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Remembering Dad
(From September 29, 2001)

NOTE: This essay was written in September of 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and soon after I had opened version 2.0 of Walguy's World on September 7 of that month. It is this 'reopening' that is referred to in the text of the essay. More years have passed since I wrote this essay, but my feelings are still the same, and always will be!

I was born to two wonderful parents. Oh, they weren't perfect, of course. They made mistakes like any other parents. But even while I was growing up, I knew I was lucky to be their son. I saw how some other kids I knew were treated by their parents. It was plain that my parents were more devoted to me and my two younger siblings than a lot of parents were to their kids.

My Dad, for example, was one of those fathers who didn't just drop me off at the activities I was involved in; instead, he got involved along with me. When I became a Boy Scout, he became an assistant Scoutmaster. When I joined a drum and bugle corps, he volunteered to drive the equipment truck and generally help out in other ways. (I occasionally got teased about this, but I knew the teasing came from envy: more than once, other boys told me that they wished their fathers would do things with them like mine did.) Dad almost always had time to play catch or throw the football around if I wanted to. I learned a lot of what I know about sports through Dad's patient teaching as we watched games together on TV. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

My parents weren't harsh disciplinarians, but with me they didn't need to be. I loved them enough, and was thankful enough for them, that I wanted them to be proud of me; so I behaved myself most of the time. In fact, except for disputes with my brother and sister, it was almost ALL the time. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I finally had a rebellious period, which I got over completely during the summer after I graduated. I learned well the lessons they taught me, even though those lessons were seldom pounded into me. To this day I still always have respect for authority figures, and for the law, because that's how my parents raised me. Most importantly of all, they taught me to love and trust in the Lord, and even though it took me a while as an adult to get to the point of complete submission to God, I got there in large part because of the teaching and example of my parents. As Solomon observed (Proverbs 22:6): "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." I'm not OLD yet, of course, but there's no question that the lessons of my youth will still be a part of me even then. As I've gotten older, my thankfulness for my parents has only increased.

So, why do I bring all this up? Well, during the first week of August I decided to start this site up again. I chose Friday, September 7 as my official reopening date. For over a month, that date was constantly on my mind as I worked at redesigning, expanding and moving my site. Finally the day came, and the site you now see officially opened. It was only on the Sunday night following the opening that I suddenly remembered the significance of September 7 in my life: it was on September 7, 1997, that my father went to be with the Lord.

I was stunned when the thought finally occurred to me. Then I also became embarrassed. How could I possibly have forgotten about the most traumatic experience of my life? As I thought about it, I realized that part of it is because no particular date stands out in my memory of Dad's death, because we had known for almost a month that his time was short. Day after day I had gone to the hospital as much as possible, watching the final deterioration of the man I loved and respected above all others I had ever known. Dad was genetically predisposed to overemotional reactions, and I had inherited this trait from him, so I tried to spread my mourning out, starting a couple of weeks before his actual death. I knew it was important - in fact, pretty much essential - for me to let the emotion out gradually, rather than go into denial and be hit with it all at once. So it's this whole period that I remember in association with Dad's entry into Heaven, not just the day of his passing.

Still, it took so long after that to even begin to get used to the idea of Dad not being around anymore. I use the phrase 'get used to' deliberately, because losing someone that important to you is not something you ever 'get over', in the sense of things eventually getting back to normal. Losing Dad changed the very definition of 'normal' for me, and I could only hope to get used to the new reality, not get over it. In any case, though, how could I have gone through that entire time period this year without ever recalling the horror of four years earlier?

As I said, my initial reaction was shock and embarrassment. As I thought about it a little more, however, a second shock hit me, and a big smile suddenly came to my face: I realized that not remembering that terrible month was a GOOD thing! You see, it wasn't like I had forgotten about Dad himself. Indeed, I still think about him all the time. Many things still remind me of him, including things I see in myself as I get older. The Packers remind me of him, because we were still watching some Packer games together during his last year - most memorably, their Super Bowl victory - just as we had when I was growing up. When I use the good manners he and Mom taught me, I think of him - because even near the end, he still used them himself; he never stopped being a good example to me. Even the recent events in America remind me of him, because he was a true patriot, happy and proud to be an American (and that's yet another thing he and Mom imparted to me). For these and so many other reasons, Dad remains an important part of my life, and a part of my daily thoughts. The fact that the good memories and good reminders now dominate my thought about him means it no longer hurts to remember him - which is exactly how he would want it. In fact, when my time comes, that's what I hope happens to those I leave behind who especially love me: that in the long run they remember the good times we shared and the good qualities I exhibited, not the pain of my loss. So from the initial shock and embarrassment over not remembering the events of 1997, I moved quickly to joy and thankfulness. They remain now, and will almost certainly remain always.

Oh, there is one more factor that has helped me deal with losing Dad: it's that, as I said earlier, he didn't just 'die'; he 'went to be with the Lord.' I know we're going to be together again someday, and then I'll never again have to 'get used to' being parted from him. Mom and Dad's teaching and example about the Christian faith bore their most important fruit in me starting the day the doctors told us that this time Dad wasn't going to get better. This year, that fruit came into full ripening.

Thank you, Lord, for always being with me, sustaining me, and bringing me joy. And thank you, once again, for the parents I was born to.

I conceived and began this essay before 9/11, but now I can add a postscript to it: it is my hope and prayer that those who lost loved ones in the terrorist acts will someday be able to remember them with the near-total joy that I've come to experience with regards to my Dad. The pain of that horrible day will never vanish, of course, but I know now that it can fade to where the good memories dominate. May God bless and be with all of them in their grief, and help them to eventually 'get used to' their new realities, as He has with me.

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