Posted tagged ‘memories’

The Box

March 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                March 8, 2018


It arrived yesterday, filled with familiar scents and memory items that no one else would see with any value.

It’s been three weeks since my dad passed away. My sister and brother-in-law have been sorting through his belongings after moving everything out of his apartment. It was a major task just to get it moved, but, for starters, she simply was moving it from one place to another…her house. The last week for her has been a time of sorting through the items that are reminiscent of our father.

In sending me “The Box” she was bringing part of Dad to our house. The box did not contain items that I necessarily need, but it contained some of who my dad was- kind of like a small museum!

I was looking at some of the contents this morning and pondering Pops.

I now have four University of Kentucky ball caps. One of them- a blue cap with a large letter “K” on the front- was worn by Dad, a UK grad, to the UK basketball game back in December of 2016 against Valparaiso. My sister took a picture of him in the lobby at Rupp Arena that night alongside former UK coach, Joe. B. Hall. Each of them had their “hurry-canes” by their side as the camera snapped the photo.

In the box are my mom’s Bible and one of Dad’s old Bibles. Each have their names scripted into the lower right corner leather.

There’s his personal calculator from about thirty years ago. He had not transitioned to using the calculator on a smart phone, because he didn’t have a smart phone. He had one of those flip phones that resembled the walkie talkie’s on Star Trek.

There’s a tube of Brylcreem! (“A little dab will do ya!”) That takes me back! Most of my uncles, plus my dad and grandfather, used the hair cream. That was the thing back in Eastern Kentucky. Dad didn’t need to worry about his hair blowing all over the place. The cream kept it firmly matted in place. When he started having some skin cancers on his scalp, ears, and nose he had to ease up on the Brylcreem. I’m not sure if Brylcreem has an expiration date!

There’s a trophy recognizing his achievement of finishing last in a euchre tournament back in 1975. Mom and Dad went to Florida with three other couples from our church, enjoyed the sun during the day and played euchre each evening. The trophy features a gold horse’s rump! I remember Dad telling me about it in detail. It always elicited a chuckle, remembering the razzing but mostly remembering his friends.

There’s a shoe horn still in mint unbent position. Putting his shoes on properly was an indication of my father’s emphasis on doing things correctly and not in a hurry.

There’s the photo album with the title on the cover “Our Son’s Wedding.” Yes, it’s our wedding from almost 39 years ago. As I look at our youthfulness, and who my parents were back in 1979 all I can say is “Wow!”

There are a few of my mom’s Longaberger baskets. She collected them like baseball cards!

And a stapler! And replacements blades for his electric shaver! And a cookbook put together by people from his church!

And handkerchiefs folded neatly, like they were a part of a J.C. Penney’s catalog display.

I’ve experienced families that descend like vultures on the possessions of the deceased. It’s an occasion where the lust for someone’s valuables devalues the life of the one who has passed on. My dad’s valuables are on the other end of the spectrum. I am like Don Quixote as I look at them, seeing rich memories in a shoe horn and value in a tube of Brylcreem.

I stare at the collection that brings stories and moments back to my mind. Saying goodbye to someone is never painless, but recalling the shared times and conversations…that’s priceless!

Dad’s Things

February 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           February 19, 2018


It’s a small apartment located at the end of the first floor in the Wyngate Senior Living Complex. Dad has lived there for about the last three years, making new friends and acquaintances with other travelers of life’s final chapters.

Later on today and tomorrow my sister and I will spend some time over there going through some of his possessions, and breathing in the memories.

Dad passed from this life to the next on February 15 at the age of 89 years and 8 months. His was a life well-lived!

His apartment is a testimony to who he was and what had become entwined in his life.

There are the oxygen tanks that testify to his health limitations. Like a changing autumn landscape, I had noticed the changing interior of his apartment when I would come for one of my visits to southern Ohio from Colorado. Medications, the medical supplies a diabetic would need, blood pressure monitor, and (Sorry, Dad!) a good supply of adult diapers, his apartment spoke about that winter season of life that most of us will arrive at.

Scattered through the living room, bedroom, and closet are numerous items with the initials “U.K.” on them. Dad graduated from The University of Kentucky. He was proud of his Wildcats, suffering through many a football season and much happier most basketball seasons. There are UK shirts, hats, mugs, plates, flags, and the 1951 UK Yearbook. He had attended Kentucky after getting out of the Navy, but it wasn’t easy. He had married Mom, welcomed Child #1, our brother, Charlie, and provided for his growing family as he wore the hats labeled student, employee, husband, and father. Things were not easy during his UK years, and yet those years shaped him with the elements of resolve, perseverance, and organization.

