Fear, Friends and French Cuisine – 2 of 21 Ireland Posts

 

Ireland taught me that friends are all around us waiting to be made. We just need to step out to find them.

Before leaving on our trip I reached out to some churches in Dublin, Ireland and let them know that I’d love to serve them for an afternoon while I was in town. I told them that I could teach them a few things about using social media in a church setting.

I received a simple message back from one of the churches.

Hi Greg

Thank you for contacting us regarding your visit to Dublin and your offer of help. One of our Leaders, Joe Kerrigan, would love to meet with you when you are over.

Man! I was as happy as a puppy with two tails. Life was good!

The appointment was set and I was now going to meet with a Christian Leader in Ireland. In fact, this perfect stranger offered to come to our hotel in Dublin and pick us up. So… two days into our vacation my hotel phone rings and my wife and I head down to meet our new friends.

This is the moment when the fear and nerves began to kick in. You see, stepping out of comfort zones is fine with me in the beginning, but then you look and realize that you are actually doing it and you begin to question and sweat and worry and think and come up with excuses of why it wouldn’t work or shouldn’t work or why you should just stay home and do something more productive like plant another field in your Farmville world and…

Deep breath. 

I am slightly nervous and I’m not afraid to admit it. I mean… I am about to hop into a car with people I’ve never met to go to a place I’ve never been before to discuss a topic that I’m not sure will translate well. Oh wait. They speak English. I guess the ‘translate’ thing didn’t apply. However, I was just nervous and it crept into everything I thought about. 

So, we hop into the car and within five minutes I realize what a fool I was to be nervous. These two people, Joe and his wife, were awesome folks with big hearts, lots of passion and filled with stories that made you sit forward in your seat. Before I knew it, we were like long lost friends who found our ways back to one another.

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We drove to Joe’s house after a quick tour of the city and settled down into an afternoon tea. (Just between you and me, this tea thing is really starting to grow on me. I am traditionally a latte guy, but busting out a tea bag, milk and sugar is super quick, mighty tasty and makes me feel pretty classy. But, tally ho… I digress.)

In addition to Joe’s work in ministry, he is also a French trained chef… and an incredible one at that. Before I knew it I was tasting yummy delicacies as the room began to fill with the church leadership team. The room filled up and so did I.

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We all gathered around a big table and I began to talk about the journey of THE PLACE Church and how we have grown with the help of social media and before I knew it there was an incredible discussion taking place. There were questions and answers and laughter and dreaming.  And I looked around the table, in awe of what God had done.

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Sitting around that table were all sorts of people… there was a person who worked at Google and others who had run international ministries and others who had poured their lives into caring for the underprivileged in their community. And… here I was sitting with them because I sent out an email with a simple message:

I am here to serve.

After a couple hours the crowd thinned and the pastor asked if we wanted to grab a bite. We said “Sure” and were off. We drove the scenic route and saw sheep and castles and roundabouts and more sheep. (There are a lot of sheep in Ireland.) We pulled into a small seaside town and started walking down the lane next to shops and boat docks.

As we walked we talked. We chatted up church and God and our testimonies and music and history and our family tree and… (it was a long walk). And then we came to the steps.

The steps were about three feet tall each and there were probably five or six. They created a wall that you couldn’t see over, but you could climb up. Joe told me that he used to fish off these steps, but he wasn’t big enough to throw the line in. I imagined the vastness of this moment for a small child, because I felt the vastness of this moment for me… right then.

I climbed the first step. Eager. I climbed the second step. The top of my head could feel the cold wind. I climbed the third and fourth and reached the top of the stairs and my breath was literally stolen from my lungs. Not from the briskness of the air, but from the beauty of the moment. I knew that I had to share this moment with you, so I snapped a quick photo.

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This was my life in that moment. This was my reality.

However, I thought back to how it came to be. It was birthed in stepping out of my comfort zone. It was birthed in a willingness not to take… but to give. It was birthed in my willingness to let a stranger in close enough to know me… and in that moment, I was able to know him back.

I wonder how many of us miss out on the sunsets because we don’t have the courage to send the email. I wonder how many of us let that fear or anxiety stop us from following through on opportunities that sit all around us. I wonder how much more you could experience, if you would just be willing to get uncomfortable.

Start today. In this moment, make a commitment to get uncomfortable… to say “yes” when you’re scared… to reach out when you want to run away… to turn a stranger into a new friend.

