A Tribute to My Father, 2017

Sixteen years ago I watched the inauguration of President George W. Bush on an old TV in a hotel room on a beach in Thailand. The next morning, my mom called to tell me that my father had suffered a sudden heart attack and died. Within 24 hours I was on a plane bound for Minnesota. Below are the words that I spoke in farewell and tribute to my dad at his memorial service on January 25, 2001 in Roseville, MN. Standing before a crowd of 600 people to deliver these remarks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  The first part was written at 30,000 feet above the North Pacific Ocean as I flew back to Minnesota from Thailand.

Posting this on my blog is my annual tribute to him.

Sharing a bowl of ice cream with my mom

Sharing a bowl of ice cream with my mom

The call you dread and fear and never expect comes. It’s mom. “Joann, your father died this morning. Please come home as soon as you can. I need you.”

Like an arrow out of no-where, somewhere, it hits first the head, then the heart, and slowly the pain sinks into your bones.

One day you’re relaxing on the beach, washing off the stress of a difficult term, and 24 hours later you’re wandering in a daze around international airports—Phuket, Bangkok, Narita—all jammed with people, and yet feeling so incredibly alone.

The words keep shouting in your soul. “Joann, your father has died,” slamming against your bones and your organs and your skin like a bullet ricocheting around a steel cavern. You try to drive them away with polite conversation, with reading, with hymn-singing, hoping against hope that driving the words away will drive the reality away as well.

But then the words and reality force their way back and the pain starts again.

“Joann, your precious father stepped into glory this morning.”

“Joann, your wonderful father went home to be with his Savior.”

With every fiber of my being I believe these words, but don’t want to believe them at the same time. He was a precious father, but now he is lost in wonder, love and grace in the presence of Jesus.

Yet here at 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I feel just plain lost.

Lost in sadness.

Lost in pain.

I know he’s with his Savior, but I want him here with us.

How will I get through the next ten hours on this plane? How will I bear to see my mom and sister and her family at the end of this long journey?

One hour at a time, one grace at a time.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater; He giveth more strength as the labors increase. To added affliction, He addeth more more mercy; to multiplied sorrows, He multiplies peace.”

Then it hits me.

Despite the pain, I too am lost in love and grace. Sustaining grace.

John Piper describes it like this: “Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress, but this—the grace that orders our trouble and pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.”

Will the sadness and the tears and the pain ever go away?

Probably not. But then again, neither will the grace.

So, my beloved dad is gone. What to say?

The words that scream loudest from my soul are simply, “please come back.” I know he’s in a better placee, but I still want him back here. There are too many words and no words. But following are a few—just a few of the special things I remember about my dad.

He had a sense of humor. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was never in danger of taking himself too seriously.

He was a servant. He would do anything for anybody anytime anyplace, from bringing coffee to my waking mom every morning to fixing church roofs to shoveling neighbor’s driveways.

He was humble. In a stuffy academic world, he was just himself.

He was generous. If there was a financial need, he gave. His giving to us seemed limitless and it gave him great joy.

He was compassionate. His heart was tender and easily broken by the pain and suffering in the world. Last month in Beijing, we visited a clothing market that the government was ready to close down. The peddlers were selling their goods at rock-bottom prices. In a crowd frenzied over the best bargain, he kept asking, “what will happen to these poor people?”

He loved Jesus. Quietly and simply, he ordered his life grounded in that love.

He was a wonderful father and I miss him so very much.

Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say of me, simply, “she was just like her father.”

Goodbye Dad. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

Jo

 

Read more posts about my dad:

Pittman Hall

Pinch and a Punch

Happy Birthday, Dad

It was Chicken! It was Chicken! 

Evacuation

Evacuation, Part 2

One More Photo

Karachi Memories

Honoring a Family Hero on Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, I am re-publishing this post I wrote about my mom’s cousin, who ferried soldiers to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

I always knew him simply as Cousin Del, even though he was actually my mom’s cousin, not mine. He never married and took care of his mother until her death. After my family moved to Minnesota (in the 1970’s) he would turn up at various family functions. He was a pleasant (but quiet) man, with a witty sense of humor.

After his mother died, he stopped coming to family events and became a bit of a recluse. At first he would take phone calls from his cousins, but in recent years had even stopped doing that. Dropping by his home to say hi was definitely not appreciated. The cousins would occassionally drive by his house to see if the lights were on and the lawn mowed, 2 things that would indicate he was OK.

