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Daddy's Corner Featured Reflections

20 Years

I’ve struggled with what to write to mark 20 years since my dad died. It’s probably the most common regular topic I’ve written about over the years. Earlier this month, a very close friend lost his mother. A few days ago, I talked heart-to-heart with another friend who lost his father earlier in the year. As the posts over the year demonstrate, it’s a weird journey–grief. No matter the age, losing a parent can be very hard. If you’re in that situation yourself, you’re not alone and it’s okay to grieve however you’re doing it, as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others around you.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for years is put his casket flag in a nice case with his military decorations. It has literally taken me 20 years, but I finally put it together this evening.

 

 

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Daddy's Corner

Ed Kraft, 1954-2016

My uncle died yesterday. He was 62 years old.

Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynette with Olivia and Catalina
Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynette with Olivia and Catalina

I must admit learning of his passing yesterday morning, I cried for the first time I can remember. True, actual sobbing. I’m sure it was ugly. I didn’t cry when my dad died—a random tear here or there during the immediate events and cry some more recently looking back, struggling with his death still. But, I’ve never actually sobbed upon hearing sad news before yesterday morning.

We last saw him six weeks ago at a family reunion in South Dakota—an epic road trip for a family of seven. He didn’t look 100%. Within a week of us heading back to Texas, he found out that he had cancer. You always see these things better in hindsight.

My dad was one of 12 children—10 surviving past childhood. Of the 10, six brothers and four sisters. My dad was the first to pass away in 1997. Ed is now the 4th of the boys. While my uncles have always taken special care of me, be it their oldest brother’s youngest who lost Dad when I was 12, it has been such a joy for them to equally take a special interest in my kids. There are many things hard about not having Dad around to see them grow up and I’ve voiced difficulty in picturing Dad playing with my kids. Having my uncles treat my girls as I could imagine my Dad doing has been a true grace.

Of my uncles, he was the one whose looks and mannerisms reminded me most of Dad. I wanted him to live forever, even if it was unfair of me to want it, in part, because he helped me put an adult context to the fading childhood memories of my Dad dead 19 years. Quite selfish, to be honest. He was a good man who was kind, loving, and sweet in a wonderfully gruff way. I’m going to miss him dearly.

 

Blessed are those who have died in the Lord;
let them rest from their labors,
for their good deeds go with them.

Eternal rest grant unto him , O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

 

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Church Current Events Reflections

Orlando

There isn’t a word for the event overnight in Orlando. To call it terrorism, which it was, makes it seem like something far away, isolated, and a something abstract that politicians will use to further their own ends (which they will anyhow). To call it a mass shooting, which it was, lumps it into the 160 or so other mass shootings we’ve had this year. Each murder is unique and the victim(s) are individual, unique, and special people whose untimely ends do not deserve to be lumped together with other savage acts. Mass shootings all the more with their large-scale impact.

It isn’t fair to the Orlando victims or their families to just consider this a random act of terrorism or one of far too many mass shootings. Sadly, there are so many mass shootings and acts of terrorism that they’re going to be lumped into and, all-in-all, forgotten as we fail as a society to work together to reflect on why this is happening here and what do we need to do to reduce and hopefully end it.

The victims and their families are in my prayers.

I’ve read folks saying, basically, prayers don’t matter and that’s only a cop-out to make myself feel better. I’ll grant hearing “thoughts and prayers” from NRA-supported politicians is pretty pathetic. John Scalzi covers this pretty well.

For me, my faith and belief system forms the foundation of my world view. I believe we are a spiritual people that have a connection to a higher being with prayer being the venue for exploring that connection.

My prayers are not a half-second thought or even just a “God, bring comfort to these people” moment. My prayers for Orlando—the murdered, their families and friends, the responding officers, the broader LGBTQ community, the murderer, the Muslim community, our nation and our political leaders—are on multiple levels.

Yes, part of that prayer is asking God to be present in this situation and for the people involved to seek love. Part of that prayer is critical self-reflection on how do we as a people and how do I as a person need to respond.

I believe that God is love, the font of mercy and justice, the one we are crafted from and destined to return to. The latest I read doubted the murderer was religious, just a homophobic bigoted asshole. That said, religion has played a role in hate and shockingly still does. How do we, as a religion, and as religious individuals, need to respond not only to the victims in a compassionate way—which is still good, needed, and required of us—but also form ourselves and our practices to ensure we are not creating an environment that fosters disgusting hatred. What could we do better to make beyond clear that hatred has no place within our communities?

Yeah, I know. I’m Catholic. I am not under any illusion that the Catholic Church is gay-friendly. This is something we must do better. “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” The more I think about that line, the more it is a disservice to everyone. Hate has no place here.