And hurry up! Your sunsets are waiting.

Slainte!

GP

(To start with the first Ireland post “She Said Yes – Again”, click here. To read about my Irish memorial for my dad who passed away, click here.)

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I’m a Crappy Friend… Until Now

They say that the first step of true lasting change begins the day when you accept the facts of your life to be true. The one fact that I have had trouble admitting until now is simply this…

I am a crappy friend. 

I don’t aspire to be this, but it’s true.

Maybe it’s the four kids I’m trying to raise or the wife I try to continuously date or the plethora of job responsibilities that I have, but my excuse is that I am just TOO STINKING BUSY to be a good friend.

I don’t send random cards or call you for no reason. There is always a reason and if you get a card… it’s probably because my wife made me write it. 

But… all this is going to change… today.

I am learning that friendships are important and they are hard work. If I don’t try, than I will be missing out on one of the greatest gifts given to mankind. 

Relationships.

The face to face… The loving touch… The call just to say HI… The sincere comment of “I’ve been thinking of you” or “praying for you” or “I’m glad you’re not dead”. All of these statements are signs of a good friend.

I heard a story the other day about a guy who sat dead in his house for a month and a half before anyone even knew he was dead. No one even noticed. And, if it wasn’t for a hot summer and no air conditioner, he might still be nestled in a Lazy Boy watching reruns of All in the Family. That could easily be me… Archie Bunker and a TV remote…  That is if I don’t choose to change. 

We ALL have a choice of how we are going to live.

So, I choose to be a better friend.

  • I will call someone today for no other reason but to say “Hi! How have you been?”
  • I will sit down with someone new this week for a coffee or tea.
  • I will answer the phone when I don’t feel like talking.
  • I will look for opportunities every day to be kind and stay present.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And, just maybe, I will make a new friend or two along the way.

What about you? 

What can you do to be a better friend today? 

She Said Yes! Again – 1 of 21 Ireland Posts

So, I never really did it right the first time.

I know what you’re thinking… GP? The hopeless romantic? The guy who just oozes public displays of affection and memorizes poetry by Yeats? That guy never got down on one knee to propose to his wife!?!?! 

Well… I didn’t. And, I stink at PDA and wouldn’t know Yeats from Jagger… but there is always hope.

So, I came up with a plan. 

Step One: Tell wife she is cut off from all of my online banking and shopping activity.

Step Two: Find the perfect ring. Emerald… cause we will be in the Emerald Isle. (Well, I guess I am “kinda” romantic.) 

Step Three: Wait for the perfect moment and take a knee. 

Well, steps one and two were cake. The third, however, not so easy. 

I knew the Cliffs of Moher would be the best place because they are so stinking breathtaking! I mean… you walk up to this:

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It doesn’t get better than that! But, then there was the walking. You see, you have to walk up steps and ramps to get on top of these beasts. We came to a dead end. We have to choose right or left. Both sides are cliffs. We toss the imaginary coin.

We went right.

“Right” led us to a beautiful watchtower and a TON of people.

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They were everywhere. If people were bad mullets, this would have been a Whitesnake concert. It was infested. People were taking photos and walking with food and kids and coffees and no idea where they were going except up and out along the cliff’s edge and edging out my hopes of ever unloading this ring which was getting heavy in my backpack.

I shuffled around waiting. More people came. I spoke… “Uh, let’s go that way.”

It was the exact opposite direction that we had already gone. But, it was beautiful…. so it was fairly easy to talk her into it.

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We begin down the trail which it nice and paved and doesn’t draw the same kind of attention as the watchtower did. But, the nice paved trail leads to a dirt one as we pass by a sign that looks like this:

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Uh… yeah. Let me zoom on that if you didn’t catch it.

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This might as well be a skull and cross bones saying, “Cross this sign and YOU MAY DIE.” But, it doesn’t seem to stop the slow trickle people headed that way… so like a sheep led to the shearers, I keep calm and carry on. (Witty British connection there if you didn’t catch it.) 

We walk. I start thinking of things to say. My palms sweat. I don’t know if it is my nerves about the ring or the 750 ft. death plummet to my immediate right. I walk. 

“So… uh. We sure do some pretty crazy things don’t we?”

I see the PERFECT spot coming up. I am going to time this moment perfectly. There is no turning back.