Come to think of it, using the word “scattered” to begin that last paragraph would be the antithesis of who Dad was. His apartment is organized. His papers are organized. His cupboards are organized. By golly, his dresser drawers are organized!

There are Rotary remembrances. The service club had been a part of Dad’s life for close to forty years, joining the Ironton, Ohio chapter not long after our family moved to the town in 1969. Service defined Pops! He fit well in the organization that was sewed into the community’s fabric. But he also served the church, served his neighbors, and served our mother in their sixty-five years of marriage. He served as her caregiver in the last few years of her life, and at Wyngate he did those little acts of service. I remember my sister telling me that Dad tutored a woman who lived in the apartment next to him on how to give herself an insulin shot. She was scared to death, but Dad was able to bring down her anxiety about being poked and help her jump over that hurdle.

Pictures and pictures! Photo albums filled with pictures…framed pictures…pictures attached to his refrigerator…pictures with meaning and memories. The pictures give “snapshots” of his journey…family, church, laughter, friendships.

Going through Dad’s things, I realize, is important for my walk of grief. It’s ointment for my aching soul as I cry out for my father to come and sit beside me. Most of the things in his  apartment will end up going to Goodwill or to someone else who needs furniture or dishes, but for now I need to be amongst “his things”. It’s a part of letting go and finding peace.

The Hand Grasp of My Father

February 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                February 16, 2018


“Dad, look who’s here to see you!”

I entered his hospital room and caught sight of the elderly man, withered and worn out. His dinner tray, that he hadn’t the least bit interest in, was in front go him. Perhaps a six year old should be made to eat his peas and carrots but not an 89 year old man in his last hours.

He mumbled a few words when he caught sight of me. I think he said, “Well, hi, son!”

And he grasped my hand with firmness and purpose.

That hand had grasped me a number of times over the course of my life. Sometimes it conveyed discipline and disappointment, and at other times it told me of a father’s pride in his son’s accomplishments and decisions.

I remember that hand on the back of the bicycle I was learning to ride. I’d be wobbling like a Saturday night drunk riding it down the sidewalk. Dad would be jogging along behind me keeping me propped up, firmly grasping the back of the seat. From the front it must have looked like a car in serious need of the wheels being aligned, but from the back it was a view of the youngest child taking another step in the long ride of growing up.

“Dad, I can’t get the lawnmower started.”

Dad came out to the garage where I was struggling with the machine. His hand firmly grasped the handle on the end of the pull cord and he pulled. On the second pull the motor took off and he looked at me with a slight smile that non-verbally communicated “You’ve got to put a little muscle behind it.”

“Thanks!” I sheepishly replied.

I remember the grasp of the hand at the end of my ordination service on June 24, 1979. I had just been given the charge to ministry, been prayed over, and congratulated…and then there was Dad’s hand grasp telling me how proud he was of me, but also the importance of the calling.

Last summer we stood in a side classroom of Beulah Baptist Church. The worship service had ended a few minutes before that and there was a woman who had requested that the deacons pray for her. A serious medical condition had been discovered. They invited me to join them in the prayer circle around the lady. I stood next to my father, Deacon Emeritus of the church, grasped his hand, and then listened to him and others pray for the woman. His hand hold was firm, just as his faith in the power of prayer was strong.

Within an hour we held each other’s hands around the dinner table as he prayed for the blessings of God upon our meal and family.

When I would come from Colorado to visit him in the past few years he would reach his hand towards me at meal time, grasp it with care, and pray the dinner grace.

After several minutes in the hospital room he finally releases his grip and allows my sister to feed him the chocolate pudding from his tray. Unlike the peas and carrots he eats all of the pudding. It’s the last food he will partake of, a taste of sweetness that describes the effect of his life on so many others.

Less than a day later he passes on…and it’s okay! Like his hand grasp, he is a man who had a firm grasp on what is important in life.

That last grasp of the hand. I’m extremely thankful that God allowed me to have it. In my memories of Pops i’ll hold on to that moment for a long, long time.

Rethinking About The Little Thankings

November 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             November 18, 2016


As Thanksgiving Day descends upon us it has caused me to think about the little things I’m thankful for. Perhaps you have your own list that resonates within you. Here’s a few things that cause me to stop, ponder, and be continually thankful for:

1) Sitting on the couch with my three grandkids watching TV, especially if one or two of them are leaned up against me. It causes me to remember when I was growing up and sitting beside my mom and dad in church, leaning into their warmth and presence. Now Reagan and Rennie lean into me and warm my soul!

