Archive for the ‘Death’ category

Dad’s Day Without Dad

June 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 17, 2018

                                 

It’s a weird feeling this morning! Today is the first Father’s Day I’ve experienced without Dad! He passed away four months ago at the wise old age of 89. Tomorrow would have been his 90th birthday. there’s

Dad has always been there. Though we were separated by five states his presence never seemed to be far away. Our Sunday night phone chats became our routine. When he didn’t answer his phone I worried…so I’d call my sister to see if he was okay. More times than I can remember he’d call me back as I’d be talking to her. I’d switch calls over to him and after answering he’d give his customary reply: “Well, hi son!”

“Did I get you at a bad time, Pops?”

“Well, I was on the pot!” He would say it like it was an unusual occurrence. 

Today, however, things have changed. It’s Father’s Day without Dad. It has the feel of eating fried chicken without also having mashed potatoes and gravy. Kind of strange and empty. 

My dad was a consistent man of faith, an even-paced Jesus journeyer. Through all his radiation treatments for cancerous growths on his ear, nose, and bladder, he never lost his humor and lightheartedness. The radiation technicians at St. Mary’s Hospital loved on him, enjoyed him, and treated him like their own father. When his name was called to come on back from the waiting area for his radiation “zap moment” of the morning he would always have a word for the attendant that would bring a chuckle and a smile. It’s how he was. His bouts with cancer weren’t seen as being setbacks, but rather moments in his journey.

When I became a father back in 1981, like any first-time dad, I had the deer-in-headlights look. What do I do? What don’t I do? I had taken a class back when I was a student at Judson College, taught by Professor Ted Hsieh, entitled “Marriage and The Family”. I still have the notes from that class, and I was tempted, when Kecia Corin Wolfe arrived, to get the lecture notes on parenthood back out and do a quick review. Instead, however, I looked into the mirror of my memories of Dad. What would Dad do? What did Dad do? How I fathered my own three children had the imprint of his parenting impression of us.

And so today I’m living with his memories, impacted by his personality. I’ll go out for a run this afternoon and wear the University of Kentucky hat that was his. As I’m huffing and puffing it will seem like he is close at hand. As my feet trudge along I’ll recall some of my favorite “Pops Stories” that I listened to numerous times, and yet, never tired of the warmth they would bring to my soul. 

It’s just weird! Dad’s Day without Dad…it sounds like the title of a horror film! In essence, it’s simply where I am on my journey, a place of wonderful memories and an aching grief.

Between A Stride And A Shuffle

June 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 2, 2018

                                 

My quest to run 200 miles this summer began a week and a half ago. I’m 30 miles into it, which sounds impressive until you realize there’s still 170 miles in front of me. Translated that means I’ll be running all the way to New Mexico!

I’m getting my wind back after it had taken a hiatus for about 14 years. In the summer of 2004 I trained and ran the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for lunatics, during which the runners make an 8,000 foot elevation climb after starting at 6,000 feet. After I ran the Ascent for a second time I put the running shoes in the closet…the deepest parts of the closet!

Now I’m back at it…slowly! I was talking to a close friend of mine last night and he asked me whether I shuffle or stride when I run? 

Good question! In my mind I’m striding out, but it’s the same mind that envisions me slam dunking a basketball and waking up in the morning with no aches or pains!

In reality I’m probably between a stride and a shuffle…between what I was and what I will be! My swiftness is becoming a more distant hazy spot in my past, replaced by the slow motion of the present.

It is a picture of life. I’m like the Israelites between Egypt and the Promised Land. I’m between the here and the there. When I have my annual physical exam each fall my doctor often uses the phrase “You are no longer…” to remind me I’m heading towards the point where I’ll be an old man shuffling. He says it kindly and with a grin, but each of us know the truth of life’s withering moments. 

There are good things about life’s aging. 

Carol and I have the Senior Pass to the National Parks now. We can get in any one of them free.

I can drop off to sleep after reading one page in any book…or sooner!

People think I’m wise since I’m almost a shuffler!

Many, many good things about the golden years!

For now, however, I’m more of a “striffler”, a hybrid between striding and shuffling. Perhaps I’ll get my second wind. The question is whether I’ll be able to catch it? 

The Back Story

May 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 20, 2018

                                       

Why am I the way I am?

Why do I always drink my coffee with cream and sugar?

Why do I always put my left leg into my pants first?

Why do I hate beer?

Questions that may intrigue no one else but myself! They are questions that hint at something from my past that caused me to think, act, or feel in a certain way in the present. 

It’s my back story reemerging. For example, I drink my coffee with cream and sugar because that’s how both my mom and dad drank it. It’s a family practice. Once in a great while I’ll drink a cup of coffee black, or with only one of the additions, but it feels strange…it feels off, like I’m putting my pants on backwards and wondering where that zipper went!

“Back Story” is a term writers use to illuminate a character’s past, like telling the story of how the main character received the scar that ran down the side of his face. It’s a glimpse into why someone is the way he is. 

Everyone has Back Story! It’s what we’re rooted in, for good and for bad. 