She replies, “Yes”. She grabs my hand a little tighter. This is going to be great! and then I hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” A British teen jumps off a rock about 25 meters ahead of us. (Did you pick up on my use of meters? Yes, it had been a week and I had abandoned use of trivial things like inches or miles.) “You’re gonna push me out there.” The teen yells to an equally loud and annoying friend while motioning to the edge and the final plunge towards eternity.

I think how quiet it could become it they get a little closer to the edge. I shake out of it. I smile and offer my patented “courtesy laugh”. They continue to be loud and obnoxious, but they are headed towards us so I know it’s only a matter of time before they pass. I speak.

“Let’s stop and enjoy the view.” 

I look out over the water choke back vomit which enters my throat as a putrid smell fills my nostrils and envelopes me. I look behind me. It’s a field covered in a liquid brown fluid. I remember the words of the bus driver from yesterday, “Eh. This is the season where we fertilize the fields for planting.” 

Of course it is. Fertilizer. That season.

My wife tries to smile through a wrinkled nose. I know it’s only a matter of time before she retreats. I look at her kindly, pointing up ahead and say, “Let’s see the view from up there.” She obliges and we walk.

We reach a part where there is more land to grip my body on one knee. So, I speak… “Let’s get a picture.” I look left. I look right. The trail is clear.

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My wife is turned away looking back down the trail towards the poop stench probably thinking, “How can we get back to the car without traveling by that field again.” I pop open the box, drop my backpack, turn towards her as I lower myself to one knee. I speak, choking back tears… “I don’t have many regrets, but always regretted not doing this the right way. Would you marry me… again?”

And then I heard the words that I had longed to hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” as a British teen jumped off a rock above my head.

No, I’m just kidding. I heard the words… “Yes. Of course I would”. I stand and we do what any good American couple would do at a time like this. We kiss and then take a “selfie” of course.

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So, there you have it. There is a lot to learn for me from this day. 

Every day is a gift and sometimes things aren’t going to go the way you want. We make our plans and things don’t always work out that way. But, don’t let those moments stop you from pressing forward. Whether it’s a crowd of mullets or the stench of manure getting stuck in your nose hairs… don’t stop. Keep going. Because… the journey is the destination. So many, stop too soon.

Embrace the people in your life who mean the most. Don’t live in regrets from what you ‘wish you would have done’. Go out and do it today. Create TODAY the kind of TOMORROW that you want to live in.

I leave you with this simple Irish blessing.

“May you both live as long as you want and never want as long as you live”. 

Slainte!

My Dad’s Final View – Cliffs in Ireland

So, I went to Ireland the other day.

Yes, it was amazing. Yes, it was a dream come true. But… it was something else.

It was a trip that I was supposed to do with my dad. Well, at least until he passed away in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.

The trip was amazing though and my dad would have thoroughly enjoyed every single last bit of it… except the driving part. He would have definitely hated that. But… other than that it would have been a perfect trip for him. 

My wife and I decided to do something a little different. We took him with us on the trip.

Not in his angelic form… because he looks ridiculous in a diaper and he doesn’t know how to play the harp.

Not in the ashes form… because he is laying down next to my mom in a grave in Ohio right now.

No… we took his picture. A subtle reminder of the trip we weren’t able to do the way that we had planned. But… one that he was with us anyways.

The final day we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I believe that it would have been the highlight for my dad. Six straight days from Dublin to County Clare went by like a flash, but the Cliffs get stuck in your brain. They are spectacular… and I know that my dad would have loved them.

So, we dropped him off. 

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You know… losing your dad is never easy. I have lost both my mom and dad now and sometimes feel like an orphan. However, I know that I am not alone and my parents did the best job they could with me. I am who I am because of what they did in my life. 

So, my dad deserved someplace special. Yes… it was sad… and has been sad the last year and a half… 

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But, we smile. Sometimes we hide tears behind glasses and sadness behind smiles. But, we move on. We continue the journey of life and take what has been given and do the best that we can with it.

For my dad, he left me looking at a beautiful life that I can only have because he never stopped loving me and believing in me. I have been unlovable many times, but he never gave up and I won’t ever stop striving to live the best life I can to bring glory to God and the memory of my parents. 

Today, my dad is smiling upon one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Want to see what he’s looking at? Enjoy a little bit of his view…

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Slainte Dad… I will always love you!