Cousin Del passed away last fall, and the few remaining relatives and friends gathered at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery last month for an interment ceremony.

IMG_3820

In the last visit my mom, her sister, and a cousin had with him he told them (for the first time ever) that he had been captain of a landing craft on D-Day. All day long he transported soldiers from the ships to the beaches, back and forth, knowing that many of them were disembarking to their deaths, and knowing that he could be shot as well. This would have been his view.

BpddvOHIcAEeHD0

The recluse cousin, it turns out, was a hero.

Thank you, Cousin Del.

Thanks to all who have served (and are serving).

americanflags

Happy Birthday, Gracie! Here are 9 Things You May Not Know About Her

Yesterday (April 21) may have been the birthday of Queen Elizabeth, but the Queen of our clan is just one year and one day behind her!

gracie89

In celebration of her nearing the end of her ninth decade, here are 9 things you may or may not know about her:

  1. She loves road trips. She’s been on road trips across Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Europe, and of course North America. Since I moved back to the States 4 years ago my sister and I have driven her to Alaska, Washington, and Newfoundland, plus many places in between.
  2. She plays the piano at her church.
  3. She volunteers at local senior care centers, playing the piano. They love it when she breaks out the old WW2 tunes!
  4. She leads a senior’s Bible study at a local community center, which means she spends a lot of her time studying.
  5. She is the subject of a short biographical film that is being produced by a local university student.
  6. She loves loves loves Minnesota. When lots of her friends head to Florida or Arizona for the winter, she stays in town to tough out winter!
  7. She drives a bright blue Camry (that she went out and bought for herself last year). When I tell my Chinese friends that she still drives, they nearly collapse in disbelief!
  8. She has a thing about driving large vehicles. One year she got to drive a zamboni; another year a giant John Deere tractor. Her ultimate dream is to drive a snow plow at the Minneapolis airport!
  9. She celebrated her 80th and 85th birthdays in China. She has also made it known that she wants to be there next April to celebrate her 90th. Who’s in?

The rest of you can celebrate Earth Day; around here we are going to celebrate Gracie’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

P.S. She claims that the secret to her longevity is that she does not like vegetables!

Related Posts: 

A Birthday Fit for an Empress

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

Getting Gracie Gone

Conducting Debut

A Painted Piano

Happy Birthday, Mom

A Tribute to My Father, 2016

Fifteen years ago today, my father died. Below are the words that I spoke in farewell and tribute to my dad at his memorial service on January 25, 2001, in Roseville, Minnesota. Standing before a crowd of 600 people to deliver these remarks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first part of this tribute was written at 30,000 feet above the North Pacific Ocean as I flew back to the States from Thailand.

Posting this on my blog is my annual tribute to him.

img447

The call you dread and fear and never expect comes. It’s mom. “Joann, your father died this morning. Please come home as soon as you can. I need you.”

Like an arrow out of no-where, somewhere, it hits first the head, then the heart, and slowly the pain sinks into your bones.

One day you’re relaxing on the beach, washing off the stress of a difficult term, and 24 hours later you’re wandering in a daze around international airports—Phuket, Bangkok, Narita—all jammed with people, and yet feeling so incredibly alone.

The words keep shouting in your soul. “Joann, your father has died,” slamming against your bones and your organs and your skin like a bullet ricocheting around a steel cavern. You try to drive them away with polite conversation, with reading, with hymn-singing, hoping against hope that driving the words away will drive the reality away as well.

But then the words and reality force their way back and the pain starts again.

“Joann, your precious father stepped into glory this morning.”

“Joann, your wonderful father went home to be with his Savior.”

With every fiber of my being I believe these words, but don’t want to believe them at the same time. He was a precious father, but now he is lost in wonder, love and grace in the presence of Jesus.

Yet here at 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I feel just plain lost.

Lost in sadness.

Lost in pain.

I know he’s with his Savior, but I want him here with us.

How will I get through the next ten hours on this plane? How will I bear to see my mom and sister and her family at the end of this long journey?

One hour at a time, one grace at a time.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater; He giveth more strength as the labors increase. To added affliction, He addeth more more mercy; to multiplied sorrows, He multiplies peace.”

Then it hits me.

Despite the pain, I too am lost in love and grace. Sustaining grace.

John Piper describes it like this: “Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress, but this—the grace that orders our trouble and pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.”

Will the sadness and the tears and the pain ever go away?

Probably not. But then again, neither will the grace.

So, my beloved dad is gone. What to say?