The Catholic Church is celebrating a “Year of Mercy” this year. Rome commonly declares a year for something every so often when there are special thematic elements to remind the whole church of that piece of our tradition. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” puts the focus both on the sin and hate (as the subject which is acted upon and the action verb) and a passing reference to the sinner without any clear direction of the action toward that subject—are we to ignore the sinner?, outcast the sinner?, somewhat kinda tolerate the sinner?, try to “reform” the sinner?, love the sinner?

No, instead, we should love each other. We’re all sinners, so there’s no need to even say that we should love the sinner. We can equally say “love everyone”, “love people”, “love all humans”. God is love and the font of mercy. If we start with love, we can act with mercy to those we interact with that we don’t agree with, don’t understand, or seem “different”, in some way in far greater and more beautiful ways than if we begin with hating the sin.

I have no interest in rehashing sexual theology today. This is more primal than that. We are all different than each other in some way and, in the end, I trust that the vast, vast majority of humanity are good people trying to do their best in the world as they understand it and to each other.

Too often, religious folks understand this to be combative. “My way is right, thus your way is wrong, and that’s the end of it. You’re weird and you’re different and that ain’t right.”

No, we need to stay focused on love and mercy. “Your way is different? Alright, well, I might not understand it or I might not agree with it, but I still love you. We can find common ground, we can be friends.” We’re all different in some way. For my Catholics, none of us could possibly fully live up to the Christian ideal and we all need love, mercy, and forgiveness ourselves constantly. Who are we to withhold that same love and mercy that we profess and need ourselves?

We don’t need to become the same. We don’t need everyone to agree with us in order to act out of a position of love. In fact, our faith demands that that we love unconditionally. We fail to do that far, far too often.

Back to the point, when I say I’m praying for everyone in Orlando, I’m not trying to make myself feel better for a few minutes or offloading the work to a deity that isn’t known for making grand obvious gestures. I am processing it, seeking inspiration on what I can do to make a difference, and offering to them my respect.

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Daddy's Corner

Tell People How You Feel

On my birthday, a few years ago or so, I received a touching e-mail from a very close friend. We had another close, mutual friend die not long before in his late 30’s from cancer.

The e-mail was an expression of feeling. What did our friendship mean to him. It wasn’t the stuff guys talk about often, if ever. I was extremely touched by it, but I never replied. To do it justice, I would need to spend some serious time in serious thought about it. He was my best man and my longest roommate during my bachelor years. Not an e-mail you can shoot off a quick reply to.

After all this time passed, I still haven’t replied. It reminded me of the post I wrote after our friend passed away. My inability to write the words about what people meant to me while they had the chance to read it. I’m still frozen, unable to reply to the oldest e-mail in my inbox.

Over 18 years ago, my father died. I wasn’t a teenager yet, my dad was sick for some time before his death and he never was one to deeply share his feelings, with me at least.

Now, as a father myself, that lack of sharing impacts me more than it did before Olivia was born.

Life is relationships. Every aspect of life is a puzzle piece of puzzle pieces that we measure, balance, compare, and connect to the other aspects of life. While difficult, being open with each other about the importance of these relationships should be more common place.

Many of us have a teacher, a mentor, a boss, a coworker, a friend, a coach that has profoundly changed our lives who, while we hope they realize their impact, may not. We shouldn’t let the chance to share that when we have it.

While I can’t have a talk with my father about what I meant to him, I can try to change that for my girls. Not only do I try to tell them directly, I am not naive enough to assume I’ll have the chance to have an adult relationship with them. To that end, I’ve started recording quasi-annual videos to each one, telling them their impact to me, my feelings about them, what about what they do now that I take note of. I don’t talk to them as the 6-year-old or 4-year old or 2-year old that they are, but rather, what would the 25-year old daughter of mine want to hear from their father if they couldn’t hear it directly from me.

I pray that this is all an “umbrella method”. If you bring your umbrella with you, it won’t rain. If you skip it, it’ll rain without doubt. I hope that by being so conscience of this now, these videos won’t be needed. I’ll be around long enough to where they won’t cherish them. If not, though, I can mitigate the impact in some very small way.

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Daddy's Corner

At the end of the day…

It has been 18 years now and at the end of the day, I still just miss my dad.
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Daddy's Corner Reflections

Stephen Colbert and Facing Death

Not too long ago, GQ published a fantastic article on Stephen Colbert as he prepares to take the reigns of The Late Show from the 23-year veteran David Letterman. I like Colbert. From everything I’ve heard of him, he’s a man who is simply solid. A man of faith, of family, of generally trying to be a good person. Others in the late night/comedy scene aren’t so.

I knew that he had tragedy in his past. I knew he lost his father and brothers in a plane crash at a relatively young age, but I hadn’t reflected much on that until this article. The author, Joel Lovell, very smartly and reflective of the style of storytelling from This American Life, led us deeper into Colbert by framing it around tragedy.