GP

3 Keys to Living In Gratefulness

Living a life of gratefulness is key to living the best possible life ever. When you think about your life, does the word ‘grateful’ come to your mind?

Oftentimes, it may only happen when we are gathered at a table with a big fat turkey staring back at us. But, when we lose something or face difficulty, gratefulness comes back into perspective in our life. When we allow gratefulness to be part of our everyday life, however, we gain a greater perspective on what is truly important.

Personally, there are 5 things that I try to keep centered in my life to remember to be grateful. You can try these too.

  1. Say “Thank You” before your feet hit the floor.Before the java hits your lips, say ‘thank you’. There are so many things to be grateful for when your eyes open. Thankful for the breath in your lungs, the pillow under your head or the opportunity to make a difference in a new day. By making these the first two words out of your mouth, you will start your day with an attitude of gratefulness.
  2. Keep your eyes open to the little things.Each day we are surrounded by so many little things that are often taken for granted. That moment we have a conversation with someone that we didn’t plan and learn something that changes us or opens our mind to something new. Or, that moment when we look around at the job or house or family or friends that we have with new eyes. These moments have the power to increase gratefulness in our lives.
  3. Ask yourself one tough question every day.
    The question is simply this. “If I only had today what I thanked God for yesterday, what would I have?” Ouch! For some of us, that question hurts. We realize that our lack of gratefulness would cause us to live in a pretty sad and empty place. I recently shared this question at THE PLACE Church. Check out the video here:

Strive to live in gratefulness. It will truly have a profound impact on how you see yourself… others… and your life.

Let me hear from you. What are you grateful for this week?

Feel free to keep the conversation on my  Facebook page. 

With a Grateful Heart,

GP

 

Sitting Shiva… Stained Ties and a Big Pile of “Keep”

Boxes, old pictures and ties from another generation fill my vision as I start cleaning dad’s house.

My mom did many things for my dad. She covered over a lot of his flaws… she cooked three meals a day… and she cleaned really well. Without her, flaws were apparent… microwave dinners became his cuisine… and dust accumulated into a protective layer that covered everything. It is into this sea of dust that I find myself swimming today. Doing what I have always dreaded… separating all of my dad’s things into three distinctive piles… 

Throw Away. 

Sell.

Keep. 

A pile of stained ties and checkbook registrars from 1983 pepper the “throw away” pile. My dad was from a generation that kept things “just in case”. So, file upon file of papers must enter this pile. Some will be shredded. Some will just move from their heap in a drawer to their final resting place at the bottom of a trash compactor. But, there are some things that “may” be used by another person that I have no desire to have. These things move into the “sell” pile…

Furniture that is so heavy that it makes you want to cuss when you move it. Furniture made before particle board was chic… or prevalent. Knick knacks and drapes and pictures of things that have no meaning to me… they are piled together in preparation for their new homes… to be spread out throughout a community who will buy them at pennies to the dollar. These are all things that enter this ever growing pile.

But… there are other things that will mean nothing to anyone but me… and those things enter a pile to “keep”. 

My shoes that I wore before I could walk that are worn down on the tops from crawling instead of the bottoms. The picture of an old man praying before his meal which has followed my dad to every place he has ever lived and encapsulated his soul and depth of spirituality. The holiday dishes that have sat in the back of his closet for years that were never used because my dad didn’t want anything to happen to them. They have sat wrapped each Christmas for their safety. However, dishes weren’t meant to stay hidden, but to be used… just like us. We are not called to simply hide in our homes and be safe, but to live life and breathe deep and venture from our boxes on to the dining room table. And… in doing that… they may get damaged… and so may we. There may be chips in the plates from wear and tear and there may be cracks in our lives from use. But, we are meant to be used and active and it is a chance that we must take.

This year, those dishes will be on my dining room table.

I found a small book that I had given him for father’s day many years ago that I wrote in. I flipped open and there was a message written under my note to him. It was something that he had written to me. It had sat in his house unread until this moment. It was written many years ago for this moment. A message that transcended the grave. 

That book will sit on my shelf. 

I found pictures that are over half a century old buried in a box of junk. Picture after picture of my mom when she was a small child. Faded photos of another generation of the people who helped nurture the ones who brought me life. I had never seen them before. Jumbled and scattered at the bottom of a box they sat there waiting for me.