The words that scream loudest from my soul are simply, “please come back.” I know he’s in a better placee, but I still want him back here. There are too many words and no words. But following are a few—just a few of the special things I remember about my dad.

He had a sense of humor. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was never in danger of taking himself too seriously.

He was a servant. He would do anything for anybody anytime anyplace, from bringing coffee to my waking mom every morning to fixing church roofs to shoveling neighbor’s driveways.

He was humble. In a stuffy academic world, he was just himself.

He was generous. If there was a financial need, he gave. His giving to us seemed limitless and it gave him great joy.

He was compassionate. His heart was tender and easily broken by the pain and suffering in the world. Last month in Beijing, we visited a clothing market that the government was ready to close down. The peddlers were selling their goods at rock-bottom prices. In a crowd frenzied over the best bargain, he kept asking, “what will happen to these poor people?”

He loved Jesus. Quietly and simply, he ordered his life grounded in that love.

He was a wonderful father and I miss him so very much.

Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say of me, simply, “she was just like her father.”

Goodbye Dad. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

Jo

If you knew my dad and have any special memories, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more posts about my dad:

Pittman Hall

Pinch and a Punch

Happy Birthday, Dad

It was Chicken! It was Chicken! 

Evacuation

Evacuation, Part 2

One More Photo

Karachi Memories

 

 

Conducting Debut

File this one in the “you’re never too old to do something new” folder. On Wednesday morning, my mom, who is a musician, but has never before directed a band, stood before a high school band in Wisconsin and directed as they played “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

12190003_10207623489856169_1477942540903026955_n

Here’s the back-story….

My mom loves to talk about things she’s always wanted to do. The rest of the clan tries to come up with ways to make them happen (often to her surprise and amazement).

“I’ve always wanted to drive John Deere tractor,” she said once. We contacted a farmer friend and arranged for her to drive one on her 70th birthday.

“I’ve always wanted to drive a zamboni,” she used to say, often. A family friend knew someone who worked at a local skating rink, so she arranged for my mom to drive one on her 80th birthday.

gp zamboni 3

In recent years, she has talked about her desire to direct a band playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” It so happens that the same friend who got her on the zamboni heard her express this wish is the conductor of the Hudson High School band in Hudson, WI. A couple of weeks ago, he called and told her his band was playing her song (so to speak). Would she like to come over one morning and direct it?

Of course she said yes.

In preparation, she spent the past 2 weeks practice-conducting with a YouTube clip of the Marine Band playing the song.

On Wednesday morning, she was ready for her conducting debut. Here it is in full.

Way to go, Gracie!

With winter just around the corner here in Minnesota, she’s now started talking about always wanting to drive a snow plow.

Looks like we have our work cut out for us!

The Ruts are Still Visible

Even though I had come looking for them, I was still surprised at the sight — wagon wheel ruts and the footprints of a child in the weathered sidewalk of a small town on the Minnesota prairie. I had seen them before, back in the 1960’s, but did not expect that they would still be visible today.

rust in the pavement

But there they were, evidence that a child had dragged his wagon through freshly poured cement on the sidewalk opposite the Baptist Church.

When my mother was born, her father was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Westbrook, Minnesota. She was the third of four children. Her only brother, Paul was the oldest, and he was the little boy who pulled his wagon through the cement.

In 1932 her father was called to pastor a church in central Oregon, so the family packed up the Model A and headed west, leaving behind the ruts and footprints.

Last week I was driving in southwest Minnesota and took a little detour to Westbrook to see if there was anything left of them. To my amazement, more than 90 years after they hardened, they are still visible.

I never knew my uncle very well because I grew up on the other side of the planet and he passed away shortly after we returned to the United States. From what I do know, he was a wonderful man. In the same way that the ruts of his wagon are visible in the sidewalk in Westbrook, so too are the ruts of his life visible in the lives of his daughters and grandchildren scattered around the country.

Well done, Uncle Paul!

May the ruts of our lives be visible decades hence as well.

A Tribute to My Father, 2015

Fourteen years ago today, my father died. Below are the words that I spoke in farewell and tribute to my dad at his memorial service on January 25, 2001, in Roseville, Minnesota. Standing before a crowd of 600 people to deliver these remarks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first part of this tribute was written at 30,000 feet above the North Pacific Ocean as I flew home from a vacation in Thailand.

Posting this on my blog is my annual tribute to him.

dad reading the paper

The call you dread and fear and never expect comes. It’s mom. “Joann, your father died this morning. Please come home as soon as you can. I need you.”

