AND THE AWARD GOES TO

I don’t need the mug, the medal, or the t-shirt. I want the award.

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It’s good (isn’t it) to have a few things on your list that you would like to attain to, even though the reach is too far? You know, like: bringing world peace, writing the next great novel, playing drums with Diana Krall, etc. Numerous grade-school teachers documented my “vivid imagination and daydreaming” on my report cards. I took it as a compliment, though I’m not sure it was intended that way. I still daydream; it’s just that the dreams have changed.

Our dreams do change, don’t they? The good news is we still get to have them. Even the Bible promises that while the youngsters get to have visions, we men-of-a-certain-age get to dream dreams. What’s the old line about not letting your dreams be replaced by regrets?

Just in the past few weeks I’ve attended two memorial services: one was for Orlie Sawatzky,the grandfather of my daughter-in-law, Kara. the other was for my father. The heart of the service for Orlie was when his grandchildren told stories about this man they loved deeply. When planning my Dad’s service I said, let’s steal that idea and let his grandkids share their stories. It too was the heart of the service.

As I listened to all of these grandfather stories, I realized my dream of being the BEST POPS EVER was just that; a dream. I’ll never surpass those two. Still, I can strive to be my version of best.

Now let’s play the “If Only...” game. If only I had the energy to keep up with one of my grands, much less 6-soon to be 7. There’s not enough coffee. I try to do the yoga and walking, hoping that I can build some stamina, but it’s like that slurping sound as you finish off a strawberry malt and you’re trying to get that last bit. Don’t get me wrong: I can play checkers, Uno, Legos, and dolls all day. I’m up for back to back to back to back episodes of Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol, and I’ll read books as long as they want to read books. You should see me watch them dance, ride their bikes, do cartwheels, jump from the chair to the sofa. I’m happy to peel an apple they are probably going to take one bite of. But none of that is going to win any awards. If only I had the funds to take them all to Disneyland or world or whatever. If only I didn’t hate Branson and Silver Dollar City. If only my dermatologist would let me play in the sun without a big hat, 350 SPF sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt. If only I weren’t paralyzed with fear about one of them getting bit by a disease carrying mosquito or tick, a wasp, spider, scorpion, or the neighbors yapping shiiity little shih tzu dog. If only... Know what I mean?

So, I listened to these amazing young adults: the Sawatzky’s and Fuller’s, talk about their grandfathers and I thought to myself what is the common denominator here? What is the thread that runs through these stories that turns into the fabric of a really good granddad?

And there it was! Orlie Sawatzky and William Fuller gave them a whole lot of presents. That right. They showered their grandkids with presents.

Oh, wait. That’s a typo. That should have been presence. That’s what they did. They gave their grandkids their presence—their undivided, unconditional, never-ending presence. They were just there for them. And even now, through the memories and the stories, these two old saints are still there for them.

I can do that.

FIRST FATHERLESS FATHER’S DAY

On June 11, 2019, MY DAD PASSED AWAY. He was 94. For 67 Father’s Days he has been here for me.

I’ve often wondered where my Dad’s patience flowed from. He needed it in great doses raising me. It must have sprung from his humility and deep sense of grace. I’ve often wondered though how he made the tough decisions and choices—the ones that always seemed to be good for us.

For example: early in my life, my parents wanted to instill and inspire a love of music in me, and my brother. When I was around 5 or 6 they bought a small accordian and started me in private lessons. Probably, one of my first acts of rebellion was hating that dang accordian—I don’t care how much they enjoyed the Lawrence Welk Show. I knew I wanted to play the drums. And I did, and they supported me beyond rational explanation.

By the late 60s, my Dad was pastor of a Baptist Church. The causes and the big sins that Baptists railed against over the years have varied. In that era, dancing was on the list. So, we have a Baptist preacher, and a Baptist preacher’s son who is playing drums in a little rock and roll band good enough that we played a lot of gigs—teen towns, school mixers and such. I have no doubt that my dad must have taken criticism—at least— over that, but he never mentioned it to me. He did have one rule: no matter what time I got home on a Saturday night from playing, I was expected to be in Sunday School the next morning, and awake until the benediction, around noonish. After that, I was allowed to join him in sleeping through the third quarter of the Dallas Cowboys game.

