Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Fisher of Men

I'm home for a short period of time. Whew! I needed to have my own world around me for a bit. It's been a weird weekend and I'm not sure the week is going to get any less weird.

First, the gory details.
Dad (age 73) and his brother John (age 78) love to fish together. Generally their brother Art (age 80) comes up to Dad's cabin to spend a week with them and they all have a great time. Art had carpal tunnel surgery last week and he missed the trip. The two boys had spent the week at our cabin on the Boone River. There's no telephone, you have to drive a couple of miles to get high enough for a cell phone to work, so they hide out and have fun.

Thursday evening they were to meet Priscilla (Dad's second wife) for dinner at 5:30. They would call her when they were coming in to town (Webster City, Iowa). They didn't call, but remember, these are avid fishermen ... and if the fishin's good ... However, by 8:00, she got a little concerned and drove out to the cabin. They weren't there and she waited awhile. Then, she came back into town, called some friends and they all went back to wait. The next morning, she still hadn't heard from them - drove back to the cabin and they hadn't shown up. She called 911 and the search began.

About 2:30 on Friday, the sheriff discovered Uncle John's truck and boat trailer at Brushy Creek - a reservoir lake. They let Priscilla know this and the prayers began. By 4:30 or so, they had discovered the bodies. We began getting phone calls and information - much of it quite sketchy.

So ... they went over a spillway ... 150 feet down at a 60 degree angle. The water was quite high because of the immense amount of rain that central Iowa has been receiving, and the current was quite fast.

A Ranger discovered Dad's body in the boat, He actually tied it to the steering wheel so that it wouldn't float away, and went looking for Uncle John. Uncle John had traveled (with a bad back and terrible knees) up a very steep embankment to look for help.

More gory details: Coroner's report
There was an autopsy because of the nature of the accident. Dad had a bad blow to the head which knocked him out and he then drowned. Uncle John died from bleeding in the heart - probably a heart attack. He made it up the embankment, walked for about 200 yards and collapsed.

John, Jr. came up today with his family and sister, Joy. They picked up the truck and trailer and then went to Brushy Creek. My brother, Jim was with them and walked the path that John took. For younger men, the accident would have absolutely been survivable. But, Dad was 73, weakened from Parkinson's Disease, more than likely bounced around the boat like a rubber ball. Uncle John walked through 47 degree water, was shocked from the accident and Dad's death, is 78 years old and could not hold up under the strain. It's simply a tragedy.

Ahhh ... the joy.
But, in all of this, and I've said it before, these men were doing what they loved and they were together having fun as brothers. A friend told me today that she had received an email from dad several weeks ago: "Lord ... I'll give up 10 years of my life, if I don't have to die in a nursing home." That scared him more than anything! He loved being outdoors. He loved the water. He loved fishing. He loved his family. He hated being weak and he would have hated having people care for him 24/7. God answered a prayer that he had prayed daily.

My dad's life
People loved my dad. You might think I'm overstating or making more of him than I should. I'm not. He was a very unique person. When he met you, Dad made sure that you knew he had all the time in the world to get to know you. He expended himself on you. And ... he never forgot you.

He was generous. Oh my, he was generous ... with his time, his love, his knowledge, his money. We have discovered that he donated to at least 20 different charities as well as tithed to his church. But, every one of his neighbors came over this weekend. Why? Because Dad gave of himself to them. Not as much as he got weaker, but when he moved into that neighborhood in 1995, he began caring for these people. One neighbor was concerned that a 'preacher' was moving in next door and wouldn't be any fun. She came over yesterday with soup, because she loved him so much.

He used to get up very early - before anyone else was stirring and fire up the snowblower after a snowstorm. Now, he not only plowed the sidewalks, but would clean the driveways of all of his neighbors before they were up. Not once or twice, but as often as he could. He planted tomatoes and all of the neighbors knew that when he was harvesting them, he would show up at their door with a box full for them. Not one or two tomatoes, but a dozen or so - or as many as they could use.
His bible study group adores him, the youth in the church fell in love with him, though he stopped leading youth groups in 1984. He loved having the kids out to the cabin for retreats or afternoons. He would spend days cleaning up and preparing for them out there. And now? The kids are begging to be allowed to go out and help us by mowing and cleaning up the meadows. They know how much time he spent doing that work.

All of this was happening in a church that he didn't even pastor ... but, in reality ... he pastored every person he ever came in contact with.

I've heard from cousins and friends from former churches. They're destroyed. Dad's first altar call in Sigourney saved a woman's life - she was headed down a dark path of destruction and found her way to the altar when Dad listened to God's voice telling him to just open the altar. A friend of Carol's called to tell her that Dad changed her life ... in confirmation. He taught her about the love of God. And you know what? What he taught, he lived. A cousin called me today to tell me another story about Dad. The stories are innumerable. This man touched lives I will never know about.

Fishing was one of Dad's greatest joys. You know, he never went evangelizing or 'fishing' for men. But, that's what he was ... by the very nature of his being. If you knew him, before long, you knew God. Dad would ensure your entrance into the kingdom and you might not even know what hit you. Other times, he wasn't afraid to hit you over the head with that fishing pole because he didn't want to lose you in that kingdom.

There is so much to tell about this man. I have some hilarious stories from this last weekend as I've been going through his stuff. But, I'll save that for another post.

I look forward to the stories from Dad's friends, family and parishioners. I know what they'll tell me, though. Their lives have been changed for the better by this man. He rescued them from the pit of hell by telling them about Jesus, or he simply shared everything he had with them. All of it, though, pointed to the Lord that he loved.

You see, I know that as he was bouncing around and before he was hit on the head, the last words of my father were, "Thank you Jesus." Those were the last words before he fell asleep and the first words when he woke up.


Jacqniel said...

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Makes me yearn to have known him. You are very blessed to see the good in this tragedy. May God continue to bless you and your family and provide you with comfort and strength. Be sure to take care of yourself. Love you, Jacque

Anonymous said...

Im sorry to hear of your loss. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I can imagine people were better off for knowing him.

Thank you for the blog love. I'll link you up on my site and look forward to seeing more of what you have to say.

Rebecca said...

the picture you paint of this man seems to reflect you in so many ways.. what a blessing...though I don't know him.. though I won't know him... I am grateful for the joy that trickles down into my life from him through you!