One of the Good Ones
The unthinkable happened.
Two weeks ago on a Friday night, my dad died.
Here is what I said at his memorial service . . .
Since May, our family, the Dunn extended family, has celebrated:
–2 high school graduations
–2 college graduations
–1 grad school graduation
–1 new baby, and
We have had 3 months of celebrations and today is no different. We would all agree that this is the ultimate celebration. Right!?
Celebrating a man who lived well, very well for 95 years.
On his 90th birthday, his good friend, Tim Stafford, wrote a blog titled, A Good 90. I suggest we amend that today to say, A Good 95.
Max, dad, grandad – you were A Good 95.
Here then are some of my thoughts about what made this man so remarkable, so unique, so honorable and decent. Really, one of the good ones.
Did you ever notice how Dad ended phone conversations? He would say thank you or I love you or fine and then just hang up. No goodbye, no see you tomorrow. Nothing. The conversation just ended. Took me a long time to get used to that, but eventually I did. He was just done talking. And when you are done talking, you just hang up the phone, regardless of whether the other person is done with the conversation or not.
I was thinking about that the other day as I reflected on how he died. My mom and I had left the hospital after dinner. We’d had a very sweet meal with him and he was so so ready and excited to be coming home the next morning. We were both in bed reading when the phone rang. It was the night nurse telling us he’d just stopped breathing.
What! No that can’t be. We’d just left. He was fine. He’d had tapioca pudding for dinner!
And then I thought, he’d done it again! He’d left the conversation without saying goodbye.
He wasn’t frustrated or mad or upset. He wasn’t in pain or struggling. He was just done.
But what I know that I know that I know is that even as the conversation with us has ended, he has begun a new conversation, face to face with the One he loves most of all.
And I’m sure you’ve also all noticed that Max Dunn was the ultimate optimist.
In his universe, it wasn’t over till it was over. And he wasn’t dead, so it wasn’t over. He was not stepping back. He was not giving up. Has not going to let a little bit of pain keep him from one more Giants game.
In the hospital room, barely 24 hours after his hip surgery, he was telling Pastor Ross and the others gathered around his bed that he’d see them in church on Sunday.
Sunday! 5 days later!
Pastor Ross told him he wasn’t so sure about that. But dad was adamant. So they compromised. Dad would come to church but in his wheelchair.
Wine shipments arrived from their wine clubs, and Omaha steaks continued to come to the house. New books, long new books were started, and I’d left him a list of my favorite authors for him to check out after he came home.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s signed up for BSF this fall. (Someone might want to check that – his bible study days are over. But he’s getting his teaching now from the Author Himself.)
He was studiously and faithfully working on his notes from last year’s class through the end of May. Many days I would find him outside in the sun working relentlessly through those pages of BSF notes.
And he told a granddaughter 3 weeks ago he’d like to go back to Italy someday. My mom and I decided to smile and stay silent, only getting involved if we heard him on the phone with the travel agent.
I’m sure many of you have stories like this that end with you saying or maybe just thinking, Oh Max. But to live this optimistically and hopefully and steadfastly until The. Very. End. What a gift. He never complained, never whined, never let a hurting back or hip keep him from Rotary, BSF, bridge or lunch with a dear friend.
And when Peter suggested 3 years ago that dad’s days of baptizing new believers down at the river in Geyserville might be over, dad said, “Nope, you’re just going to have to carry me, Peter.”
But living with an optimist can be a bit unnerving. I was so tempted to say many times, come on dad, let’s look at reality here. I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
Come on dad, you’re 91,
Come on dad, you’re 92,
Come on dad, you’re 93 . . .
Come on dad.
But he was sure this hip replacement was going to take care of his pain, that he’d be able to live independently again, to drive, and to care for our mom.
How can you argue with that level of hope and love? So we continued to smile, to embrace his hope, and to trust in the God who can do all things and has our very lives in the palm of his hand. Believing even now that His plan is perfect and right and filled with shalom — for His glory and the good of all.
A friend sent me a card with Psalm 126:5-6…
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
“Sowing in tears”
Could it be we are actually sowing in the tears of our grief and our mourning of the death of this decent, righteous, honorable man?
Rather than sowing as we are crying and grieving, I wonder if maybe the Psalmist thought we could actually sow in the tears we’re shedding.
That they fall to the ground and we sow them in, and the harvest then, in our lives, shares a bit of this man we all loved so much.
My husband and I had this discussion one night last week and we asked each other,
As we mourn and cry and wonder how life will be without him, what is the legacy that will be borne in our lives as we sow the tears we are shedding?
What about dad do we want to bring forth in us that will continue to represent this man in our sphere of influences – in our families, our neighborhoods, our churches?
With shouts of Joy, what will that harvest look like in my life? In yours? How will knowing him bear witness as you love and serve and live a good 40, a good 50, a good 90?
So I leave you with that. Keep sowing in your tears, trusting that the Lord of the harvest will bring forth something worthy of the life we’ve all known and loved and will miss so much.
I have a good friend who grew up in South Africa. She was telling me the other day that in the Zulu language, one of the many languages of South Africa, they have a phrase that they say as they are departing from one another — Go Well, my friend, Go Well.
So I say today, Go well dad, go well.