When tragedy happens, something unexpectedly evil, we ask questions about the perpetrator. We search for some kind of explanation for the unexplainable. Why would Dimitrios Pagourtzis kill students that he went to school with each day? I’ve noticed that there have been several rumored reasons set forward already. What’s his Back Story? What pushed him to do something so evil that it would break the heart of a community and send more shudders throughout the nation?

That question will trouble Santa Fe High School for generations to come. “Why” will continue to rumble through the minds of the students and faculty each time they look at the building or walk down the hallways. A mass shooting will become their Back Story.

If I was pastoring a church in Santa Fe, Texas, what would I say this morning to a sanctuary of confused and troubled faces? What would I tell them on this Sunday that is also Pentecost Sunday?

It is the “Back Story” in our faith journey that I would bring forth. Pentecost is that holy moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus. In a world that is exhausted by its unrest, Pentecost is part of our Back Story of hope. It is why we believe that good can overcome evil. It’s the reason each follower of Jesus believes that lives can be redeemed, that light can shine into darkness. 

Pentecost is the Greek name for “Shavuot”, the spring harvest festival of the Israelites, which was happening at the time of the coming of the Holy Spirit. If you could find more than a couple of Christians out of a hundred who would know the spring harvest festival part of Pentecost you’d be doing good. Our Back Story is now connected to the promise of the Spirit. 

We may never know, and probably, never understand why Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire on people he knew and had been educated with? Whatever was going on in his past may never make any kind of sense to us. Our culture minimizes the idea of “The Evil One”, until the Bible tells us he comes to deceive and destroy. It’s his M.O., his Back Story that continues in the present and on into the days ahead.

But followers of Christ know their Back Story, too, and that it leads us on to be agents of change, and lovers of all people. It’s my Back Story that causes me to fear no evil, and have the assurance of future hope!

The Right To Be An Ass

April 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          April 22, 2018

                                     

We live in an amazing country. People have freedoms in the United States that would be laughed at in other parts of the world. Freedom is a tricky thing. It can cause people to loosen up and do certain things that they might not attempt if their common sense took control.

Living in a free society also blurs the lines of what is acceptable and what is the person’s right to do. Lord knows, there’s enough middle school students who have blurred vision when figuring out things like that.

And so, one of the rights we have in our country is the right to be an ass, to say things that are disrespectful, insensitive, and extra-strongly opinionated.

Randa Jarrar, an Fresno State English professor with a strong affection for using the “f” word, put it out there on social media! She trumpeted how much she was glad that the former first lady, Barbara Bush, had died. She added a number of inflammatory comments and seemed to enjoy the firestorm she created.

And she has the right to make those comments, not because they are true, but because of the freedom of speech that countless people have fought for in the history of our nation.

Barbara Bush was someone I admired. Like Jarrar, she said what she thought, but she blended in a large amount of grace, and she answered questions at the appropriate times they should be answered. I still remember an interview when her son, Jeb, was considering a run for the presidency. When asked about it, she candidly answered, “There’s been enough Bush’s in the White House!”

What enrages people is the impact of insensitive words at a time of great loss. It’s like saying to someone who recently lost their home in one of the Colorado fires, “Should have had better insurance!”

But in our country people have the right to be asses! It isn’t a crime! It’s a slap against the face of decency and a step backwards for humanity, but it’s not a crime! In fact, some people become such renowned asses that they get to teach others!

Dad…Two Months Gone

April 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    April 15, 2018

                               

Two months ago today Dad, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, passed away after a well-lived life of almost ninety years. He really wanted to break the finish-line tape of the ninety mark, but didn’t quite make it. And that was okay!

There are very few people who come to the end of their lives and are able to say “It was good! It was very good!” Dad was one of those! What made it good was the value he placed on things that are irreplaceable. He treasured his friends. When his friend Bill Ball passed away last summer it pained his soul. Bill was the last of Dad’s long-time friends, had passed the ninety mark a few years earlier, and the two of them conversed every week. Each had lost his wife around the same time and each had been married in excess of sixty years.

When Bill passed I think it hurt Dad, but it also eased the way for him. Seeing your friends, who are irreplaceable, travel on to Glory is like being afraid of entering an unfamiliar place, but then you see your friends go there and it makes it okay.

Dad had strong beliefs and convictions that he didn’t compromise. When the days remaining are few, I think that also brings a person to be able to say life was good. Remaining true to your promises and your commitments are signs of a life that is deeply-rooted, not tossed this way and that by what sounds good at the time. Steadfast and persevering, that’s how I would describe him! Gentle and fair would also be listed in the description of who he was and is.

A person never really gets used to the absence of the one who has always been there. The impact has been too deep and significant. I’m blessed in that the impact my dad left on me causes me to smile and feel blessed, as opposed to feeling oppressed and wounded.

And now two months since that Thursday afternoon when he breathed his last I still am able to experience his breath upon my life.

And it is good!

Growing My Hair Back

April 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     April 12, 2018

                               

The question has repeated itself countless times since March 4.

