It’s hard to sum up a life in only a few words. And this offering certainly doesn’t do this amazing worker, provider, father, husband, and grandfather justice.
Exactly one year ago today, my father, Larry, only 71, said good-bye to this life and stepped into a much better one after a two-and-half-year struggle with brain cancer. He left behind a wife, a daughter, three sons, a son-in-law, three daughters-in-law, and eleven grandkids.
Beyond a few mementos and clothes that didn’t fit my brothers but fit me perfectly, all I have left of Dad, a GM retiree, are scriptural values and beliefs he instilled in my life. And of course precious memories—and what a treasure trove I have to draw from. Not only for my writing but just to remember Dad for who he was. Lest I ever forget.
I’ll never forget the beautiful Revolutionary War-style muzzleloader Dad built from a kit and later mounted over our fireplace in the Michigan farmhouse where I grew up. One day he took me and my brothers to the field and showed us how to shoot it. I remember that when it was my turn, I could hardly hold the gun up—that’s how heavy it was.
“Okay, it’s all ready to shoot,” he said. “Whatever you do, don’t hit the watering trough.” The watering trough was a metal circular container for watering farm animals. We didn’t have any farm animals on our fifteen acres unless you want to count our dog and the wildcats living in the circa. 1900 red barn.
Of course I won’t hit the watering trough, I remember thinking. It’s too far to the left.
I sighted down the long, heavy barrel at the bottle perched on top of the hay bale and tried to hold the muzzle steady (an impossible feat) while I aimed. I slowly squeezed the trigger. The blast almost knocked me over.
I looked. Blinked. Looked again. The bottle stood unmoved, as if taunting me, but I’d blasted a whopper of a hole in the side of the watering trough. I was so disappointed that I’d hit it, especially after Dad had specifically told me not to. But how was I supposed to know the gun would kick so bad? I don’t remember Dad being mad, just me being disappointed in myself. Now that rifle occupies a prominent spot in my office.
Another memento sits under my window, a beautiful ship model of the H.M.S Grimsby I also inherited from my dad. He’d built five ships from kits, sometimes making his own parts because he wasn’t satisfied with those the kit company provided. The intricate detail, including the rigging with so many tiny strings, is amazing. I marvel that my father had the patience—I know I don’t. But I am detailed, so maybe that’s a trait I inherited from him.
When I was a kid, usually on Sunday mornings, Dad played by ear an older song on the piano called “Overshadowed,” his favorite. Dad’s true instrument was the violin, which he often played at weddings, but he played that song often, usually on Sunday mornings for some reason. Perhaps it put him in the right frame of mind for worship.
Hmm. I play the piano by ear—I guess I got that from him too.
When I was growing up, I confess, I never thought Dad and I had that much in common. I loved writing stories, but Dad rarely read fiction. Dad could fix just about anything, but I didn’t have a handy bone in my body (still don’t). Now as I grow older, I see more of Dad emerge in my life all the time.
He was detailed. I’m detailed.
He had strong convictions. I have strong convictions.
He liked to create things with his hands. I like to create things with my hands.
I even like his smoked oysters.
For a while I gave up playing the piano until I saw how the cancer stole away Dad’s use of his hands. How he must have longed to play his violin or strum his guitar or fiddle with the intricate rigging of another model ship, at least one last time. But he couldn’t. At least not on this side of glory. And here I was, able to play the piano but negligent of what little talent God had given me.
This realization rebuked me.
Sometimes the infirmities of others help us realize how truly blessed we are. I’m playing the piano again.
Sometimes when I sit down in front of the keys, I think of Dad. I think of what he would have played if he were still alive today. If only he had the ability back.
I miss you, Dad. This song’s for you (no, this is not me playing).
“Overshadowed by His Mighty Love”
How desolate my life would be,
How dark and dreary my nights and days,
If Jesus’ face I did not see,
To brighten all earth’s weary ways
I’m overshadowed by His mighty love
Love eternal, changeless pure.
Overshadowed by His mighty love
Rest is mine, serene, secure.
He died to ransom me from sin,
He lives to keep me day by day,
I’m overshadowed by his mighty love,
Love that brightens all my way.
With burdened heart I wandered long,
By grief and unbelief distressed;
But now I sing faith’s happy song,
In Christ my Saviour I am blest.
Now judgment fears no more alarm,
I dread no death, nor Satan’s power;
The world for me has lost its charm,
God’s grace sustains me every hour.
Words and music: H.A. Ironside and George S. Schuler
© Copyright 1962
By Singspiration, Inc.
- Release Date Changed to January 2013
- A Sure Cure for Writer’s Ego