It is The Fourth of July, 2019, and our country is celebrating the 243rd Independence Day. Other anniversaries thus far this year will have included the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6th and the coming 50th Anniversary of Man Landing on the Moon on July 20th.
As with every morning, our radio is on and I’ve awakened to a plethora of patriotic music. I still recognize the military anthems of each branch; unlike most of my generation, I actually played a couple of them on my accordion. Such were the expectations of my childhood home; in retrospect, apparently God and Daddy knew what was best for me; the music lessons proved to be character-building. As a Baby Boomer, however, guitar lessons would have been the preferred choice to “fit in” among peers in The Sixties. After forty years, I have since recovered from adolescent embarrassment…kinda.
Today on this July 4th, I am mourning the loss of two men whom I admired greatly and who admittedly influenced this writer’s belief in the American Dream and my religious perspective. Both were independent thinkers and not afraid to take risks that challenged traditional practices in their very different professional fields.
One I never had the pleasure of meeting, but he once gained national interest when he challenged the American public: “If you can find a better car, buy it!”
The other was a preacher whose intellect and service to His Savior engaged and befriended this soon-to-be-divorced mother of one; he and his wife welcomed us into their church family.
With his wife at his side and five little critters to tend to, this pastor challenged the traditional practices and availed himself to the greater community. He didn’t wait for the spiritually hungry to enter the church. He walked out among the neighborhoods and met people where he found them. He joined community service organizations and learned about each town’s dynamics.
He was a student always, an articulate speaker who found God’s truths and built future sermons from his library which included vintage Catholic writings as well as from some of Sunday’s comic strips. A voracious reader, he once admitted he couldn’t spell well and depended heavily on spell check. Once this admission was voiced, I wasted no time in secretly presenting him with a Scrabble game for his next birthday. Eventually I was forced to confess (an old Catholic habit) and the chuckles and much detested board game remained in his household even after several moves to other pastoral assignments!
I had the pleasure of his friendship for more than thirty years. He proofed my first published book and, in his signature dry humor, admitted that he would allow it in his church library, with the caveat, “But what do I know, I’m just a heretic” (wink, wink).
Other memories remain, not the least was our final get together here in our Washington, Missouri home. It had been fifteen years since we’d seen each other but always, always, the occasional email picked up where we left off. And I was allowed to once again banter back and forth, trading barbs and dry wit, enjoying the fellowship with our spouses’ smiling approval.
Health issues presented themselves, spine deterioration and hearing loss which forced him to retire after thirty-three years of ministry. But he pursued and, with the successful medical technology of cochlear implants, regained “his life again” (his words) and continued to mentor young pastors and former students, in addition to teaching high school math and history; in some cases developing the curriculum for on-line courses.
He was my first “adopted minister” and, as he was quick to point out to me, certainly the MOST entertaining! His passing has left me heartbroken but comforted and grateful that God’s plan allowed us one final fellowship. In true dry wit form, I’m smiling at his arrival in Heaven on the same day as that CEO…
May the angels never run out of vitamins…