“Did you shave your head for St. Baldrick’s Day?” St. Baldrick’s is a day in March when money is raised to help find a cure for childhood cancer. People get their heads shaved at this worthy event.

“No!” I reply.  “I lost a bet to one of my freshman basketball players.”

“Oh!”

I won’t go into the details of the unfortunate bet, just a summary. I had made a wager with one of the boys on my basketball team who was atrocious at shooting free throws. I promised that I would shave my head if he shot 90%  from the free throw line for the season. I lost! He was 2 for 2 for the whole season! (You can go to the archives of “WordsfromWW.com” and read the story entitled “My Last Day With Hair…For A While”, which I posted on March 4) 

So now the hair on my head is growing back…slowly! I’ve gone through stages. The first stage was called “Sluggo”, after the character in the old Nancy comic strip. Little specks of hair dotted the top of my head, like pepper spilled on the kitchen table. Okay, spilled SALT and pepper!

The next stage had me taking on the look of a human pin cushion. I didn’t have to worry about bedhead, but I did have to watch out for short sharp objects accidentally being pushed into my scalp.

And now this week I’ve entered into the realm of the porcupine. My hair is at that growing back point where people look at you and wonder if you’re possibly an escaped felon on the lam. No one on the front of GQ magazine has hair like this. Come to think of it, no one on the front of AARP magazine has hair like this either. I am in the hair equivalent of the wilderness desert where Jesus spent forty days roaming around.

The next stage I’m afraid may be called “crabgrass” and my wife will try to run the spreader quietly past me dispersing it’s “Weed-B-Gon”. This may be the stage where I break open the tube of Brylcream that my sister shipped to me. It had been my dad’s. Maybe the slicked back look would make it look better! Ahhh…no!

I’m just hoping that I’m sporting enough of a head of hair a month from now when I go to a writer’s conference in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve got appointments with a few literary agents, and I’m hoping to get interest in the book I just recently completed. I need to have grown past the crabgrass stage into looking presentable and publishable!

One thing I’ve learned from all this is to qualify the wagers I make with my basketball players better, and to choose a player who will get fouled a lot during the season. Three of my players who shot 64% of all of our team’s free throws had a combined free throw shooting percentage of 46%. Next year I’ll pick one of those kind of players who won’t avoid contact like it’s the bubonic plague.

And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually get my head shaved next March for St. Baldrick’s!

The Laughter of Forgetfulness

April 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   April 11, 2018

                           

For most of my life I’ve been a laugher at the lighter moments and unusual occurrences. I take after my dad in that respect. My mom was the more serious parent. Laughing, from my perspective, was an ointment of survival in my thirty-six years as a pastor.

Like the Sunday we ran out of communion cups before everyone had been served. I remember pretending to drink the communion juice out of pretend cups, as did the others who were up front facing me after serving the congregation. Some may have stressed about the “pretending”, but I thought it was somewhat humorous. I guess who could call it “Communion Lite”!

Carol and I seem to be advancing in age and we’re encountering a few incidents of forgetfulness. No, I don’t believe we’re in the beginning stages of dementia or some other heart wrenching affliction that we see so often these days. I don’t believe I’m experiencing the effects of football-related concussions either. I tried to stay away from being tackled or tackling someone else. I was proficient in my avoidance of contact. My helmet was as clean as a well waxed Corvette at the end of the season.

This week we had planned on having dinner with Marie one night- Marie Calendar’s, that is! Pot pies to be exact! We prefer to bake them in the oven instead of the much shorter time in the microwave, so we preheated the oven to 400 degrees. They take about fifty minutes to bake, plus another five minutes to cool. I went upstairs to do some writing and Carol continued watching Dr. Phil, or some other show where someone is willing to let the whole world know that they are screwed up!

An hour later I came back downstairs. Carol was relaxing on the couch and as I walked into the kitchen I noticed two pot pies sitting on top of the stove. “Oh! They’re done!” was my first thought, and I walked over to help serve them.

But they weren’t done! They weren’t even started! We had forgotten to put them in the oven that had now been heating “nothing” at 400 degrees for the last hour.

“Ahhh, Carol!”
“Yes, dear!”

“We forgot to put the pot pies in the oven.”

“You’re kidding me!”

“Nope!”

And we both laughed! “Well, where would you like to go for dinner?” (Perhaps each of us subconsciously wanted to go out for dinner to begin with!)

We both laughed at our mental slip, and we had a great dinner out that night!

My dad was a great storyteller. What he didn’t realize, or the better word might be remember, is that he had told the same story to me several times, and even though I knew some of his stories so well I could have finished telling them for him, I still laughed at the end. The way he told them always caused me to laugh, and he also always laughed at the end of the retelling. He passed away not quite two months ago at the well-lived age of 89 and 2/3’s! His life was well-oiled with chuckles and laughter.

Twenty years from now I’m hoping my three kids will be sitting at the dinner table with me and willingly listen to my retelling of some stories that I had forgotten had already been told…several times. And I hope we laugh as much then as Carol and I laughed a couple of nights ago after staring at those two stone cold pot pies sitting there impatiently on top of the stove.