On May 21st, my Dad died.
This was not an easy blog post to write less than a month later, but this is Father’s Day weekend. I wrote this post as a remembrance in this moment of my life.
Dani wrote beautiful, moving words in her eulogy for Dad’s funeral – here is a snippet:
My grandfather was the most genuine, down-to-earth, and caring man in the universe, and even that is an understatement. Every moment spent with him, I was astounded by his kindness, his selflessness, and his passion. He never cared about anything halfway--when he loved something, he put his heart and soul into that love.Indeed, Dad never did anything halfway, including sharing his love. I was blessed to be immersed into that world.
One day during the summer between my high school sophomore and junior years, Dad and I played a few sets of tennis on the courts next to Smith Center High School. Tennis was a good recreational sport and we loved competition and it was good father/son time. I tried to perfect my serve with a slow, curving first serve bounce. He was always patient as I had more cord serves than actual good ones. On this particular day, after packing up our gear, Dad asked me a question out of the blue.
Was I ok with the move to Smith Center?
I was a little taken back – I had already completed two years of high school at SC. But he knew the move was a shock to the ordinary. My 16-year old reply was that the move was the best thing that ever happened to me. And today, I’m a proud alum of Smith Center High.
But back to that move that shocked the ordinary.
Before Smith Center, Dad had lived his entire life on a farm that his grandfather purchased. It was in a remote location and was not close to anyone or anyplace. My family lived in that same house; a house that my great-grandfather built from quarried limestone.
After I was born, Dad rededicated his life to God and church. He increasingly moved onward to church leadership positions. He had a call to the ministry. But he was full of self-doubt. His disability gave him this doubt. His speech impediment stopped him. But a miracle happened from the pulpit – from the pulpit he could speak with the power of love, or during a funeral with the power to overcome grief, preaching from the heart because he was all in with the passion of love. What a witness he was for miracles.
When I was 14, Dad and our family left the farm behind. I became a PK. Our lives changed. A move that shocked the ordinary.
David posted a moving FB post on May 21 about Dad. Here is a snippet:
The world has lost a great man. He was strong and kind hearted. He helped me build strength and character, and helped shape what I hold to be my personal values that have shaped who I have become as a person.Values – I could write a lot about the values learned from Dad. I delivered a short eulogy about one of those values at Dad’s graveside service.
After his funeral at the local church, the funeral procession drove several miles out of town to a country cemetery. A cemetery surrounded by nothing but miles of open land in any direction. I’ve never been comfortable being around caskets. But standing less than two feet from Dad’s casket, I spoke about the value of family and what it meant to Dad.
Dad supported, led, and organized annual family reunions for many years on both sides of my family. He enjoyed going to family outings and celebrating holidays with family. And after his retirement from the ministry, he spent 15 years as a caretaker for that country cemetery – a cemetery where his parents were buried, and his brothers, and his sister and her husband, and his grandmother and grandfather, and uncles, and many more. I talked about the connection of that cemetery and how it will be a part of our lives forever: a connection to Dad and to family.
I miss Dad. I can’t call him on the phone just to talk about life. That’s difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one.
I will end this post from a dream I had. There was a song made popular by Ronnie Milsap in the 70s. The song was played at a lot of weddings because of love. Well, funerals are about love too.
As I envisioned Dad meeting his Lord on that Saturday, these words from that song were rolling in my dream:
What a difference you’ve made in my life
What a difference you’ve made in my life
You’re my sunshine day and night
Oh, what a difference you’ve made – in my life.
My Statements at Mt. Vernon Cemetery
This is that final visual moment before the body is lowered into the earth and becomes one with the land.
This cemetery has a special family connection.
Dad wanted this place to look its best - so much so that he toiled to load and unload equipment to be a groundskeeper here for many years. Dad's family was placed into the earth here. Dad's parents as well as his brothers and sister and his grandmother Dora. And his grandfather John Hunter who migrated from Missouri to this part of Kansas.
As we lower Dad to his final resting place, I can imagine the wind whistling through here as it keeps a constant lookout over our land of remembrance. This cemetery will forever be a continuous connection in our lives as a place where we remember our Dad, Grandpa, Husband, and friend.