Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, my friend...

Pastor Larry Meyer was my friend and mentor, as he was to countless people across the country and around the world. For those of you who may not have had the privilege of meeting Larry, he was the ELCA campus pastor for the Lutheran Student Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1989 until his death from esophegeal cancer in 2005. He served universities in Washington and South Dakota before that.

Tomorrow, November 21, would have been Larry's 60th birthday. One of his daughters wrote an incredible email that she's given me permission to share with you here. This Thanksgiving, and every day, may we all be truly thankful for the blessings God has given us.

Larry, the can of crappy beer I'll be drinking on Friday after the Nebraska-Colorado game will be in your honor. Happy Birthday, my friend...

Here's the email:

Dear friends and fam...

Tomorrow, November 21, is my dad's birthday. This year would be his 60th. Thanksgiving in the Meyer household has traditionally been a two holiday week. Amidst the feast preparation, we'd all be scrambling to figure out what the heck to get dad for his special day. He, of course, was no help - always claiming that he didn't want or need anything. But, since it's a birthday and you get gifts for birthdays, we'd hunt for unique VW memorabilia, a college dad sweatshirt, or if
all else failed, new work gloves for dad's big day. And after the turkey and potatoes and pie, we'd sing a happy birthday song and open his gifts, tossing them aside quickly in order not to miss kickoff and the afternoon ball game.

Dad's connection to Thanksgiving seems only appropriate. With its no frills approach, you see what you get with Thanksgiving. Lots of food and family - all you need to be grateful for. The perfect Thanksgiving, in dad's opinion, would consist of sauerkraut, the Huskers playing Colorado, and no one in the house starting a car once all day. Forget the over the top decorations, loads of gifts or commercialization - that's for the month to come. Thanksgiving, pure and simple, is about being grateful.

Last year was the first year that we mourned dad's absence on both his birthday and Thanksgiving. This year, strangely enough, the void where he belongs appears to be just as gaping. I guess there are truly some wounds that time just can't heal.

And so, in the midst of this dreary message, I write to you - friends who also hold my father dear to their hearts, even if just through their connection of friendship with me. Selfishly, it's therapeutic for me to honor dad and share his memory...and still I write to you and ask you to help remember him this year, to help celebrate the 60 years he's made an impact, if not all on this earthly place. So as my dad would tell me, "Hot shot, stop your bellyachin' and get to the
point." And I will.

This year on Thanksgiving just be thankful. Be thankful for those things that bring you much joy and those that bring you great pain - because both remind you of how lucky you are to be alive and feel so fully. Be thankful that the sun shines and that Thanksgiving day will come and go into another day that is meant to be embraced. Two springs ago, with cancer ravaging his body, my dad told my sister from his living room hospice bed. "Well, not much is happening. We've got the screen door open, and the wind is blowing. It's sunny and beautiful out: I just can't complain about a thing."

Oh that we might all have such grateful spirits.

So this year thank God for the little things, the big things, and the ability and power to be thankful at all. And somewhere, in the heaven he now knows, my dad will be changing oil in a car in 108 degree weather while football plays on the radio. And he'll grin one of his classic cheesy grins. And it will be Thanksgiving.

Bless you.



Anonymous said...

Yeah, I got that email, too - read it this morning. Sometimes starting your day with tears and a lump in your throat is a bad thing. Not so today. I'll also raise a brew in Larry's memory today, though I'm going to enjoy something a bit more flavorful - honoring Larry goes only so far. ;-) He'd make fun of me for spending so much on beer, and I'd love every blessed word.

Brian said...

Thanks for sharing. We'll definitely remember Larry as well.