Those photos will be displayed for the world to see. 

Those things that really matter. Those things that are really important. Those things can’t be replaced with a dollar sign. They are in the “keep” pile.

I am not excited about a piece of technology that can be replaced at any WalMart or some car that will only rust and die. I am enamored by those possessions that hold a memory… those “things” that carry a thought… that property which has a story that I can use to carry the legacy of my family into the future generations. These are the things that mean the most to me.

As I look around my home today I ask myself a tough question. “Am I living my days to accumulate stuff that doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of life? Am I getting goods when I should be cultivating memories? Am I providing my family with those things that rust and time can not destroy?”

I hope I am. 

Because I know that there will come a day when I will breathe my last breath and I want to know that they will be able to look at each other and smile… remembering things that we did together or time that we shared. I want them recounting the moments of laughter and joy instead of the pennies that are left in the bank.

I will continue to go through clothes that should have been discarded a generation ago and probably find that 1993 tax information that dad kept so safe. I will wipe down walls and sneeze from the dust. I will fill vaccum bags full and empty out closets. And… with each item I touch… I will make a decision.

What will I trash? What will I sell? What will I keep?

I already know what is making it into the “keep” pile. Are you building a life that will assure that this “keep” pile will be the largest when you are gone? I hope you take a moment to consider this and how you are living… it makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks for Sitting Shiva with me!

GP

Sitting Shiva… Bulldogs and Bullet Shells

So, I led my dad’s funeral service… again.

If one time wasn’t hard enough, I did it twice. This time, however, I wasn’t alone. The flesh that had housed my father for over 60 years was nestled in the corner… in a box… that has become his final resting place. He laid there void of soul… yet, I sought to bring him back to life.

With words, I sought to speak his soul back into existence. With my voice, I tried to create his presence one last time…

I don’t know if anyone else felt that… but I did. I felt him there. Not the man in the corner, but the spirit in our hearts and the memories in our minds. He was there with us. He was there.

The funeral director was a blessing… quirky and kind. He did everything he could to give us all that we needed to make the ceremony perfect… but couldn’t deliver when it came to technology. I looked at him and said… 

“So, what kind of technology do you have.”

He looked confidently back into my eyes and said, “We have a CD player.”

Long awkward pause as I looked at him… No, I was looking through him.

He smiled. 

“Uh… yeah. What else? Do you have a TV?”

“Nope. We have a CD player.”

The 21st century just collided with the 20th century and I remembered that I was back in Ohio. 

Needless to say, I went shopping. After purchasing cords and a projector and some speakers… we were ready to go.

The day of the service came and there is nothing that I have ever HAD to do that I looked forward to LESS than this. I dragged my feet… I took an extra long shower… I buttoned my shirt slowly… I finally fell in the car seat and made the drive. As I pull into the parking lot, I see that people are waiting for me.

I am nearly 40 minutes early and people are waiting for me. 

I get out of the car and say “Hello”. I grabbed my bags and turn towards the funeral home. The door opens and my quirky friend’s assistant is there to greet me. I walk in the foyer and look at the closed door that leads to the actual room.

I look at the door again. It’s closed. I want it to stay closed. I want to turn and run away. But… I don’t. 

He opens the door. I know what is waiting for me on the other side of the door. I move through the opening and speak in a hushed tone. 

“Don’t let anyone else in until I say so.” 

“Of course.” He closes the door behind my family and I while he stands like a British soldier guarding the Palace. 

I look at the corner. There he is. Open casket. Flowers perched on his bottom half… hands tucked beneath covers… mouth wired shut – flat and emotionless. Just like how I thought I should feel… but, I didn’t feel that way. I look to my son. 

“You ready?”

We walk as a unit, my wife and son and I. We stand there staring down at the open box. I talk to my son about finality. I ask him how he is doing. My wife watches as a tear falls down her face. We stand there. I glance at the flowers and then over at the flag and then at my dad’s face. It is… was… his body. He has moved on. He wasn’t with me anymore and this box is not how I wanted to remember him… so my eyes dart. But, this box was part of the process… so we stood there and paid our final respects.

I look at the bulldog guard who is perched by the door. “It’s time”. I mouth it with a quick upward shake on my head. The doors open and people begin to come in. Fifteen minutes before the official viewing is open and people are already shuffling in.

