When my sister and I dreamed up this website and podcast a few months ago we planned to post our first episode yesterday, September 5th. A few things kept us from doing that.
First, about three weeks ago I rediscovered that my luddite instincts still burn strong. My technological incompetence knows no boundaries. It turns out I wasn’t quite sure how to use all the recording equipment I purchased. Luckily, I have a few friends who I would describe as more technologically sophisticated and likely just plain better people. Hopefully we can remove the barriers that now stand between me and podcast success.
Secondly, my father passed away on July 23rd. My dad fought an eleven year battle with cancer. A cancer that claims most of its victim’s lives in five years. That staggering difference was likely due to his resilience, courageous resolve to fight, and the grace of God. The culmination of that fight reached a kind of end on Sunday. In the church he pastored for the last 27 years of his vocational life, we gathered to say goodbye.
Many of you who loved my dad were not able to attend the funeral. So in lieu of a first episode, I’d like to offer you a few pieces of the liturgy from that service as well as a few other artifacts. Below you’ll find the opening comments I made at the service on Sunday. It is directed at those who attended the funeral. But let’s substitute “presence” or “attendance” with your reading/watching/listening. Those digital responses are also acts of love. So thank you.
Beneath the comments you’ll find an interview Noel conducted with my dad this last Memorial Day weekend for StoryCorps, a video that is a kind of obituary, and lastly, another video that is your standard funeral slideshow (yes, Noel and I are big Parenthood fans and stole that one right out of their playbook).
NPR runs a special program called This I believe. It is a collection of submitted essays open to everyone. Each essay begins with the same three words, “this i believe.” The essays continue by exploring the confessions of the brave souls who submit them.
In the month between when we buried my father at Fort Snelling and this moment, I saw an essay that caught my eye. Deidra Sullivan wrote, “this i believe … always go to the funeral.”
Sullivan explains that her father coached her to always go the funeral. She never understood why. As a child funerals confussed her. As an adolescent they were awkward. She confesses that she hated most of those moments. And then a few years ago, she lost her own father--to cancer. I’d like to read her concluding paragraph.
“On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the workweek. I had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my breath away. The most human, powerful and humbling thing I've ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral.”
I guess I wanted to tell all of you this. I see you. I see you here and it takes my breath away. My family has spent this last month drenched in grief, but that grief has been matched by an unprecedented love.
So thank you for being here today. Thank you for listening patiently to every word as we work through our grief, and know that you being here matters deeply to us.
Noel's StoryCorps Interview
Which can be found here.