for obvious reasons there are a lot of things that have been on my mind lately, too many to compartmentalize with a single quote, or title. so this is simply untitled. to give a further heads up, my original goal of keeping blogs in the first place was to allow me to be able to look back and see where i was and what i was thinking. i’ve made this public because i don’t mind sharing many of the things that go on in my life, but please be aware that i may be talking about some sensitive ideas about my father’s passing and related events. please allow this to be a blessing and an encouragement if you choose to read, and i completely understand if you stop here.
my father passed away saturday august 26th, 2006. after more than two decades of fighting a brain tumor, his body is now at rest serving others while his spirit is with our God. Dad was nearing his 52nd birthday, and was happily married for more than 25 years. my mom, my sister and i miss him dearly, but are relieved and joyous that he is now without pain, and in a place of constant bliss.
i’d like to thank everyone for their kind comments, hugs and prayers.
in his lifetime he grew up and went to college in arkansas, ran cross country, served as a helicopter pilot in the marines, worked for top gun, burger king, and alaska airlines. he taught fifth grade sunday school for more than a decade, served as a elder in the church for seven years and was always the last to leave the church building. he spent countless hours ministering to those around him, counseling young couples, inviting people out for ice cream after church and spent hours upon hours listening to the stories of those who were blessed to be around him. he took pride in a flower garden that included yellow roses for my mom, went to almost all of my baseball games, and was an avid fan of the inglewood jr high bands and eastlake volleyball teams that my sister was a part of. he managed to make people laugh even when he lost his ability to communicate clearly, and had a distinct chuckle and knee slap that made others feel funny as well. dad had a twinkle in his eye that made women feel beautiful and men appreciated, but was often overshadowed by a distinct smile that let everyone know that they were loved. he has countless ‘adopted’ sons and daughters and to date, one child named after him. he had several people that he referred to as best friends and countless more that he considered family.
the little things:
dad had a lot of little quirks about him that defined him so much more that anything you would ever think to ask. he loved to sleep in on saturdays, and it would often be well into the afternoon before we got started on any saturday projects. if mom was ever gone, he would always ask me and sarah to help him clean up the house before she got home. when we used to wrestle, he would always giggle, which drove me nuts because i never really could beat him. dad was a great artist. one of the few regrets i have about dad was that i never pushed him to create more art. some of his photography from china rivaled that of national geographic. he always wore his hat a little crooked. dad was never afraid to kiss mom in front of us. dad couldn’t dance, but it was a common occurrence around our house to have some motown cranked up and our family grooving in the living room. whenever dad would pray he would get frustrated that the rest of us were still laughing at whatever it was that night that had us in stitches. he knew more little known facts about more random things, and he made sure to share with us whenever possible. dad had terrible form throwing a baseball, but never declined an offer to play catch. dad was always put together, his tie never showed from under his collar because he would ask me and sarah every week on the way to church to check for him. his shoes were always polished, nails trimmed, and he never looked out of date or inappropriate. dad loved to pull someone’s leg, but he never let it get out of hand. he was a great chess player, lucky at backgammon and not so great at golf, but he enjoyed any activity he was doing. he was also in great shape despite putting away gallons of ice cream. i never beat him in a foot race. when i was little we used to watch the three stooges on some saturday afternoons, and dad would lay on the couch and i would lay down on his back so i could feel him laugh. on other saturday afternoons we would get up early and go visit some senior saints from church and spend some part of the day doing yard work, and most of the day listening to stories. dad never got everything he needed from home depot in one trip, we always had to go back for something we forgot. he wore the same style of topsiders and sunglasses for years. when it came to sports, dad was a fan of the hometown team, especially the underdogs.
my favorite moments:
there are so many memories that make me smile when i think about dad. my favorite moment was when i asked dad who his favorite baseball player was and he replied ‘you are’ without hesitation. i remember when dad wrote me a letter in fourth grade that said he was proud to be my father. one time we were at a gas station in a shady part of town and we thought that these guys were going to try and hurt the clerk. without hesitation dad got out of the truck and told me to lock the doors. he never got involved but had things escalated i have no doubt the marine in him would have snapped into action. i remember that was the first time i saw him as a soldier. i remember trips ever week down to the barber shop, and the time when i was seven when i got my first flattop. “this, this and this.” the infamous lane six story when dad didn’t see the giant six painted on the ground in front of him. the hug dad gave me when i told him i got accepted into college. there are a few others that qualify as favorites, but those are for me to keep to myself.