Some drove from Kentucky… others Tennessee… others from right down the street. There were cousins and brothers and friends and neighbors. There were young and old, but they were all impacted by my dad. We even had a Lieutenant Colonel from the Pentagon… (yeah… I didn’t see that one coming either). 

All in all… my dad touched a lot of people’s lives and they were going to take advantage of this moment to honor him. And… in honoring him, they truly honored me.

I spoke. We laughed. We cried. Friends and family shared their memories and stories and it was truly a time of healing. I was able to meet a man who saw my grandfather die and he recounted all the details with me. (If you want to know more, read this post). I heard about my grandpa… the hero.

With a flag laid over his coffin, myself and 5 other special men carried my dad’s body to the hearse. It was:

Herb Kenter (my dad’s best friend)

Chuck Kenter (a close family friend for many years)

Shawn Kenter (another close family friend for many years)

Roger Smith (my best friend growing up)

David Hintz (my dad’s brother)

At the gravesite, there were many people waiting for me. Dressed in uniforms with rifles shining… they waited for us. A long line of cars pulled into the graveyard and worked their way to the tent where we stood. I helped bring my dad’s body out of that hearse and we laid him down under the tent. I took a few steps back as the people gathered and I let the soldiers take over.

I can’t explain in words right now what this ceremony meant to me… but I may in a future post. Let me simply say that it was the most powerful and honoring thing that I have ever been a part of. They spoke. They gave him a 21 gun salute. They played taps. They folded his flag and placed it into my arms. The commander saluted me and I returned it. I was then given the bullet casings from the 21 gun salute. I cherish them as much as I do the flag.

Those bullet casings mean something. They were filled with something at one point. They were filled with energy and have accomplished their purpose on earth. They are but a shell today… but a shell that reminds me of the most powerful moment of my life. A reminder of something far deeper than the actual metal casing… a reminder of my hero. 

Life is sort of like that… isn’t it. Each of us will be a spent casing one day. Each of us  will have accomplished our purposes on this earth and we will be done. However, we would have given each person who was part of our life a memory… or a casing… to remember. These memories point back to the purpose of our lives and live on far longer than we do. 

I want to leave casings… like my dad did. I want to leave memories… like my dad did. I want to touch lives and be able to say that my purpose was accomplished. Not only in what was given in the moment, but in the casings that lay scattered on the floors of those that I know and love.

My life is littered with the casings of others. People, who even in this season of my life, have changed me. Those who have loved me. Those who have stepped up to help carry the burden in these long days. I simply want to thank you and ask you to keep pulling that trigger in my life and I will commit to pull the trigger in yours. Together… we can make an incredible difference and leave casings littering the floors of each other. 

Thank you for Sitting Shiva with me.

GP 

Sitting Shiva… I Met a Deer Today in Clouds of Sadness

So I ran today.

If you know me at all… this is not surprising. Except for the fact that I haven’t ran in weeks. I haven’t even walked fast since I learned of my dad’s death, so running was long overdue. With Ohio clouds beckoning me on… I chose to lace up the shoes and run. 

I started with legs that felt more like tree trunks. I plodded on… step after step… until my breaths found their cadence and each movement of my leg brought the momentum necessary for the next. Steps turned into miles as I let my mind drift.

Here I am in Ohio… again. 

It is a place I don’t want to be… but I know I must be. I have an appointment here… an agenda… a purpose. I am here to send my father to his final resting place. In less than 12 hours I will be leading the last service that my dad will ever physically attend.

Ouch. That last sentence just flowed out of me, but it hurt. I didn’t like it and I don’t like it. It sounds final and sad… I guess it is. 

As I run I let my mind run. It has been caged up lately and it needs to run free. It needs release, but I am not always happy with the places my uncaged mind takes me… because sometimes it goes to places that I don’t want to be. 

Like that first moment tomorrow when I will see my dad at the funeral home. I haven’t seen him since the night before he left. He came to my house and brought ice cream over to share. He was celebrating his trip the next day. He wanted to celebrate with his family before his final ride.

I don’t know that I want to see him again… but I know I must. I don’t know if I want my kids to see him primped up in some box… but I know they must. I don’t know if my family wants to stand before his open casket and pay their final respects… but I know they must. I must. They must. We must. 

That is part of healing. 

