One of the things that I really admired about my dad was how fun he was with kids. When I was growing up we had such a wonderful time with him, and when I got older, it was fun to watch him play with my younger siblings. He never got too old to have fun and be silly. Before we were old enough for him to read us Lord of the Rings and all that good stuff, he would tell us bed time
stories that he made up. I don’t know how this got started, maybe he was just sick of reading the same children’s books over and over again. For these stories, he invented characters that were thinly veiled versions of his kids and then told us about their adventures with a dragon named Abigar who lived in a cloud castle made of marshmallows. Most nights, there would come a point in the story when the children would be facing a certain problem and he would pause and ask us “what would you do if you were in that situation?” Sometimes he would take our advice, sometimes he wouldn’t. Regardless, we loved that the stories were interactive. Later he told us that he didn’t really plan for it to be that way, but that he just sometimes got stuck and needed to buy some time to think or poll the audience for some new good ideas.
He would make the most challenging Easter egg hunts for us, often we would stumble across candy hidden from years before, because that’s how well hidden it was. Even more epic though was that just before starting the Easter egg hunt, while all of us kids sat together confined to the basement, we would hear the Easter bunny hopping through our house. My dad would narrate loudly during all of this, commenting on how huge the Easter bunny was and how he seemed to be getting fatter every year. He bounced so hard we were sure that one of these times he would come right through the ceiling and land on our heads. One year the Easter bunny got so carried away with his house-shaking antics that he somehow managed to jump right onto a pen and impale himself in the foot. My dad limped around for a week. I’m still not sure how he managed to do that.
My dad had a ridiculous amount of energy. I remember one time when I wanted to start running more. I thought maybe I would start running with my dad in the mornings. So I asked him what time he usually left for his morning runs. Then I thought “yeah, never mind.” He was never one to waste time. He never did anything half-heartedly, whether it was work, family, or church. To fit more things in, he learned how to be a master multi-tasker. He used to listen to language tapes while running at the track at BYU and practice out loud his Chinese, or Russian, or French, or whatever he was learning at the time. I think he worried that with all his work and service obligations it would take away from spending time with his family, so he just pulled us in and let us participate. Most of the kids had a chance to work at dad’s office at one time or another and we all helped out with Share a Smile in various ways. I think in his 54 years he probably accomplished as much as most of us will in eighty or ninety years, if we’re lucky.
There were a million other things like that. He wrapped the little kids up in a towel after bath time and would run around the house swinging them back and forth and yelling “sack of potatoes for sale!” He would lie on his back and make a throne for Shanelle with his feet and tell her that she was “queen of all the world.” When I was a brooding third grader that hated getting up in the
morning and going to school, he would help me get out of bed by using his body as a slide for me to get down from the top bunk.
My dad laughed at my stupid sense of humor. He helped me finish my first marathon. He taught me how to ski, how to tie a tie, and that ice cubes can make a great family night treat. He believed that while life’s problems are sometimes complex, the solutions are usually simple. His solution for the dating woes of his neurotic sons was “if you want a girl to like you, just be nice
and talk to them.”
I love my dad so much. I will miss being able to talk to him. I’ll miss going running with him on the beach. I’ll miss the look of joy on his face when I call or visit. I have been having a really difficult time trying to make sense of his passing. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but these are some of my thoughts. Sometimes really lousy things happen to the very best people and it
doesn’t seem fair. In our small and finite understanding we think that a just God would never let the righteous suffer. When we are feeling especially broadminded, we might acknowledge that maybe God can allow good people to suffer a little—just enough for them to learn some hard lessons—but that it had better not last for too long, and that there needs to be a happy ending where each trial we endured gets compensated for with some enormous blessings like in the story of Job. I wish things were that way. Life would certainly be a lot easier. It’s really hard to accept that instead we live in a world where the wicked sometimes seem to prosper and good people suffer and die all the time. Not every blessing is fulfilled, some of our prayers get answered in ways we don’t want to hear, innocent people get caught in the middle of wars and
disasters. We live in a fallen world. To be sure, miracles happen too, but they are not always where or when we would like them.
Christ’s own cousin, John the Baptist, a prophet who was so righteous that Jesus said “there is none greater born of women,” likely never saw a single one of Christ’s miracles performed. Instead, he spent the last years of his life languishing in prison where I’m sure Satan had plenty of time to try to get him to doubt and question. “How is it fair that I’m stuck here, I who have
been one of your most faithful friends?” He might have wondered. “Have I sinned against thee? How can I possibly further the Kingdom while locked in this prison?” As faithful as John was, if anyone deserved a miracle it was probably him. This is probably not how he expected his life to turn out. He likely hoped and prayed to be rescued so that he could continue crying repentance and preparing people to receive Jesus. This was a righteous man with righteous desires. John knew that Christ was performing miracles on the outside, the dead were raised, the blind received their sight, the lame walked. I like to think that for John, that was enough. I know that for my dad, it was enough. It was enough that Christ could rescue and heal. Even though my
dad definitely wanted to live, his faith wasn’t so fragile as to depend on receiving the specific miracle that he hoped for.
My dad was an incredible example of faith and patience his whole life, but especially the last four years as he faced down demons of doubt and despair that I can’t even begin to imagine. Throughout all of it he never stopped trusting God. Even in the midst of terribly difficult circumstances, he maintained his faith and kept a smile on his face. His last testimony that he
shared with us was about having joy in life. I’ll never forget that lesson which he embodied so well. There is plenty in life that is not right, things that are most certainly unfair that make us sad, but with Christ as our sure foundation and through the mercy of the atonement, we can live with joy here and now and we don’t have to wait until the next life when the great balancing act of the Savior’s atonement satisfies justice and accounts for all the unfairness.