2) Sunday early evening phone conversations with my dad. Since we’re two time zones apart it usually happens right after I’ve eaten dinner and he’s getting ready for bed. My dad is 88! His pleasant Eastern Kentucky accent carries a flood of family memories with it. As I talk with him I’m thinking of many of those things that he has brought to my life. He taught me how to drive, using our ’66’ Chrysler Newport as the guinea pig. In fact, the first time I drove it in the Ironton Junior High School parking lot I was trying to turn it so hard that I broke the power steering. Although he thought about killing me, patience won out!

3) Being married to a woman with a heart for kids who have needs. Carol is sensitive to those who have limitations as she works with special needs students in middle school. Although she retired at the end of the last school year she gets called EVERY SCHOOL DAY…Trust me! EVERY SCHOOL DAY!…to substitute! She comes alongside students who sometimes are ostracized in the midst of the middle school culture. At the end of the school day she is one tired puppy!

4) The ability to reflect and write. God has gifted me with an unusual talent. Most days as I sit on my Starbucks stool and peck out my blog post I have no idea what I’m about to write until I start writing it. Sometimes it comes as I put the Half and Half in my first cup of coffee; sometimes it comes as I sit and stare at Pike’s Peak for a couple of minutes…but it always seems to come! Most of the time it even makes sense!

5) A renewed passion for the church! As I help First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado navigate the future it excites me. My excitement is definitely not based on compensation, but rather on “mission and purpose.” I love this congregation of twenty, who are anxious about their future. Thirty-seven years of pastoring has prepared me to offer advice and lead them to the questions that they need to be asking themselves.

6) The memories that pain me! That probably sounds strange, and yet I’m thankful for the wounds of my soul! In the past two months I’ve presided over the funerals of two dear people- a 95 year old saint named Rex and a 41 year old friend and father named Greg. I cried at both of them, and I am thankful that my life was blessed by them to the point that I was deeply impacted. Even now as I write these words the grief once again is like a wave that rushes over me.

We often think about the big reasons to be thankful, but the lake of thanksgiving is held together by small pebbles of gratitude!

Stories That We Remember

May 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 30, 2016


Yesterday was an amazing day for Carol and me. The second Air Force Academy cadet that we have been a sponsor family for is graduating this week. Justin Katzovitz went to the same high school that Carol did, Hinsdale Central in Hinsdale, Illinois. Justin is Jewish. His parents were a little apprehensive about having Justin being hosted by an American Baptist pastor and his wife, but Justin said he wanted us. We’ve learned a few things about one another the past four years, like when we took him to Walmart on a Sunday night to buy Hanukkah decorations for a meal that next week. He had been assigned that task of decorating the meal table. And we realized that Hanukkah is not high on the list of products being sold at Walmart. Justin settled for a couple of strings of lights. Yesterday we attended the Jewish Baccalaureate service in the lower level of the Academy chapel. It was a warm and inviting gathering of those of the Academy Jewish community and their guests.

The speaker was a man named Joel Grishaver, a Jewish writer, teacher, and storyteller. Joel must be in his seventies and is afflicted with some form of mobility affliction that requires him to use two canes that are braced around his forearms. He told us a wonderful story about a rabbi who had died, and at a gathering for him people told story after story of how he had affected their lives.

Joel then made the point that stories connect us. Keep telling the stories. Stories draw us together in deep relationships. It was a talk that I have continued to ponder ever since I heard it.

Last night a number of young ladies that I coached in basketball at Liberty High School between 2008-2013 came over to our house for a cook-out. One of them is about to enter graduate school. Another takes her LSAT exam next month. One of them graduated college and is now in that anxious period called “job search process.” Two others are entering their final semester, or year of college. Three are about to begin college, and another will be a second-year Cornhusker.

We ate around our patio table on the back deck, laughed, laughed some more, and we told stories. Stories of past events and things that were said that will always be remembered. The story of Katie Cahn getting her two front teeth knocked out in practice, which wasn’t funny at the time it happened, but was described in detail with laughter last night. The huge mouth guards that Katie Upton and Amanda Dix wore in vivid red and blue colors, and especially wore them after Katie Cahn lost her teeth! The picture of the female Goliath that Alex Rivas had on her cell phone that she was suppose to try to tackle in a women’s rugby game at Colorado University. Kayla Childs’ stories from her incredible trip to Cambodia. Kira Comfort’s stories of breaking bones and learning the game of golf… a non-contact sport! Emily Aldrich’s story of a less than friendly verbal exchange with a Palmer Terror player one game.

We sat and shared stories, and laughed, and exaggerated, and laughed, and then told stories of others who weren’t with us last night at the gathering.

Stories connect us and deepen the depth and strength of the roots of the relationships. By the end of the evening people were shivering with a mixture of chills and chuckles. As Joel Grishaver had told the Jewish cadet graduates that morning about the power of stories, I saw it being experienced last night.

