In twelve days, I'm speaking at the annual fund raising dinner for Christian Family Services in St. Louis, a wonderful organization my dad was a part of for many years. I've been working on the presentation for months and I'm finding it hard to condense all the things I want to say. I am increasingly aware of how blessed I am. The following, from May 30, 2009, sheds some light on my fathers' family.
It's funny how people you know in one part of your life end up crossing paths with people you knew from different times and places. Last week, I ate supper with Gayle and Grace Napier who also invited Lane Widick and his lovely wife, Kristen, as well. It would be wise to make some introductions. Gayle and Grace were great friends of my folks, working together in both Nebraska and Texas. I think my parents spent as much time with the Napiers as with any other couple over the years. Last fall, Gayle and Grace moved to Houston to be with two of their daughters who I grew up with. In April, Lane moved to Houston to work with a church, the same one where Gayle and Grace worship. Lane was my student in Tennessee. His father was my principal, his sister was my teacher's aide, and two first cousins played for me and asked me to perform parts of their weddings. As we ate, Gayle was describing Dad to Lane and he said something that stuck. Gayle recalled that my father had, "come from the perfect family." I had never looked at it quite like that. Maybe I should have...and thanked God.
Yesterday, I began watching DVDs filmed by Sue Simons, a friend of the folks, who helped us navigate Dad's ailments. Three months after Dad's stroke, his brother, Monroe, visited him over a two day period, along with my Aunt Julia and my cousin, Wayne. Set in St. Luke's Hospital, Sue turned the camera on and recorded my father and uncle reviewing their childhood. And as I watched, I came to see the validity in Gayle's statement. The talk centered around their remembrances of growing up and their parents/my grandparents. I learned things I didn't know, such as Grandpa Hawley at one time had the best record of any high school debate coach in Michigan. But most of what I took away were the things valued in the home of Harold and Minnie Hawley: honor, honesty, integrity, peacefulness and peacemaking, and love of the Lord. Those were the things, I believe, Gayle saw in my father. And those were the things my dad witnessed each day as a boy.
As a child, I thought everyone had family experiences like I did, like my dad did. My eyes have been opened by the years. This afternoon, I visited a ninety-five year old widow who lives on my floor. I check on her periodically and with limited mobility, she enjoys the company. Today, she told me stories of her family, stories of betrayal, anger, abandonment, and grief. I wondered how such a nice lady who tries to follow the Lord could endure so much anguish. That's a far reaching question which many would want answered but I have no insight there. What I do know is that I was blessed, as were my siblings and first cousins, by having a father grow up in such a loving home. Dad recognized it. In fact, I discovered a DVD left in the DVD player, which has been unused for months. I smiled as I read the print on the DVD, the title of a lesson Dad taught at a St. Louis church in 1997. He had called it, "Why Has God Been So Good To Me?" I just bet Dad has his answer now.
Applicable quote of the day:
"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."
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