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Grief, bucket lists, memories and healing


Meet Jim, a decorated Vietnam era vet, and retired F-4 navigator who settled in Bay County many years ago. He lost his wife through divorce shortly after the war. His daughter, Dawn, recently lost her husband after long and challenging medical issues. Now here they both are at a new stage in their life. Dad and his little girl. Dawn took losing her husband hard, but her Dad, Jim, had gone through a many a storm, and he lived close by enough to be near her through her loss.

Dawn wanted to get away from the house because every room/item was a memory of her dear husband and she just needed some time to find herself as Dawn and not so much Chuck’s wife ... not because of their struggles over his medical issues. Her bosses were very gracious in giving her the time off needed to cope with her loss, to plan the funeral, and now to make a new memory.

Well, as she told me, “There’s nothing like time with Dad to make things better.”

Jim wanted to go to his “River Rats” reunion in Sacramento and was going to take Amtrak, because he doesn’t fly commercially. He didn’t want to drive alone and Amtrak doesn’t come to this area. Dawn wanted him to be able to go and needed time away, so it was she who suggested she join him on a trip across the country by car. It was then their road trip was born.

When Dawn sent photos of her adventures with Dad, in these amazing pictures I knew there was a Glory Sighting. First I asked Jim, and he was ALL in. He talked Dawn into it.

On Dawn’s “bucket list” (that unwritten list most of us have of things we want to do, say, or see before we “kick the bucket”) was seeing that treasured national monument, the Grand Canyon. She learned it was on Dad’s list too, so an itinerary came into focus. Dawn had always wanted to visit the famed prison island in the San Francisco Bay, so she suggested they visit Alcatraz. Dad thought that would be interesting. The other adventures were things they wanted to do or suggestions from his friends on restaurants to visit and much more.

Just driving along they had priceless discussions about Jim’s different jobs in the military, family history, childhood memories and just life in general. They wouldn’t normally have time to just visit with their busy daily lives. Family time is priceless. Dawn met some of Dad’s longtime vet friends, which let her see a Glory Sighting of his college days and military life. Father Jim’s high points of the trip were sitting once again in his old office, the rear cockpit of the F-4, at the McClellan museum, and renewing friendships; doing all with Dawn’s help.

Hearing all this helped me better understand two trips my Dad made later in his life, a trip across the country by train and a summer manning the 19th century lighthouse on Outer Island in the Apostle Island chain. Both, all by himself, after Mom died, and then his father. He healed, and came home, and soon found a lovely lady to be his wife who cared for him until he passed last October.

Dawn returned with a smile back on her face, just in time, to help her daughter bring in a new grandbaby to our world with her new husband, whose marriage I’d been blessed to officiate.

Dawn closed with telling me the countryside on her trip was beautiful and so awesome she once again could see with her heart God’s work and love for us. Moving so much in her childhood made her really appreciate all of the different areas of our great country, and now she got to see more ... with Dad.

Jack Stanley is the Pastor of the UMC of Parker. When you catch a Glory Sighting, consider sharing it with this column by contacting Jack via Facebook at ParkerPastor, on the web at mypumc.org, email jack@jackstanley.org, or 850-871-4747.

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