Monday, January 5, 2009

Thank you Dick

Tonight I found out that an 80 year old friend, Dick Dankworth, died on Christmas Eve. As I sat here with tears in my eyes mainly for his high school sweetheart Carla ( that tender but beautifully strong woman) who spent the past 60 years with one man, I’m reminded again just how short this life really is for all of us.

Although we don’t think about it much when we’re young, it’s true nonetheless. And behind the wrinkled faces of men and women we barely notice anymore as they age away, there are stories and lives that have been lived that we could really get a lot from if we'd stop long enough to listen.

As I think about Dick’s life, my heart is rich and full and sad and happy all at the same time. Being over 50 years married these days is a novelty. Dick and Carla were a novelty but in the most beautiful terms. Some would take issue with this idea but being married that long (after even the slightest observation of this statement, you’d have to agree) you could definitely call it the adventure of a lifetime! Of course I wouldn’t know but someday I hope to test all my theories out on the fun and obliging fellow whose up for that lifetime adventure with me…..

The Dankworths have served God wholeheartedly in adventures of another kind too. Dick was always actively investing his time, his talent, his energy in an organization called Youth With A Mission. I think he was on the board or something. But he actually got out and did things even in these senior years. Dick was always traveling or speaking or giving away something of the things God so richly and deeply gave his family. Last summer he was telling me of a trip he took to Asia where he set up youth sports camps. The man was 78 at the time! Not only that he was a community builder. He was a coach and administrator at the University of Nevada for years and was also really involved with starting one of the first Christian Business Men’s group in the area in the 70’s. I found all this out by listening to his stories. They weren’t elaborate. He never was a bragger. It was more a brief statement about being a part of this or that as it applied to our conversations.

I can hardly imagine 60 years of breakfast, lunch and dinner and the ups and downs of raising three boys, of acquiring daughter in laws and grandchildren and life spent with your best friend coming to a complete stop in one day. Of course life goes on but I think all of us know what I’m trying to say here. This part of living really sucks!! And so God I pray for Carla, that her heart would be strengthened now during this time of being separated from her best friend by this thing called death. Yet in the long term I guess that’s what the Bible meant when it said, “Death, where is your sting?” The pain now will not always be there. Jesus conquered death’s final sting and we are the beneficiaries.

I remember the first time I met the couple in Reno. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever eaten brunch at the Nugget in Sparks. We went after church and over lunch they shared so openly and richly about the adventures they experienced coming from Southern California and moving to Reno in the 50’s. Oh to take the time and listen to a story. It’s so worth it! They told me of their high school romance and their days living in Southern California, practically in the same neighborhood where I lived when I was in LA. You can read about his life in the Reno-Gazette tribute but even these words don’t really do the heart of the man justice. Eighty years is a lot of living. (

The last time I saw Dick and Carla was two summers ago when I was visiting them in their home outside of Reno. A perpetual source of encouragement, Dick gave me a book to read called “The Book That Changes Nations” by Loren Cunningham. Now with his passing, I wish I wouldn’t have passed the book along so freely after reading it. For inside that book lies an inscription penned by Dick and I’d like to read it now and wallow in my own sadness for a minute. (If I gave it to you can I now ask for it back? Haha)

Sadness. Really how can we talk of that when there have been 80 really good years? Yes, it’s the sadness of those who are left behind. But then last summer as we sat on their patio overlooking the creek that runs by their house, I was strengthened in this journey called life, invigorated by the life of this couple – their love, their challenges with Carla’s health yet they were moving on. The last thing I would ever be in their presence was sad. I was well aware of their aging and with Carla’s health problems, I prayed specifically for God to sustain them in these times. But sadness was not the operative word.

I guess I'm writing this now as my own tribute. I just want to say thank you to Dick for living such a beautiful life, for loving one woman for 60 years, for raising three boys and for being committed to His Lord, Jesus Christ and letting that shine until the end. Thank you Dick for giving us all something beautiful to hang onto. In a world that holds very little for those looking for a moral compass, thank you for being one to so many people. Thank you for being one to me. My prayers are with your beautiful wife now but no need to pray for you. I’m sure you’re doing just fine. With tears in my eyes but a heart of joy, I want to ask you, how’s that new body of yours? And is it as good as Jesus said it would be? I imagine so.

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