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

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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

Sitting Shiva… Musty Gun Powder and a Fresh Start

I sat in my dad’s truck for a while today.

I had no reason to be there. I wasn’t looking for anything. I just wanted to be reminded of him so I sat. I breathed in an odor that belonged to him. It smelled like musty gun powder. I smiled. 

Sitting in that truck I knew that I was going to be OK. It’s been 7 days now. The reality is officially one week old and looking back… it feels like a foggy month of Mondays. One day bleeding into another… leaving a red pool at the foot of my bed that I have to step into each and every morning. The moments of sleep have brought comfort and have been appreciated and looked for. Today, however, I started to feel that same feeling… but awake.

I am starting to breathe deep again. I am starting to notice the moments as they pass me by. I am starting to talk to people without wishing that I could just disappear. I have left the house and not counted the seconds until my return. I have walked from my house into the stifling heat and saw things for the first time again. I am starting to heal.

The police sent my dad’s belongings to me. 

My wife sat the brown box on the table. I looked away. “Go ahead and open it.” I said, not wanting to see what I knew was there. It contained the things that he always had on him. The things that had sat locked up in a police locker until now. His keys… his phone… and his wallet.

Later in the day… I opened the wallet.

It smelled just like the inside of his truck. It was fat with memories. A picture of my mom when she was 18 years old is the first thing I saw as it flopped open. It was the first thing that he saw every time he released it. I know that he wanted it that way. Everything was positioned that way. She has been gone ten years now… but she was still the first face that he saw each morning. 

I turned the plastic photo cover in his wallet to expose another dated picture. This one is of a little baby’s first photo. The first photo taken in a hospital after the blood is wiped away. The baby staring back at me is me… many years prior. It was my first photo and one that never left my dad’s side. I was always with him… and now I was face to face with myself.

I speak to me. “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. But… who does?” 

No one imagines this day. No one knows how they will act… what they will say… how they will heal. You just hold your breath and go through it… one day at a time. And, that is what I am doing. One day at a time and this is just another day. I feel better today. The tidal wave hasn’t crashed… yet. It still might and I am OK with that. I don’t fear it anymore. In fact… I welcome it now.

It has been a week since my dad died, but he is more alive in me today than ever before. 

I am filled with his memories and stories and life. I am reminded of the lessons and principles that he put to work in my life. I am awed by the man that he was and who he is helping me to become. 

You see, he is still working in my life today. There are principles that he gave me that are still being defined and molded in my mind and family. Obstacles that I’ve never hit before will come and I will be reminded of the lessons that he has given me to overcome them. I know that his lessons will continue to be developing for the rest of my life. I wait in eager expectation to see what my dad will teach me next year with the principles that he planted in my life for nearly the last four decades. I know that there will be many. 

My six year old was walking away from me today and… all of a sudden… he turns around to look at me and his eyes are as big as saucers as he said…

“Dad! We haven’t read the Bible in a lot of days!”

You see, before the news of my dad’s death, we had been on a streak of reading the Bible each day for around 80 straight days.

I smiled. 

“You’re right buddy. We need to get caught up. How about we start again tonight?”

He smiled. 

“Sounds great!” He turned and took off into the next room.

How about we start again tonight?

I am so happy for the last 7 days. I am happy I stopped. I am happy I took time to breathe and cry and remember. I am happy that I turned my phone off and ignored the endless dronings of social media. I am happy I lost my shoes and drew my shades. I am so grateful for this time.

I know that I will have many more sad days and I know that tears will find their way to my cheeks again. I will get angry and frustrated and question why and have trouble sleeping and want to crawl the wall and feel like there is an elephant on my chest and… and… breathe.

I will breathe and I will heal and I will be OK. 

Because of this time that I’ve had for the past seven days… I know that I will be able to start again. I won’t be the same… I will never be the same… but, I know that this is all part of the process and the change that I will go through. I embrace it and am excited about what is next.

I sit in the truck. 

I don’t sit there to look back, but to look ahead. The smell will fade, but these memories will shape me and make me into something more than I was. I am thankful for these moments now. I breathe in deep.

I shut the door and walk away… back to my house. My step is lighter. My heart is open. My mind is clear.

I’m ready. Tomorrow… we start again. Tomorrow… we begin anew. 

Today… we rest and remember. 

Thank you for sitting with me today.

Blessings!

GP 

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 7