Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Life Worth Celebrating

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "She couldn't have actually taken a picture at her own father's memorial could she?" If you are thinking that then you haven't been hanging around here for very long. The thought that I should put the wide angle lens on Big Bertha and take a picture when I got up to speak popped up in my little cranium about a month ago. I dismissed it as just another one of my crazy thoughts....but I just couldn't get rid of it. It just kept popping into my gray matter and rattling around in there and would not be denied. And so, when I got up to speak.....I stopped to take a picture first. Dad would so have understood.

What an amazing day it was, filled with family and friends, joy and tears and more than a bit of laughter. We started the day off with a family lunch where 100+ of us were served "Deconess Casserole" in Evan Welch hall (not the actor but a former chaplain at Wheaton College and my great uncle). Every church has their own version of a deaconess casserole and these were a delicious chicken filled thing. Dad would have had a second helping I am sure. Tables were filled with families (mine takes up 8 spaces by themselves) and friends all there to celebrate and remember.

Then it was on to the service, a one hour celebration that ended up lasting.....two hours. There were hymns and organ music and......bluegrass. I wish you all could have been there to hear the memories of a man that my words cannot do justice to. I am sure that once HHBL is finished with the video editing I will show you a bit, whether you want to see it or not.

HHBL and I, Pilot Man, TMO and The Favorite Oldest Niece all spoke. That is only natural as we are all family and had happy and varied memories to share. But Mimi had also asked four other people from Dad's life to speak, to give flesh to other aspects of my father's life covering family, friend, school and colleague. There was David, a cousin who really could have been Dad's brother, they are so much alike. David echoed a theme that we heard throughout that day, that my father (and my mother as well) had taken someone under their wing and ministered to them, had mentored them, had shown them kindness and love and generosity. In Mimi and Papa's world there is always room for more family, whether it is the family you are born with or the family that you choose.

There was Dad's great and dear friend, Gilbert Bilizekian, who was a part of the Parental Unit's "Book Club" for many years. His description of my father's ability to listen to a long and wide ranging conversation with opposing views, eyes closed as if in slumber, and then when all were done speaking to condense that conversation into a precise and pithy conclusion, was wonderful to hear. I hadn't seen Gilbert in so many years although I often speak (over the blogosphere) with his daughter, Christiane, the wonderful blogger over at Taking On Magazines One Recipe at a Time. When we greeted each other before the service began he grabbed my face, as if he was still seeing the child I had been, and kissed me on both cheeks. Gilbert has always been one of my favorites.

Coming from California to speak was Dad's college roommate, Dr. Arthur Ammann. What an amazing thing to hear him flesh out a younger version of my father and their time together at Wheaton College. Dad was only 16 at the start of his college years, taking the 18 year old Art under his "wing" and teaching him about photography and how to pull pranks and not get caught, appropriating study space in an unused room in one of the college towers and filling that space with a radio, desks and mice on which they did experiments and then made their own microscopic slides in order to study the disease process and what healthy cells looked like.

My father's partner, Dr. Dwight Kett, spoke about my dad in his capacity as a doctor and surgeon. All dad's partners are amazing and capable physicians but the consensus always was that if a problem arose, they wanted Dad to be there. His knowledge and experience in his medical field was vast. He was cool and calm when "under medical fire" and always knew the right path to take. He had courage to act with calm conviction that the path chosen was the right one.

All spoke about my father's courage both in his career and in his life. He stood for his principles and what he knew was right and proper. His command of the English language was amazing. There were very few words that he couldn't define and his use of those words was impressive to say the least. Always erudite, knowledgeable about an absolutely vast array of subjects, filled with good humor and an inexhaustible supply of puns, always willing to go the extra mile for whoever needed his help or advice, he was a true Renaissance man and the family rock around which we gathered.

And finally there was Uncle Dean, speaking both as pastor and as brother-in-law. He summed up what my father would tell you if he had been there. That whatever my father was, that it was all to Christ that his knowledge and experience pointed. That Christ was all.

The rest of the day and long into the night was filled with family and friends, coming together to enjoy each other's company and share memories. I cannot tell you how many times I said that I was so glad to see people but really hated the REASON why I was seeing people. Al the mailman and his lovely wife, Sandy, were there, cousins from many different states, my sisters of the heart were there, even friends from HERE were there (thank you SO MUCH Dottie and Tony!!). The party started at the church and then continued at the house where we consumed a lot of pizza and wine (Dad always did like a good glass of Cabernet) and capped off the evening with a fire in the fire pit.

Dad would have loved it.



  1. Amazing how the hardest day of your life can also be full of joy and laughter when remembering a wonderful father. Thinking of you.

  2. Thanks for sharing this about your dear dad. Such an interesting life he had and I am certain he is so very proud of you!

  3. It was a great weekend, so moving, and lovely to see you and your family and remember your dad's extraordinary life.

  4. What a wonderful man! I feel like I knew him from this description. He sounds like he was a Godly and wonderful father. What a blessing.


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