I know that the  tears aren’t done for me. I haven’t cried in a few days, but my tears don’t run easy surrounded by people. There is no escape from people in the fresh dawn of tragedy. But, people won’t matter tomorrow. That’s my dad in the box and it’s the last time I will see him before heaven. However, he will live on in my heart and mind and life. I will live to shine bright for him. And, I will honor him tomorrow with my tears and my voice.

This is but one thought that I can’t escape, but the only one that won’t leave me… the one that returns… that one that won’t leave me alone… my dad in a box. 

I check my pulse a few miles from home. It is 178. Time to walk for a bit. It has been too long. 

I walk and think. I can’t wait for my time in Ohio to be over. The clouds cast a dank depression over a soul who needs no help being sad right now. 

I check my pulse. 143. Time to run. I start again. 

As I try not to think about my current reality a movement catches my attention to my left. My eyes shoot over and about 50 feet in front of me I see a buck darting across the street.

I am in a city called Berea… yes, I said “city”. There is a four lane street with a 5th suicide lane in the middle. We are not in “God’s country” and I surely wasn’t planning for Bambi to run out in front of me right now. But, it’s not a “Bambi”… it’s a buck…

My pace slows and I watch the deer. 

The buck darts across the street and takes a few more beautiful strides. I stumble for my camera on my phone, but in moments like this it never moves fast. I put the phone down and just stare at the beast before me.

He slows…

He stops….

He turns…

He stares at me for about 15-20 seconds and then walks into a thick forested area.

I stop. 

I think back to all my thoughts and the place where I was right now and the reason for my journey. I felt a whisper in my soul. “It’s fine, son. I’m home now. It’s time for you to leave me here.”

I smiled. 

Please don’t think that I’m talking to animals or anything like that… but God has a beautiful way of communicating to our souls and He can use our experiences to communicate His purposes in our life. In this moment in my life, God chose to use a deer and I chose to listen.

My dad is home. 

My dad is in heaven with his Father. My dad rejoices with the angels because of his faith in Jesus Christ and, after tomorrow, his bones will rest in the place of his childhood… next to the love of his life.

All in all… that is pretty sweet!

My job is simply to drop him off… to see him off… and to honor him with my words.

I ran home and it started raining… but Ohio wasn’t that terrible anymore. It was a piece of my puzzle… a chapter in the novel of my life and the rain become a “washing away of what was” and a “watering of what would be”. 

I reached my destination lighter than when I left. Even though I was soaking wet and smelled like a locker room, there was a freedom growing in my heart that I know would only grow in the next 24 hours. Tears will come… but they will water my soul and honor my dad… and those are the best tears to have.

After the run I took my family to see a movie called “Inside Out”. Again, God showed up. 

I don’t have time to tell you all that God spoke to me through that movie, but let me just point out one crucial, life changing, important fact.

IT’S OK TO BE SAD.

It’s OK to cry and be sad and when we try to stop experiencing this emotion… all other emotions can die too and we simply end up a stale and dark human being. This is not the man I long to be. I have been…  I am… and I will be sad.

But, I’m not sad for my dad’s life… for that I rejoice. 

I’m sad for those moments that I will never have… those conversations that will never be spoken… those smiles that I will never see. But… that’s OK too.

If you are sad today, I want you to know that it’s OK to be sad. Don’t put on a mask. Don’t pretend. Be real. Those tears are seeds of healing that need to be sown and you are the only farmer of your soul. 

Thanks for Sitting Shiva Still!

Blessings!

GP

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 9

Sitting Shiva… Meaningful Suffering and a Perch Sandwich

So, I led my dad’s memorial service the other day.

The question came from someone who cared deeply for me. “So, who are you going to get to do your dad’s service?” I looked back without any thought or hesitation. “Me. I am doing it. There is no one on earth who will do what I want to be done. I am the only one who knew my dad good enough to do his memorial and I am the one doing it.” 

They smiled… almost as if they knew the answer before they asked the question.

I meant those words. No matter how much care or preparation someone could put into a service for my dad, it would still leave me wanting more. I knew the purpose of the day and it was so simple. It is to celebrate my dad’s life and the man that he was… to share his struggles and triumphs in life… to let my mom (the absolute love of his life) shine as I knew that he would want… and to let his life inspire everyone who chose to be there.

And, I get to do this twice. My dad is blessed. He will get two services. One in Arizona and one in Ohio. 