Like an arrow out of no-where, somewhere, it hits first the head, then the heart, and slowly the pain sinks into your bones.

One day you’re relaxing on the beach, washing off the stress of a difficult term, and 24 hours later you’re wandering in a daze around international airports—Phuket, Bangkok, Narita—all jammed with people, and yet feeling so incredibly alone.

The words keep shouting in your soul. “Joann, your father has died,” slamming against your bones and your organs and your skin like a bullet ricocheting around a steel cavern. You try to drive them away with polite conversation, with reading, with hymn-singing, hoping against hope that driving the words away will drive the reality away as well.

But then the words and reality force their way back and the pain starts again.

“Joann, your precious father stepped into glory this morning.”

“Joann, your wonderful father went home to be with his Savior.”

With every fiber of my being I believe these words, but don’t want to believe them at the same time. He was a precious father, but now he is lost in wonder, love and grace in the presence of Jesus.

Yet here at 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I feel just plain lost.

Lost in sadness.

Lost in pain.

I know he’s with his Savior, but I want him here with us.

How will I get through the next ten hours on this plane? How will I bear to see my mom and sister and her family at the end of this long journey?

One hour at a time, one grace at a time.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater; He giveth more strength as the labors increase. To added affliction, He addeth more more mercy; to multiplied sorrows, He multiplies peace.”

Then it hits me.

Despite the pain, I too am lost in love and grace. Sustaining grace.

John Piper describes it like this: “Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress, but this—the grace that orders our trouble and pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.”

Will the sadness and the tears and the pain ever go away?

Probably not. But then again, neither will the grace.

So, my beloved dad is gone. What to say?

The words that scream loudest from my soul are simply, “please come back.” I know he’s in a better placee, but I still want him back here. There are too many words and no words. But following are a few—just a few of the special things I remember about my dad.

He had a sense of humor. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was never in danger of taking himself too seriously.

He was a servant. He would do anything for anybody anytime anyplace, from bringing coffee to my waking mom every morning to fixing church roofs to shoveling neighbor’s driveways.

He was humble. In a stuffy academic world, he was just himself.

He was generous. If there was a financial need, he gave. His giving to us seemed limitless and it gave him great joy.

He was compassionate. His heart was tender and easily broken by the pain and suffering in the world. Last month in Beijing, we visited a clothing market that the government was ready to close down. The peddlers were selling their goods at rock-bottom prices. In a crowd frenzied over the best bargain, he kept asking, “what will happen to these poor people?”

He loved Jesus. Quietly and simply, he ordered his life grounded in that love.

He was a wonderful father and I miss him so very much.

Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say of me, simply, “she was just like her father.”

Goodbye Dad. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

Jo

If you knew my dad and have any special memories, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more posts about my dad:

Pittman Hall

Pinch and a Punch

Happy Birthday, Dad

It was Chicken! It was Chicken! 

Evacuation

Evacuation, Part 2

Pinch and a Punch

pinch and a punch

When I was growing up, the last day of each month and the subsequent first day were always a big deal in our family. Each of us would lie in wait for the other one, trying to be the first to land the dreaded first “pinch and a punch for the last/first of the month.” My dad particularly loved the game, and was a master at beating everyone to the punch (literally).

When I attended the college where he taught, our battles grew more fierce. On the appointed days, he would lie in wait in the hallway and jump out at me as I was leaving class. Sometimes I got the better of him, sneaking into his office to get in the first pinch. At other times we could be seen dancing around as each of us tried to get to the other first. My friends and his colleagues, of course, thought we were nuts.

I don’t know where my parents learned this game, but I suspect it was in Pakistan, where they had lots of British colleagues (it’s more common there than in the US). Everyone I knew there played it, but when we moved to the States, very few knew about it.

My father passed away 13 years ago, and for some reason, this family tradition died as well. I was reminded of it again this morning when a friend posted about it on Facebook (yes, a friend from Pakistan days).

I turned to the Interwebs to see if I could find out something about the game. Here’s what Allwords.com has to say about it:

Originating from old England times when people thought that witches existed. People thought that salt would make a witch weak, so the pinch part is pinching of the salt, and the punch part was to banish the witch. The witch would be weak from the salt so the punch was to banish her.

In honor of my dad, I’m going to try to revive the family tradition.

Image source: Keep-calm-o-matic

PINCH AND A PUNCH FOR THE FIRST OF THE MONTH! (There, I got you first!)