If you read my thoughts regularly, I must apologize in advance that this is another post which came about in part due to my cleaning my closet in preparation for an upcoming apartment renovation. Today is also the ninth anniversary of the death of our father. Roger W. Hawley passed away in the early morning hours of April 15, 2008 at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis due to complications from a stroke. The pain and grief I feel have subsided in the intervening years while the gratitude has grown. Feeling nostalgic, I wore Dad's Cardinals baseball hat this afternoon. It doesn't fit me; still, I can't bear to toss it out. But tonight, I don't want to talk about my father's cap. Instead, I want to wax poetical, hopefully, on something else which I discovered tucked away in the recesses of my apartment's storage space.
Mom and Dad were big on family counseling and God's plan for the unions of husbands and wives. For decades, they worked with and led seminars and gatherings for both Marriage Encounter and Marriage Enrichment. It was a huge part of their ministry which reached far beyond the congregations they were part of during their time in Nebraska, Texas, and Missouri. They kept everything. Their garage and closets in St. Louis were stuffed with materials from those years. Dad encouraged us to take anything we wanted. To be honest, I didn't want any of it. Still, I ended up with something Dad wrote and I was the topic. At their Marriage Encounter weekend retreats, the couple would write letters to each other on, I'm assuming, a wide array of assigned topics. And somewhere in that massive trove of boxed archives was the letter posted at the top. It was written from Dad to Mom on the subject of How Do I Feel About Steve? It ended up in my possession although I can't recall having read it until this cleanup. There are no clues to the timing of its origin, either date-wise or hints about whether they had moved to Lubbock, Texas from York, Nebraska yet, a move which took place after my junior year of college. I might have been late in high school or early in college; I can't be positive. There is part of me that is glad there is no contextual evidence of a time frame- I guess I like not knowing for sure.
Here's what I know from reading my father's short treatise on his second son; I was loved! I found some of the insights Dad shared with Mom were, well, insightful. He thought I was comfortable in waiting to be ready to declare my independence. He felt I was cautious in my approach to making decisions, in his words, perhaps to a fault. Dad believed I would be righteous but had not been put to any sort of test to really prove it and I would ultimately display my belief in God but he was not clear how it would be shown by my actions. He told Mom he thought a good deal of how I turned out would be dependent on who I married; that's a chapter still unwritten. I was puzzled by one statement, that he believed me to be very open to expressing my feelings to the both of them. I've always considered myself very reluctant to open up to anyone, even the two who knew me best. And as I consider the whole of the matter, I'm reminded it was penned without the thought that I would ever read it. It was written strictly for my mother and I was in a sense peeking over his shoulder many years later. Part of me is a little sheepish for reading it but on this bittersweet anniversary, I'm glad I did.
On this day before Easter, 2017, as I think back on Dad and this date in 2008, I am reminded of my favorite line in his letter to Mom about me:
"I'm proud to be able to call him my son. I love him."
I realize more everyday how blessed I was growing up with my parents, a blessing I was unaware of most of my pre-college life. But I see kids now who long to have some sort, any sort, of a relationship with a father who loves them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they and so many others in this dysfunctional world could feel the love and adoration from a father who so obviously adores them? And on this Easter weekend, the words of Jesus in the most famous New Testament verse, John 3:16, come to mind:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God loved not just you and me but the unloved and unlovable of all generations, the widows and orphans, the rich and the poor, the young and old, the red and yellow and black and white, those who lived before and those who live now. If you recall back two paragraphs my father wondered what course of action I might take which would be a sign of righteousness. There was no doubt in the will of our Heavenly Father. He would send His only Son, whom He loved, to die for a world which was and is mostly indifferent. And that Son would display that same love as He walked the road to the cross for you and for me and for everyone else on the earth. Today, I read a confirmation of my father's love on an old sheet of lined notebook paper. Daily, I read a confirmation of my Father's love in the Book He inspired. It's all right there in black and white and as we remember the cross tomorrow, in red. It's the greatest love story ever told.
Applicable quotes of the day # 1:
A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.
Frank A. Clark
Applicable quotes of the day # 2:
My father was my teacher. But most importantly he was a great dad.
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