkness.

When learning about the realities of evil in this world as a teenager, I remember confronting my dad with my concerns and fears. His response to me was, “Carey, someone has to take a stand against it . . . and this is something worth dying for.” He knew wholeheartedly he was in God’s hands; nevertheless, he was willing to suffer loss for the sake of others. The question was never whether God’s light was strong enough to overcome the darkness; the question was (and still is) whether we will let our lights shine in the darkness. Brian carried the light of Christ into environments where others refused to go.

My dad used to tell me that love was a higher calling than truth. Though both are important, Brian lived his life with love as his highest value, and he extended that love without judgment to all who crossed his path. As the pastor spoke as his graveside, Brian lived a “hesed” love. Hesed is a Hebrew word that means enduring, eternal, unfailing love, demonstrated through action. Whether we are walking in God’s perfect will, or simply His permissive will, God always examines our heart behind our behavior. My dad served the Lord with all his heart and always sought to please Him, no matter what the cost.

While reflecting on my father’s death, I came across the song “Blessings” by Laura Story . . .

What if God’s blessings come through raindrops, what if His healing comes through tears, and what if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know He’s near? What if the trials in this life are God’s mercies in disguise? What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of the greater thirst this world can’t satisfy? When friends betray us and when darkness seems to win, the pain reminds our heart that this is not our home.”

I am grateful that even in our present loss and mourning, we are blessed (Matthew 5:4). God’s presence and comfort are near.

Though it is normal to grieve my father’s passing, Philippians 1:21 reminds me that death is not a tragic end. Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul then goes on to state it is far better to depart and be with Christ. We must remember that God’s nature is infinitely good – He cannot be anything contrary to this. God proved this when, while we were sinners, He sent His only son to die for us. So if God is always good, then we can be sure that even death is a gift. In it, He rescues us from our suffering and the evils in this world, makes us whole, and takes us to His kingdom where abundant peace and joy reign.  Isaiah 57:1 says, "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."

I truly don’t feel the sting of my father’s death as much as I feel the victory in it. Because I know God is a giver and not a taker, I know even in my father’s death, God is the author of life and the giver of good gifts. As my sister recently put it, our Daddy “is more alive now than ever.”

As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” Or as Sally Lloyd Jones puts it in "The Jesus Storybook Bible," "Everything sad will come untrue - even death is going to die." Because of this, I can rejoice in my father’s homecoming with the Lord, where his true citizenship subsides (Philippians 3). As C.S. Lewis wrote, "There are far better things ahead than what we leave behind."

God healed our father of his cancer; he just got his healing on the other side.

In all things we will give thanks . . . even in this.

Carey McNamara

I am a wife to Bob, a mom to Connor, and a physician assistant who is passionate about beating heart disease. As a devoted lover of Jesus, I am on an unending quest for more truth, love, and wholeness through Him. I have come to a place in my life where I realize God is not afraid of my questions, and I have learned the joy of pursuing Him until I discover His heart. As a result, I created a blog to encourage others in their own journey towards Life, Liberty, and Love in Christ. I am passionate about doing life authentically in community, and am thrilled to share a bit of that with you here.

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