The first ten years of my life were spent in the small town of Tawas City, MI. This little tourist town in northern Michigan is located on Huron Bay, on the Sunrise Side or the East side of the state. It is a pretty little town, and I have many fond memories of my years spent growing up there.
Back in the 1950’s the world was a somewhat safer place to live. We walked to and from school every day. We lived close enough that we were able to walk home for lunch and then return to school for our afternoon classes.
On hot summer days my sister and I walked to the beach to swim. Many a summer afternoon were spent enjoying the cool water and the sand. We had strict orders to swim on the side of the pier where there was a lifeguard to keep us safe, but most often without our parent’s knowledge, we swam on the other side where the beach was cleaner and less rocky. I admitted this to my mother in later years. She gave me a stern look and then we laughed about it together.
In the winter we spent time as a family at Silver Valley, a nearby resort where there was a toboggan run, sledding and ice skating. We would spend the whole day there, warming up periodically in the club house, eating hot dogs and drinking hot cocoa. At home we made igloos from the huge snow banks which piled up beside our driveway.
There was no need to get into the car to go to church on Sunday because we lived right next door to our church. The church, Emanuel Lutheran, sat on the corner of the block to the south of us. We lived next to the church to the north, and our Pastor’s home, sat beside the church to the west. On the other side of our house, a little further to the north, sat Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Now what child wouldn’t like to live next door to his/her Grandma and Grandpa? It was like our second home. We ran in and out of grandma’s house helping ourselves to cookies and Kool-Aid. She loved it as much as we did.
Christmas was an exciting time, as it is for all children. Each year there was an air of anticipation as we prepared for the children’s Christmas Eve program, followed by the opening of gifts at home; then off to Grandma and Grandpa’s to celebrate with our aunts, uncles, and cousins.
But in October of 1958 without any hint or foreknowledge, our life of happiness and contentment was about to change. There was excitement in the air. It was Grandpa’s birthday and we were having a party for him. Later in the evening we children were sent home (next door) to prepare for bed. Our father came home to check on us about 8:30 and tell us goodnight. I have treasured the memory of those few minutes with him over the years. They were our last.
I woke during the night to the sound of people crying. I wondered what was happening, but I was afraid to go downstairs to see. When we children awoke in the morning we were told by our uncle that we needed to be strong because he had some sad news for us. Our father had died during the night of a fatal heart attack. He was 39 years old. It was the beginning of a very sad and lonely time for all of us.
The lives of my mother, myself (age 8), my sister (age 11) and our little brother (age 3) changed in a heartbeat from that of happiness and contentment, to sorrow, loneliness and pain. How could we ever be happy again? How could we grow up without a father? Would our little brother even remember him? It was a comfort to know that daddy was in heaven, but what were we going to do without him?
|Our last Christmas with him|
|Our first Christmas without him|
The death of a parent is a very traumatic thing for young children. My sister and I both suffered from nightmares after his death. I am so thankful that I was brought to baptism as a baby and taught to love God and to know Jesus as my Savior from sin. Even at the young age of 8 my faith sustained me. I was able to turn to Jesus for help and comfort. I knew that He loved me, that He knew what was best for me and that He was in control of all things. I was not alone. He knew what was in my heart and understood the loneliness I was feeling.
It has been now been 52 years since the death of my father. He would be 91 years old if he were still with us. Still, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him. I wish that he could have known my children. I look forward to the day I will see him again. I know he is in heaven because he was a baptized child of God. He loved the Lord. He believed God’s promises. I sometimes dream that I am at home in heaven. I see him there and give him a big hug. The day will come when we will be reunited once again in glory.
As I look back on my childhood years I can see how God has blessed me through his death. It taught me that life is a precious gift that can be taken away in a moment. I learned to be strong and trust in the Lord. I learned to value each day that God gives to me and to thank him each morning and evening for the gift of another day. I learned that material possessions mean absolutely nothing. They aren’t what make people happy. I am more compassionate and understanding toward others who are facing losses and hardships. Most importantly, it has taught me to turn to God for strength during trial. God tells us the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. When you find yourself struggling with hardship or losses, call on the Lord. He will wrap His loving arms around you to protect you and comfort you. You are not alone. You are loved!
|Bob and Chris (2009)|
By Kristeen – To God be the Glory!