His life could be broken down into three seasons. Life before my mom. Life until the death of my mom. Then, the last 10 years spent in the Grand Canyon State… Arizona. Those who have met him and cared for him in this final decade of years came out to celebrate his life this week. Over 100 people were cramped into church. Through tears… smiles and stories were shared. 

I heard a lot of stories that day.

I heard from those who had ridden motorcycles with my dad. They spoke of the love that he had when they were on the open road. They spoke of the stories they shared and the miles that they drove… together. Before my dad’s last ride. 

I heard from people who knew him at church. They spoke of his smile and the time that they spent serving God together in ministry. They told of how he would be missed. 

I heard from others who met my dad through the town. From his time working at the school to those things that he did to help the community, I heard many stories that continued to bring healing to my heart.

I heard from many who were near my dad’s age. They understood how young he was… how tragic is was… how it could have been any of them… how it could have been any of us. 

Tragedy makes you stop and think. That’s what it does… doesn’t it? There was no long sickness or extended goodbyes. There were no last words that were spoken or plans that were made. There was simply a man who was full of life and embracing adventure and then… nothing.

Or was there something?

I wonder if we speak more through our death sometimes than in our life. I wonder if the unspoken sentences still bounce around in souls and minister to minds who are left asking the question “What if?”

I would ask “what if”. But, my “what ifs” would be different than what you may think. They wouldn’t be…

“What if my dad didn’t take that motorcycle trip?” or

“What if I could have stopped him?” or

“What if someone would have done something that could have caused this nightmare to never have become my reality?”

No. I wouldn’t waste breath on questions like that. But, I would ask something like...

“What if God took my dad home and I am still here to take what he left me and live in such a way to make him proud?” or

“What if those lessons my dad gave me were for a greater purpose in my life?” or 

“What if there is not only meaning in my dad’s life… but also in his death?”

You see… these are better questions for me. I will still ask “what ifs”, but they will be questions that propel me forward and not drag me back. They will be questions that bring glory to the name of God and the Surname “Hintz” which was given to me by my father. I will seek to shine bright on this earth and let people know that the years of hard work, sweat and tears shed by my father were not in vain. They have a sense of purpose… great purpose… and they are not meaningless.

There’s no scarier word for me… “meaningless”.

At the memorial service this week I showed a video of a beautiful song called “Though You Slay Me” with a section that talks about “meaning”. And the message is simple… there is nothing that is “meaningless” in your life. It all has meaning. Everything has meaning.

Even the suffering. 

Even the tears. 

Even the pain.

Even the questions.

It all has meaning. 

I’m sitting in Ohio now and if there was ever a place that encapsulates the word “meaningless” to me… It’s Ohio… I know that some Ohioans are reading this right now and I am glad that you love your state… but I don’t.

But… you see… that doesn’t matter because MY DAD DID. And, because my dad did… there is meaning in me being here right now. In two days I will gather together with a new group of people. These people are from the first two seasons of my dad’s life. From his childhood… from his work years… from before he became a widower. We will gather together in the state that he always called “home”. And, it is in this place, where he will be laid to rest. Right next to my mom. They will be together again. 

I will seek to share his story with an audience that lived that story with him. They will hear about his life and the seasons that made up his years. I will hear some stories that I’ve never heard before. We will laugh together and… we will cry together. And… my hope for all of us… is that we will heal together too.

And… in that healing… we can all find meaning.

I ate perch today. 

I did it for dad. Fried Perch sandwich and steak fries smothered with malted vinegar and lots of salt. I know that it would have been his meal if he were sitting in my seat. And, I know that he would have taken one bite, clapped his hands and said… “Ahhhhh. There ain’t nothing like that Lake Erie Perch. There’s nothing like it.”

I didn’t clap my hands and I didn’t praise the heavens for Lake Erie… at least not out loud. However, in my mind I heard his voice. I hear his voice all the time. I hear his grateful praise for following his final wishes to the tee. I hear him comforting me when I’m sad. I hear his smile when he looks upon all those in his life that have cared for him and for those who have cared for my family in this difficult season. 

I hear him all the time.

Early on in my grief I was praying and I was asking about what to share at his funeral. I heard something that day too. I heard this…

“Tell them all that I loved them. Tell them that I loved them all very much.” 

I smiled. “Of course.” I whispered. “But I think they already know that.” 

And, sitting here today… I hope you do. 

Blessings!

GP

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 8