Dear Dad,

Dear Dad,

You knew that I did not intend on going there last night.  You saw me struggling, and you told me to go, and so I went.  I thank you for letting me sit a while and listen, with you by my side.

You sent me the a card a few years ago.  I can’t remember exactly when. The front says, “Before you were born ~ I knew you.”  I loved it, and I called you in tears after I read your words.  You were so special, and I knew I was lucky to have you.

The cover of the card  has an illustration of a mother hugging her daughter.  I chuckled to myself, figuring that you didn’t realize it was meant for a mother to buy.  Over the past few months when I have looked at the card, I have thought to myself, “He knew it was a mother.  He just didn’t care because he liked the words.  He was like that.”

Last night I found out the truth because you led me to a place where I could listen.  I could listen and understand.  At Hope’s faith formation class (which Hope could not even be at,) you spoke to me.  Of course you did.  That’s so you.

You spoke to me through a young youth minister named Brett.  He was talking about being of God’s world, and not of this world.  There are so many things in this world that pull us away from God’s world.  Our own thoughts do this sometimes. Thoughts like:

I am not strong enough.

My shot isn’t good enough.

I am not smart enough.

I am not fast enough.

I am not pretty enough.

I am not popular enough.

These are all ideas of this world.  There are not of God’s world, because he loves each of us as we are.  In His eye’s, we are perfect, each of us.  It is not that I hadn’t heard you speak those words while you were here in body.  Over and over again I  heard you say those things.  It’s just that I have not heard your voice for such a long time that perhaps I let your message slip to the back of my mind.  It is also that I have never heard you speak to me through someone else before.

I’m surprised that a huge light bulb did not appear in the air above my head when Brett quoted Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.  Jeremiah 1:5

You chose that card for me because those were words written first by a prophet.  You were a Deacon.  You studied the Bible.  You KNEW.  Those words are not meant specifically for a man or a woman.  They are meant for all of us.  You knew what you were doing when you chose my card.  You loved me like God loves me and everyone else.  Unconditionally.

You were a wise man, Dad.  You believed in striving to be more “Christlike.”  You believed that the only reason we are here is to learn how to love.  I’m working on it.  I miss you. I love you.  Thank you for sitting with me last night.  I heard you.

To quote you…”There is no such thing as a coincidence.”  Right?





A great tree.

I had the privilege today of honoring men and women whose lives were taken by a devastating disease called Mesothelioma. My father is one of those people.  Each year at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. David Sugarbaker and his thoracic surgery team host a luncheon for the families of loved ones now deceased who “dug their heels in” and fought the fight of their lives.  Each one of these people stood at the edge of the “dark forest” and walked forward, braving the unknown, fighting- for themselves and their loved ones.

May God bless the courageous souls that we have lost, and give strength to the members of their families who stood beside them, and the health care providers who against adversity continue to forge a path through the dark forest for all of us.

a rose for each great soul

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

~in memory of one of the greatest…

Guest Writer: Shane

This was written by my son Shane, who spoke at my father’s funeral in October 2010. My father was 71 years old when he died, and Shane was 15.  I want to share it on this Memorial Day 2012.  In our excitement for the unofficial start to Summer, may we always take a moment to remember the  meaning of Memorial Day.

At my school there is a chapel speaking program for all grades, but there is a special program for seniors.  Every Monday morning the whole school gathers in the church and they are treated to usually about 3 students who share a story about somebody or something that has changed their life.  I really thought that my “Pop,” known to most of you here today as Bob, would be the topic of my speech when I became a senior. I envisioned praising my beloved grandfather, only to be welcomed to a warm hug afterwards and then listen to Pop talk about how he is honored and humbled by my decision to choose him as my topic.  I know this would be Pop’s reaction because he has been the topic of several papers I have written.  He has always been my “go to guy” for important people paper topics.  After every paper I have written about him, I always receive a letter or a call from him telling me how he is honored to have me as a grandchild.  This is truly the best feeling in the world.

I think everyone here agrees Pop’s death was too soon.  In many ways he is like a fine wine.  He simply got better with age  As I became older I have grown curious about the life of my Pop.  My family often spoke about the obstacles of Pop’s past, and how he has grown to overcome them and become at peace with himself.  Pop experienced and lived life to the core, and he really got an understanding for why we as humans are put here on this earth.  He analyzed and studied everything he undertook down to a tee.  Anyone who is here today that had Pop work on their home knows what I mean.

I feel as thought God took Pop away from us early to stress the example of his life and how we can all learn from him and his achievements.  Pop was at the pinnacle of his life just before he was diagnosed with cancer.  Christmas ’09 was perhaps one of the happiest moments of his life in my eyes.  I can still see him sitting back in his chair looking over his family together with a grin on his mouth as if to say, “I’ve done it.”

About mid August I received a call from Pop.  At the time I was at the mall with a group of friends.  I was surprised that Pop was calling me, knowing that he was recovering from surgery at the hospital.  I was greeted by Pop’s customary welcome of a “Hey, how ya doin’ buddy?”  We chatted and he told me to always extend a helping hand to others and then he told me he loved me.  I hung up thinking nothing special of this call until a few minutes later when I thought that Pop never ever stops caring.  Sitting in his hospital bed while on several medications, he still took the time to call me and stress his message of love.  It was these actions that made Pop special.  As the eldest of Pop’s none grandchildren I want to be his messenger to his grandkids.

When I heard the news that the doctors found more cancer in Pop’s abdomen and that there was nothing else they could do, my first reaction was to go to the hospital.  I went in and sat bedside with him.  He was unaware that he had merely days to live.  I cried on his shoulder and told him I loved him.  He told me not to worry, and that he will always be with me.  These memories of Pop are imprinted into my head like hand prints in concrete.  I wanted to spend every moment of his few final days constantly at his side.  I am glad that I did.  I was able to express feelings that were deep inside me.  I told him how he was the best grandfather I could wish for, and how I have nothing but good memories with him.  He expressed his feelings to me.

In his last days you could tell he was getting tired.  He said he wanted to go to sleep but he couldn’t.  I, too, was getting increasingly tired and started to doze off. Pop instructed that he be moved onto the side of his bed so that I would be able to sleep next to him.  My Mom and I made a nook for each of us to rest on the small twin hospital bed and I laid my head upon Pop’s soft stomach as he wrapped his arm around me and drifted asleep.  Think of that.  A man knowing he is dying, puts aside his own comfort to make room for his grandson to sleep beside him.  That is truly special.

A woman came up to me at the wake yesterday and said, “You gave a lot to your grandfather.” “No.” I said, “he gave a lot to me.”

I love you Pop.