as for me…
to be honest, i feel really good. i miss dad a lot, but i feel better than i have in a long time. i didn’t realize how crazy life had become wondering if every time the phone rang i would have to pack up and race home. i am so glad that i got see dad for a while before he passed. most of our family was there, and several friends as well. we sang songs and read the bible as dad got closer, and had several minutes of just the four of us. despite the sadness associated with that time, i will forever cherish that time with the people i care about the most. my mom shined as a pillar of faith, and my sister’s compassion was awe inspiring. as for me, i felt like dad was imparting so much of his spirit unto me. one of the things that i have feared the most is how i am going to cope with the rest of my life without dad being there to guide me along. in those last few moments i felt coming over me this overwhelming sense of confidence and pride in knowing that my dad has equipped me to handle whatever comes my way. i cannot testify enough the role that faith played in these last few moments with dad. yes, we were sad, but we were also welcoming his departure. i was so tired of seeing my dad held back by a limited body. the feeling of knowing that he is free of pain and suffering has taken such a huge weight off of my shoulders. the verse in matthew 5 became so real to me at that moment; “blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted”. i am so thankful to God that there are no regrets in my father’s passing. my faith is so real to me now after being able to rejoice in these times.
the next few days:
the next few days were crazy to say the least. with so many family members and friends headed into town, the phone calls, the planning, the mourning, things are really a blur. i have to commend my aunt and our friends for planning a great service for dad in dallas. that made our lives so much easier. it was also a blessing to have such a close knit family. we may have our differences, but we truly shine in time like these. the stories, the laughter, the hugs, the meals. i enjoyed and appreciated every minute of my time with family and friends.
after a crazy week with family and friends, mi madre and i headed out to abilene to check on my sister and spend some time with her, and her friends. once i knew that everyone was doing all right, i decided to head out on my drive that i needed to go on. there were a lot of peripherals that i wanted visit or do, but the main item on my list of things to do was go visit camden arkansas where my dad grew up. i’m not sure why i went there, and i really wasn’t sure what i was looking for, but whatever it was, i found it.
i left on a sunday afternoon from dallas and made it to camden around dinner time that night. the time went by pretty quickly with the help of some hank williams and willie nelson and a big pepsi to keep me company. it was also made shorter by the anticipation of something big, although i still can’t put my finger on what it was.
my expectations were very high for my visit. all i had was an address. no directions, no names, just an address. i kind of envisioned finding some general store in town to walk into and ask some old guy where the street was and how i could get there. for some reason i also had this idea that i would find the house and there would be some family just sitting down to eat dinner. i would tell them about dad, and they would let me take pictures of the house and look around. there was even a small part of me that imagined seeing a younger version of my dad and uncle running through the streets. things were going as i had hoped as i arrived in camden, i stopped in at a church that was just getting out and was able to find out the location of the neighborhood that i was looking for. so i headed down the road past these nice country houses more towards the center of town (read mini mall with wal-mart at the center). i turned onto the side street that would take me to dad’s neighborhood and i got kind of scared. i had been driving through miles of small country homes, white picket fences, the whole nine. i was now in a neighborhood that looked like it hadn’t seen a coat of paint since my dad left thirty years ago. there were cars up on blocks in yards and people smoking joints on the front porches of several homes. i had to stop because it suddenly dawned on me that finding dad’s home might actually not be a good thing. but i was too close to stop. a big part of me prepared for a huge letdown. i stopped and asked some guys working on their cars if they knew where the street was and they pointed impatiently down the road, ‘second street on the left’. i drove to the street and was kind of grimacing because this was the worse street in the neighborhood. the whole street was covered in garbage and there were def plenty of backwoods looking folks just kind of milling around. i went down the street once and i didn’t see the house, so i decided to give it one more shot. i did a u-turn and headed back up the street and finally found the house i was looking for. it was immaculate, the only house i had seen in blocks with a yard that was kept up, the bricks looked new, the paint was fresh… it looked like the house i wanted my dad to come from.