I often thought of asking him how he navigated that issue. But, all that matters is that he did, and to this day, there is a set of drums in my house that I play nearly every day. Each of my two sons have drum sets that they play regularly, including in their respective churches, which ironically would have never happened in a Baptist church in the 50s and 60s. You would have been more apt to find a pool table in the fellowship hall or a vegan casserole at a covered-dish dinner than a set of drums in the sanctuary.

We had Dad’s memorial service Friday. It was wonderful. I’m confident he would have loved it. Now that I think about it, we should have had a drum circle. He has three great-grandsons who are playing the drums. But, I’m not sure they allow drums at the Baptist Retirement Village.

I got the privilege of writing Dad’s obituary. I’ve included it here if you’re interested. I also got to do the welcome to start the service. It’s here too. Together there are a lot of words, but behind those words are beautiful memories and many grateful hearts.

William Lee Fuller, David Lee Fuller and Calidonia the cocker spaniel

William Lee Fuller, David Lee Fuller and Calidonia the cocker spaniel


WILLIAM LEE FULLER, was born October 28, 1924, in Dubach, Louisiana, the fourth of the six children of his parents, Chroley Smith Fuller and Bernice Colvin Fuller. He passed in complete peace on June 11, 2019 at 5:02 p.m. At his side, as she has been for more than 73 years, was his wife Mary.

He and Mary Ellen Rowden met at a skating rink, and as he loved to tell people, “They’ve been going around together ever since.” He was a new soldier in the Army stationed in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where Mary was a beautiful high school cheerleader. Yes, this could be a Hallmark movie—which he would reluctantly watch as long as they could watch the ball game later. Most every morning for these 73 years their day would begin together at the breakfast table where they would read the daily entry from their devotional book and the sports page of the newpaper—not necessarily in that order. Those of us that knew them best knew that somehow in the remainder of each day they would be a blessing to someone.

Waiting for William when he entered the heaven he loved to preach about, into the arms of the Savior he loved to serve, were hundreds, including his mother and father, his siblings George Henry, Effie Louise, James Edward, and Chroley Smith Junior; his sisters-in-law Betty Hillman and Patsy Calico, and brothers-in-law Bob Hillman, Vernon Calico, and David Rowden and sister-in-law Joyce Rowden.

Those who are left here to celebrate his life, share amazing memories, and live in his legacy are his wife, Mary; two sons David Lee Fuller, his wife Arlene; and George Edward (Rusty) Fuller, and his wife Luann; his six cherished grandchildren: Wendy and husband Clark, Ashley and husband Noel, Corey and wife Kara, Misty and husband Matt, Zack and wife Hollie, and Kyle and his wife Brooke; and sixteen great grandchildren who are too important to him to not be named: Stephen, Sam, Tucker, Karlee, Jack, Adde, Gage, Harper, Hope, Porter, Haddie, Nora, Cannon, Everly, Lydia, Malachi, and one more on the way. William is also survived by his sister whom he dearly loved, Betty Ann Brady, his brother-in-law, Bill Rowden and many, many more relatives and friends.

William had a spirit of gentleness and humility. He had a deep sense of gratitude for many things: his family, his calling, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the makers of Community Brand coffee. He was a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as of the past few months became a raving fan of Good Shepherd Hospice. He was proud of his Louisiana heritage, and proud to be an Okie as well. William and Mary provided a wonderful, nurturing home, first in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then wherever their call to ministry would take them. These last few years their home has been at the Baptist Retirement Village in Oklahoma City where the staff has become extended family to them.

William was humbled by his calling to serve, whether it was the call to serve in the Army during World War II, first here and finally in Belgium, or his call to serve as a Christian leader. Even the smallest church was important to William and his innovative ministry through day camps in camping and resort areas became a model for that kind of ministy.

He started the East Central Baptist Association youth camp near Lake Tenkiller and in fact, the recreation area there bears the Fuller name as a tribute to William and Mary for their service.

William’s sense of calling was rooted in the spirit of Bible verses like this:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” —Luke 17:10 New International Version (NIV)

William Lee Fuller fought the GOOD fight.