T-Shirt History

April 25, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 25, 2016


My wife Carol had a “Come to Jesus” moment with me on Saturday. She took on the task of cleaning out my clothes cabinet and then had me come up to our bedroom with “The News!”

“Bill, you have 110 t-shirts!”


That was not the response she was looking for!

“You need to figure out which ones you want to keep and which ones you are going to get rid of.”


“No buts!”

I scanned the stacks of reds, blues, greens, blacks, and whites. The shirt on top of the red stack was from July 4, 1989. It was one that I wore for our church, First Baptist Church of Mason, in the Fourth of July parade. I was looking at history!

Another stack had the white t-shirt that I wore in the Judson College Alumni basketball game in 1991. I scored two points! Memories of the shot came back to me as I gazed at the shirt that only had a couple of holes in it after all these years.

There was the long sleeve shirt I bought at Monterey during our Spring Break vacation to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. Only been worn once! Mint condition! Plus, from the same trip I had the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs shirt! How many people have one of those?

Further down the stack I found my “Vote for Pedro” black t-shirt from Napoleon Dynamite days. Several camp t-shirts were clumped together, as were YMCA shirts.

So much of my life history was tied up in these bundles of garment. How could I sort through my history and discard “years?”

Carol left me alone to deal with my grief. I stayed in the room, like the surviving spouse of the deceased, spending time with the dearly garment departed.

By the end of the afternoon a group of my shirts had been moved into hospice care for their last days before heading to Goodwill. The shirts that survived the cut cheered as they were restocked into my cabinet. The doors were able to be closed…all the way!

I love history. It’s very difficult for me to let it go, but all things are possible through Christ!

I’ve noticed, however, that Carol is now looking at my stacks of books. Books…with minimal pictures and a wealth of information and stories to tell! She has forewarned me that “a summer purge” will be happening.

I’m hiding my Doris Kearns Goodwin books and seminary theology volumes. How could I cast off Jurgen Moltmann? Like Corrie Ten Boom, I’m finding hiding places for them.

They will be able to share space with the t-shirts that are already hiding there.

Reliving Life

February 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        February 16, 2015


The needle of my life pushed past the halfway mark a few years ago…unless I live to be 120! Since my chronological age has a six in front of it I spend more than a few moments each day reliving past moments.

Understand that doesn’t mean that I’m constantly reliving those moments- few and far between- when I was hoisting a trophy in the air…or being honored by the Rotary Club for being named “Citizen of the Year”…no, that was a dream.

I seem to relive conversations, talks that stand out for their depth and discovery. As a pastor I remember counseling sessions where I was as stressed out as the confessors. I remember hospital bedside moments where eternity has been anticipated, regrets have been voiced, and hopes have been attached to grim realities.

As a parent I relive some of our kid’s soccer games…David’s high school team winning the state championship; basketball experiences…seeing Kecia nailing four three pointers in a game; Lizi captaining her college cheer squad at football games.

I also relive the boyfriends and girlfriends that graced our homes…sometimes for a while and other times for a moment. Most of the time these “special friends” got kicked to the curb…in a loving Christian way.

I relive special moments…Carol’s surprise 40th birthday party at Mason First Baptist where we drove up to a dark church building, but Carol noticed Lorraine Demorest’s car sitting out front and immediately thought that Lorraine had been killed by an axe murderer while we was practicing hymns on the organ for that coming Sunday.

I relive moments with many of my relatives who have gone on to glory. I think of my Uncle Junior prone to give my leg a pinch if I wasn’t paying attention; my Uncle Bernie’s pipe and delightful laugh; and my Aunt Irene’s taking me to Dairy Queen in celebration of my sixth birthday and allowing me to order a foot-long hot dog, milk shake, and banana split.

I also relive the dark moments and dreaded phone calls. I remember Dave Hart’s early morning phone call that his step-son Gary McClellan had been killed in a car accident; and my wife’s call while I was in the middle of a Deacon’s meeting to say that David, who was two years old at the time, had fallen from our neighbor’s second-floor landing on to a piece of sheet plywood that, thankfully, was laying on top of the asphalt below.

I relive my daughters’ weddings and the overwhelming emotional experience it was for both Carol and me. I’m tearing up as I relive them again right now.

I relive the waiting room experience at Penrose St. Francis Hospital as Kecia was in labor with her second child…and suddenly hearing the cry of a newborn baby a few yards away…and Reagan has been talking ever since then!

We relive life, learn from our mistakes, long to repeat the unforgettable, thank God for the endearing. Every conversation is a gift, another ornament on the tree of my life. Every sunrise is a blessing, every sunset a reminder of the cycle of God’s attentive care.

I pause several times a day to thank God for what has been, the richness of relationships, and the ability to say “Lord, you have blessed me bountifully!”