This Sunday is Father’s Day and I am sending out the message early.
This is a story about my Dad and me dealing with the death of my Mom. The story began as an entry in my journal.
After I prepared it as a message fifteen years ago, I had my doubts about sending it out. Its reference to God is indirect. It is personal. It is very simple.
To my surprise, the response of readers was immediate and positive. It is one of my most popular messages ever.
The Christian themes of hope and life beyond loss are found in this story. I am convinced that people want to believe in God, but we let them down when we hector them about what to believe rather than letting our lives speak to them of what it means to believe.
If we can’t show what a difference belief in a gracious God means in our own life then we don’t have anything to say of value to anyone. I learned this from my Dad. This story is a glimpse at what it means to carry the hope of Christ in the hearts of two generations.
Dad died early in 2005 having leaved a full 94 years. I miss him.
. . .
I drive with my Dad over Point Loma on a sunny, San Diego Sunday. We look at the ocean stretching out gray-green all the way to Hawaii.
Mom died a month ago. Sometimes you return to empty spaces to remind you of what is no longer there the way one runs his or her tongue over the socket of a recently extracted molar.
There are 70 years of their marriage and 49 years of my life as their son behind us. We do not speak of these things. Our family deals with its sorrows by getting in a car and driving.
Along the way we comment on a cruise ship leaving the dock, a navy frigate in the harbor, the spot where Europeans first landed in California, and the phalanx of white headstones in the national cemetery on the ridge. We stick to the facts.
Our Hansen forebears were practical men and women who took their losses in stride and kept going. “No fuss, no muss” living is the ethos that developed through the generations.
Dad was a carpenter, a builder and a farmer. Mom was a teacher and a writer. Here are principles for living that I learned from them–
Believe God’s Word.
Pray about everything.
Learn a skill.
Marry for life.
Do your job even when you don’t feel like it.
Don’t ask someone else to do what you can do for yourself.
Harvest what you plant.
If your crop fails, plant again.
Finish building what you start.
Pay your bills on time.
Worrying about a problem never solves it.
If someone needs help and you can give it, then help them.
Seek more for your children than you have.
Don’t act like who you are not.
It’s ok to cry if you are really hurt or happy.
You want others to take you more seriously than you take yourself.
Sit up straight and act right because of who you are, not because of what someone else thinks.
These values and virtues were worked out in the course of Dad and Mom’s life together. I was twenty years old when those principles kicked in for me. I was talking on the phone to my boss back at the University on a Sunday evening. He called me in my hospital room after surgery on my leg. My fiancee had died a few hours before in an accident.
I could barely breathe with choking grief and the future was a dark blank, but my first instinct was to tell him, “Hold my job, I’ll be back.”
“Oh, we can talk about that later.”
“No, I mean it,” I insisted. “Hold my spot, I’ll be there.”
This wasn’t heroism. It is a way of living. If you have breath and a pulse, you keep going after you take a hit. The alternative is unthinkable.
The man who taught me this by example was riding beside me taking in the sights. I know Dad is hurting. He says so when asked. He’s no stoic. Mom and Dad were vastly different in their personalities, but these very principles, applied day by day, made a seven-decade marriage and built a family. They were partners for the full length of their life together. To try get Dad to describe Mom’s loss would only cheapen it with the inadequacy of words.
We ride through the warm fall sunshine for hours, exploring the coast and enjoying the peaceful fellowship of a father and son who know they love each other without a doubt.
On the way home Dad asks me to stop at a hardware store if we pass one.
“OK, but what do you need?”
“I lost my pocket knife yesterday. I had it a long time. I want to get a new one.”
I spot a store and we walk in together. We look over the choices. Dad is particular, but he finally settles for one with three blades instead of the two he had in mind.
My heart is blessed by the grace in Dad’s purchase. It reminds me that you replace the losses you can and accept the ones that you can’t. The truth is that a man who is going to live and is looking ahead needs a good pocket knife. And so we move on in hope.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alask