Welcome. Thank you for coming.

Remember that letter, the first one that Paul wrote to the Corinthians? Remember his metaphor for the church—he called it a body and all the folks were the members of the body.

You know how when a part of the body is severed, like Van Gogh’s ear; in the medical field they call that dismembered, but when it’s sewn back on they don’t call it re-membered, but they should.

That’s what we’re doing today. We are re-membering with Dad. It happens every time we tell a story or look through pictures or talk to people who knew him, especially those whose lives where made better for having known him.

When we asked Dad several months ago what kind of service he wanted, he said, “I don’t need a church service. I want people to enjoy remembering good times. And I want you all to encourage your mother.”

So that’s what this is about. In a minute, some of his beloved great-grandchildren will read scripture. That’s the way he would have wanted it. Then his grandchildren whom he loved deeply will help us remember him through their stories and memories.

Then we will look at pictures together and listen to one of mom and dad’s favorite songs and one of mine. Then we will listen to one of Dad’s favorite hymns.

After that my little Brother Rusty will tie all of this together for us.

Then the Army honor guard will help us remember Dad’s service to our country during World War II.

I mentioned earlier that Dad said we didn’t need a sermon at this memorial. After the honor guard presentation, Doug Manning, Dad’s friend and fellow pastor from his days in Tulsa will bring a benediction. Our family met with Doug shortly after Dad’s passing. He asked if there would be a sermon at the service. We said no, and Doug said, “That’s the way it shoud be for your Dad. His life was the sermon.”

Remember that supper, the last one that Jesus had with his little band of brothers? Remember how he took bread and wine, he explained the metaphor to them, then he said do this wine and bread thing often and every time you do—remember me.

So, in that spirit:

  • Whenever you think of our mom, remember our dad.

  • Whenever you enjoy a hot, strong, black cup of coffee, remember him.

  • Whenever you hear the score of the St. Louis Cardinals game, remember their lifelong fan.

  • Whenever your fishing line gets tangled or you lose your golf ball in the woods, remember William.

  • When you think of all the kids, pastors and small churches he ministered to, think of Bro. Bill.

  • Whenever you find yourself wondering if there are any men of humility and integrity left, whose highest calling was to serve…

Oh, and after the benediction, hang around for awhile, because he also said he wanted this to be a time of fellowhip and people enjoying each other’s company.


HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DAD — ONE LAST TIME.

PATERFAMILIAS

MY DAD IS 94. He is still our paterfamilias—the male head of a family.

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A few weeks ago we thought he was slipping away. A hospice nurse used the word "imminent". We took turns being with my mom at his bedside. He had reached that unofficial, indeterminate point where quality of life seems to be evaporating. Then he "rallied", another hospice word.

Now, for a few weeks, we've had the opportunity to have more talks, share more memories, tell more stories, hear more stories. We're thankful, grateful and tired. I know mom and dad are tired too.

I'm not going to lie. There was a time, a Sunday morning, when he seemed almost vacant and even anguished. I prayed this: "God you have asked him to fight the good fight. If anyone has ever done, he has. What more do you want from him?"

I confessed to my oldest son that I had prayed for the grace of passing for dad. He said, "You might have a problem there. Your Grand-Girls are praying he'll get better."

They clearly have more sway than I do. Heck, I would put their prayers up there with those of Joel Osteen praying for a bigger house or Creflo Dollar praying for a faster jet.

For many years my dad has worn a ring that says, "DAD". A few days ago, it was just him and me in his room, I thought he was in a deep sleep, a pain drug induced state of little responsiveness, only an occasional grimace. He pulled that ring from his finger and handed it to me. His eyes were open for only a few seconds, no words were spoken. I squeezed that old ring in my fist and felt a weight I didn't want to feel. Being paterfamilias.

I haven't always done well with responsibility; not that I'm a deadbeat dad or anything. I put in an honest day's work and get an honest day's pay. I have the oil changed regularly and the tires rotated on schedule. I knew what it looks like to step up, to do and to be, sometimes I would prefer for the buck to stop elsewhere. In these last days, the decisions have sometimes come too fast; they are too heavy.

Don't worry. I'm not going to run away, or screech at God, or buy me a red golf hat and be pissed at the world. I have help. Don't we all, if we really admit it?

