In 1986, he looked just as young and as fit as in this photo.
Yet October 9th, 1986 - 25 years ago today - marks his last breath on earth. Dad died of a massive heart attack at his desk in his home office.
My family and I were devastated.
A man who never smoked, never drank...a man who was a lean 6'3", 180 pounds...a PhD scholar in medieval philosophy, a teacher, an economist, a prolific researcher and writer, a government lobbyist, a neighbor, a husband, a son, a brother, a dad...and he was suddenly gone.
Just a week prior to his death, my dad did for me something he never had done before: he did my homework for me!
I had just started university and was taking primarily sciences. But my breadth class was in creative writing. (Go figure.)
In my second week of classes I developed a pretty serious pneumonia; I was on antibiotics and my back for the better part of 10 days. As a result, my dad took pity on my situation. I had a writing assignment due on the Monday in question -- my first day of being vertical again.
Dad didn't just give me some pointers or start a draft on it...no, he wrote the entire piece on his huge Compaq laptop. He printed it for me and had it ready Monday morning.
I didn't even read the paper...I literally just handed it in without even glancing at it. This was Monday.
On Thursday, I returned home around 5pm to be told by my eldest brother that Dad had died. I remember clearly the shock of it all. "I guess we won't be having dinner together," I mumbled.
You see, Dad and I had a particularly close relationship. He wasn't just my dad...he was my everything! He was my Hero.
Every evening, for many years, he and I would sit after dinner talking -- talking about anything. Life. School. Politics. Religion. He had studied at Purdue, Yale, the University of Toronto...and had so much to say, so much to give. Like a parched sponge, I had so much to soak up!
My peers in school quietly ridiculed me for living what they called a "deprived" life. I didn't attend school dances, I didn't have a skateboard, I didn't have a girlfriend... etc, etc. I didn't have or do what they thought everyone would want to have the good life.
But they didn't know what I had.
Losing Dad was the hardest thing at that age. And for over four years I went to bed, each night, sobbing.
I wasn't crying for him. My faith instructed that God would honor His faithful servant with a special place in heaven. I was crying for me. I had a gaping hole in my heart. It was pain unlike anything I had ever experienced.
But let's get back to that creative writing assignment. Two weeks after his death I got the paper back. The paper had, in red ink, a big "A" on it.
No surprise there. Dad had written and given speeches to Presidents and Prime Ministers.
What was a surprise was the title dad had chosen for the paper he wrote for me: "For Everything There Is A Season And A Time."
Those words have comforted and guided me throughout the past 25 years. And often.
For within six years I was again pallbearer , this time for my mother, who died of cancer.
And then, by age 33, I had buried three sons, Richard, Lucas, and Josef, as well as a baby princess, Mary.
For all children reading this: remember and honor your father and mother. For all parents, keep your children close to your heart. And always remember: For everything there is a season and a time.