i mentioned my expectations before because i learned a valuable lesson at this point of my trip. so many times i build up huge expectations, or extremely low expectations, and many times the reality comes nowhere close to what i was expecting. as i was walking to the door of this house and waiting for someone to answer, i realized that my expectations had gone from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite, now i was just hoping the person here would actually answer. and he did. a huge old guy hanging out of his boxers. this, i was not expecting. i kind of stuttered for a second before i introduced myself. i barely got my name out when he interrupted me, “i bought this house from a guy named iverson”. “that’s probably my granddad, i came here to see where my father grew up.” simple, and to the point, although looking back i don’t think this guy was exactly ready to give a tour of his home that sunday evening. but we talked for a couple of minutes, and then he let me take pictures of the house outside, while he went in and changed. after taking a few pictures i talked to the owner for a long time. we talked about what camden was like back in the day, the local sports teams, the paper mill my granddad used to work at… the weather. it was a good talk, and when it came time for me to leave i started to feel really relaxed. i thanked the man and headed a few blocks into town. i stopped in at wal mart to see if they had any local high school shirts or something, at the time i thought it would be cool to have a camden memento. kind of cheesy looking back, but looking back i think i just wasn’t ready to leave town yet. that, and the high school that dad went to was replaced in 1994 by a new mega school that evidently was much needed. so i stopped in at an arby’s in town and just hung out and kind did some people watching. it was weird to think that dad never really returned to camden. i was watching these kids from a youth group and i started trying to guess who would leave and never come back, and who would end up staying in camden for the rest of their lives. hmmm.
anyways, i hit the road again, not really sure where i was going next, but figuring it probably included oklahoma since i was in the vicinity (relatively). i felt this huge peace come over me that made the whole trip worth it. i can’t exactly put my finger on what it was that made me feel so good, so we’ll just chalk it up to God giving me a good day. it was great to see camden though, the road there was absolutely awesome, this back highway through trees and fields… and not a car in sight. i think i drove for thirty minutes at a time in between seeing cars. one thing i did notice was how much the road to dad’s town reminded me of the road to church in seattle. it made a lot more sense driving down that road why dad never complained about the thirty minute drive to church in washington, it must have reminded him of home. he never said anything to me, but i like to think that was part of why dad was always in a good mood driving to and from church.
for the next couple of days i ventured around oklahoma, seeing people i needed to see, kids that i worked with, and people that i have come to call family. it was great. it also made me realize several things that have really put me at ease. first, there is no going back. i have always had in my mind this crazy fantasy that i could go back to the way things were if needed, if things ever got too tough to deal with, and i can’t. maybe the reason dad never took us back to camden was that he didn’t want to see his old neighborhood run down. for all of my stories about enjoying my time in oklahoma, that’s what they are no, stories, memories, things to look back on and reflect, not a place to retreat.
my next big realization is how much of footprint i have left on the world. i am not saying i am some kind of big deal, but it was good to go back and see that i had impacted a few people’s lives. one of the tough parts of my job is that most of my results are going to be measured over a long period of time, which i’m sure will pay off in the end, but can be tough to realize when you’ve got your head focused in the now.
catching up with friends. what a blessing. they truly are my muse and inspiration for a lot of my energy and thoughts. from my friends in youth ministry, to my family friends, to people that have come in for a while and seemingly disappeared, i have an army of people that i truly love. i am realizing lately exactly how blessed i am when it comes to friends.
God is big. there are some things that you can only figure out at 70 mph driving across the desert just after it rained. He wasn’t using words, but pictures to tell me a story. i could only cheapen it by trying to tell you what He said to me, that and i don’t really know exactly what i could say. it was a feeling. call it joy, call it whatever existential term you choose to use, but it was a good feeling.
and lastly, i am capable. according to wild at heart this is the thing that all guys want to know deep down. there is something about venturing across the country by yourself that makes you ask questions you never think of otherwise. the longer i drove the more capable i felt. i returned home energized and revived for my life here. i didn’t make any big to-do about being home, i just went in a cleaned up the mess that i left and kind of re arranged my room.
so what now…
now is the tough part. the part where you come home completely changed and your world that you left has remained the same. fighting the same fights with new energy and new perspective. but i feel good. really good. the best i have felt in years. i absolutely miss my dad, but let it be said that faith has completely been a comfort to me, and turned a seemingly dark hour into a time of rebirth and rejuvenation.
well there are plenty of stories from the road to com, and i hope the next post i can share some of the random things life has thrown my way that has made me smile lately. but for now it’s late, and my bed is calling my name. God bless you my friends that read this. thanks you for your time and caring and i pray that God will bless you beyond what you can ask or imagine. and now i leave you with two of the scriptures that we read for dad. these have both developed a new meaning for me over the past few weeks and i hope they bless you as well.
the Lord is my shepherd i shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
i will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and i will dwell in the house of the Lord
1 timothy 4:6-8
For i am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, i have finished the race, i have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
one love, one heart.