On June 16, 1972, I had another ring handed to me. My Amazing-Missus placed it on the third finger of my left hand, held it there and said a vow. I did the same. This ring seems so much lighter because all these years later she stands with me, still, as she always has. I don't make decisions all alone, in isolation. She is wise and she's been down this path before, too often.

We have a friend. He is our mentor and minister. He literally wrote the book on this end-of-life stuff. His wisdom and encouragement are like scaffolding for me, and not just now; he has been our marriage counselor, therapist, travel consultant and spiritual paterfamilias for many, many years.

And, at the risk of sounding like I'm giving an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, we have so many other friends, and family in this deal. It's like they read that verse that says, "Bear one another's burdens," and they believed it.

A few days ago we visited a nature park with our three Shawnee Grand-Girls. At the head of the trail is a big wooden sign with a map of all the trails. There is a star on the sign and the words, "YOU ARE HERE". The middle of the three, who is seven, asked, "How did they know we were here?"

Right now, we know: WE ARE HERE, at a place many others have been before and will be again. And we are grateful for all those who know this trail because they've been down it and have basically said, "We know where you are. Here's an encouraging word and a prayer."

That's enough.

Sticks Stones Scones

“Years from now when you talk about this—and you will—be kind,” Laura was saying, softly.
— from the movie, “Tea and Sympathy”, 1956.

Or: When you talk; be kind.

[NOTE: A shout out to Jay Heinrichs for prompting this dialog I’ve been having in my head and heart the past few weeks. I’ve been re-reading Jay’s book, “Thank You For Arguing”.]

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DECORUM: There’s something you don’t hear much anymore. Maybe it’s because there isn’t much of it anymore—the thing, not the word. Let’s break it down a bit, and to do that, it’s probably better to start one step back and consider the word: decorus.

Decorous Got Its Start With Etiquette

The current meaning of decorous dates from the mid-17th century. One of the word's earliest recorded uses appears in a book titled The Rules of Civility (1673): "It is not decorous to look in the Glass, to comb, brush, or do any thing of that nature to ourselves, whilst the said person be in the Room." Decorous for a time had another meaning as well—"fitting or appropriate"—but that now-obsolete sense seems to have existed for only a few decades in the 17th century. Decorous derives from the Latin word decorus, an adjective created from the noun decor, meaning "beauty" or "grace." Decor is akin to the Latin verb decēre ("to be fitting"), which is the source of our adjective decent. It is only fitting, then, that decent can be a synonym of decorous. —Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So let’s go with that: to have decorum requires decency, a willingness to adjust, to fit in, understanding and being appropriate. Here’s an example of this kind of decorum: Audi alteram partem; which means, let the other side be heard.

This idea has been a part of ethical conduct since The Beginning: man, woman and Creator. Adam and Eve engage in original sin, and what does God do? Audi alteram partem. He gives them an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

GOD said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?”

The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”

GOD said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”

“The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” —Genesis 3:11-13


The US Supreme Court gave the idea this endorsement:

"Audi alteram partem - hear the other side! - a demand made insistently through the centuries, is now a command, spoken with the voice of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, against state governments, and every branch of them - executive, legislative, and judicial - whenever any individual, however lowly and unfortunate, asserts a legal claim.”

Why is it so hard to audi alteram partem? Why must we have the final word? Why are we so defensive? Why are we so offensive? Why are we so sure we are right and therefore ‘they’ are wrong?

Is it politics that has damaged civility; or are politics the result of damaged civility? Maybe it’s TV “news” and talk radio. Is there hope for decorum, for civil discourse, for conversation that doesn’t end up dividing?

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.
— Blaise Pascal

I’m not looking for tea and sympathy—i.e., pity, but rather an exchange of empathy along with a scone and a nice cup of tea, or better yet; a strong coffee and hearty discussion sounds good, or a pint and pizza and good honest conversation.

HOW ABOUT MEETING UP? Not for something all fancy like Afternoon Tea, although that is civilized, but something earthier; but decorus. ARE YOU IN? Let me know at hey.pops.hey@gmail.com and I’ll let you know the when and the where of the next get together.