Tuesday, July 7

John Hogan: Parenting with Purpose

John Hogan and Christy Waller arrived at the UofA as freshmen "several" years ago. Both grew up in military families and had graduated from high school together in Heidelberg, Germany. They arrived at the UofA as a couple and, as everyone expected, were married soon after graduation. Looking back over 27 years of doing student ministry, I can't think of anyone more kind and tender and caring than John and Christy. "Sweet" is a word that would describe both of them. They loved each other, cared for those around them, and were deeply committed to the Lord. But early in their marriage, and while their two sons (Luke and Grant) were still small, John died suddenly. I'm going to let Christy tell the rest of the story from a note on her Facebook page that was written shortly after Father's Day this year:

It was a special Father's Day for us because it is unusual for Luke or Grant to have an opportunity to talk about their dad. Since John died when Luke was 5 and Grant was nearly 2, we usually "get through" days like Father's Day, John's birthday, or "Dads and Donuts" day at their school. However, we talk about him a lot at home. He comes up in our conversations often.

What Luke had a chance to share was that John, his dad, kept a journal for him. He wrote in it for 4 years; the last entry is dated July 11th -- the day before he died. He began the journal when Luke was 12 months old. I had just completed a one year baby book for Luke and wondered aloud to John what I would do next in the way of scrap book or photo album. He was struck with an idea...he wanted to start a journal for Luke and fill it with things that were happening in our lives, and John's thoughts towards Luke. He went to the store, bought a simple black and white composition book, and got started. He said it would be a memory book. I got excited and said I couldn't wait to write in it, too. He grinned, shook his head, and said I should get my own journal :). So I did! However, John wrote much more faithfully in his, and more eloquently. He wrote about the milestones in Luke's development as baby and toddler, special events, and his feelings of love and delight in him.

Naturally, when Grant was born 2 1/2 years later, John picked up another black and white composition book, labeled it similarly to Luke's (“Memories for Grant From Daddy”) and got started. He wrote in it for 21 months. The third entry was written when Grant was 12 weeks old:

"Grant, I hope you will have a wonderful, happy life. I hope you will have a heart for God and for caring for others...I hope you will have good, close friends and that you will be loving to your friends. I pray that you will find your direction in life, with blessed assurance of your purpose and of my love, your Mommy's love, and God's love for you throughout your life. I pray that you will grow up to be wise, choosing right more often than wrong, to be strong enough to mend wrongs quickly, to learn from your mistakes, and to feel empathy for the misfortunes and sorrows of others. I want you to know the fullness of joy of a life lived well and in harmony with those around you.

I want all of this and more for you, Grant. Please know that I love you deeply, even now. And I look forward to our growing relationship, to getting to hear you call my name, and to sharing many special memories and times with you. I love you.


Most people would love to have even one love letter from their father; Luke and Grant have a book of them!! And John did not write out of any premonition of death -- not at all -- he was simply a man who desired to communicate, and he was very good at it. He even had a memory book for me! There are only 12 or so entries over the course of 4 years, but those messages are still encouraging me. He never left anything unsaid. He lived intentionally when it came to expressing his feelings for his family and friends. He wrote tributes to his grandparents while they were still living; he wanted them to hear and enjoy the words and not wait until they were gone to share his enjoyment of them. To be a wife on the receiving end of his thoughtful expressions of love was a joy.

I grieve deeply for Luke and Grant; they don't get to "know" John like I did. And yet, I am grateful for his journals; the boys can get to "know" him through them. It isn't the best. Having him here would be the best, but what a treasure to read how much their dad loved and pursued each of them! They will never doubt how he felt about them. I am overjoyed to know they will have the chance to get to know him in heaven. They express how much they look forward to that. The only way I can survive the pain of losing such a beloved man and dad is to cling to the certainty of heaven. John's existence isn't chance -- and he still exists. Not in some "collective," but as himself, his personality, and with his knowledge of Luke and Grant and me intact. He was planned for, prepared for, and he lived exactly as he described in Grant's journal: "I want you to know the fullness of joy of a life lived well and in harmony with those around you."

When I read this, I was humbled and moved by the legacy that John left his sons. I can say that I was never as pro-active and purposeful as John was in my "fathering." That is not to say that I didn't love my daughters as much or that I didn't do my best to be there for them and to share my love for them in purposeful ways. But the discipline that John demonstrated in leaving a legacy for Luke and Grant - and for the others in his life - is admirable and an example that every parent (and especially every father) and every person (and especially every man) should strive for.

Why especially father's and men? Because we tend to be less vocal with our feelings and emotions and the people in our lives need to know how much we care and how we feel about them. You may not be as eloquent as John, but your words will be just as powerful in the lives of those you love.

By the way, the video that Christy referenced was a Father's Day video that her church put together. Luke talks about John and his journal in it. Here's the Youtube link. Luke is towards the end.

Friday, July 3

Erin's Wedding

Our summer of weddings is half way over. Last Saturday, Erin became Mrs. Rick Merrill in a beautiful outdoor ceremony on the hottest day of the summer. Though we sweat through the ceremony and the reception, it was a beautiful and joyous time with lots of family and friends from around the country.

Erin is the oldest of our two daughters - 26 and an RN at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. She is personable and caring, always willing to laugh and help. She has
the perfect demeanor for a nurse and is great at her job (as the hospital where she works has realized). Rick loves her greatly (how could he not) and is attentive to her. He is working construction while taking college classes at night to finish his degree. I respect the way he is working hard to improve himself and their future. I also appreciate his efforts in his spiritual life over the past year and a half. Though he didn't grow up active in church, he has been attending church and a small group with Erin. When his class schedule interfered with his ability to be in the small group, he took the initiative to get the group time changed so that he could be a part of it.

We are happy for them. Please say a pray on their behalf as they start their lives together. And pray for Gina and I, too, as both of our daughters get married this summer and will soon be located several hours away from us. As Bob Dylan would say, "The times they are a changin."