Friday I attended the funeral of Bob, the father and grandpa of some dear friends of mine. It’s always hard to watch people you love as they grieve. While we know that Bob is in heaven, a place of unspeakable joy, it’s obviously very hard for his loved ones to say goodbye. I knew Bob…not very well, but enough to smile when I would see him and shake his hand, and enough to remember him in prayer when obstacles to his health would come up. I learned a lot more about him on Friday as his pastor and friends spoke about him. Any man would be honored to be remembered as Bob is, and for some reason I saw the reasons why with remarkable clarity that day. Such an occasion tends to make a guy wistfully introspective about how he’s seen and will be remembered by others. From that introspection comes this epiphany.
If I was asked how I would identify myself, the answer would vary over time. In the 80’s I’d have said computer “hacker” or, while I lived at Big Sky, simply a snowboard bum. In the 90’s and beyond it would probably have been as a mountain biker or Hakkoryu karateka. All that time it would have been as a motorcycle racer and by my job at KFYR-TV. I suppose I could also throw in video animator, scuba diver, photographer, semi-anonymous blogger… but do any of those things really count?
Last year, as folks were teasing me about my independence vanishing the day PJ is born, my friend Chuck told me something that sums it al up. He said I’ve had a remarkable young manhood, but now it’s time for a new manhood to begin. He couldn’t have said it better or more succinctly. Of course, having been a bachelor for a LONG time, I find myself resisting that role…but I’m coming around. I’ve got a little boy next to me now who’s put life into an entirely different perspective, one I couldn’t have anticipated even up to the very minute he was born.
Through my youth (and I’m not old yet) I relished the fact that I was known as an adrenaline junkie. After a while my idea of “getting serious” was by letting my job at the TV station define me. I suppose that’s typical for a guy, to let himself be defined by his occupation or something he’s passionate about…or both. But adrenaline wears off and careers change…who am I then?
Since I left the TV job and have slowed down a little bit, I didn’t know what kind of identity I have. I knew I didn’t want to be thought of as “that motorcycle guy” forever. But who am I? I still cling to live TV, and miss doing it every day more than I can describe. There’s the fact that I started writing again and picked up photography as an art, starting this blog…but that’s no identity. Heck, I don’t even get paid for this, and in the interest of my family’s safety, I don’t even divulge many specifics about who I am. But aside from smoking tires and pinned together bones & scars, ESPN etc. shirts and crew passes, artsy pictures and questionable writing, there’s gotta be something of substance…right?
As I listened to the people talk about Bob and watched a slideshow of family pictures, it occurred to me: it only matters who a man is. The identity part will take care of itself.
Bob was a Christian in the way he lived his life and in volunteering for Focus on the Family and as a Gideon. In other words, it wasn’t just a label. Look at the family that misses him, and it’s obvious that Bob succeeded as a husband and father (even grandfather!). We got to hear as his pastors and friends shared memories of Bob’s friendship and concern for others that will remain very dear to them. Finally it struck me: Bob was a Christian, a husband, a father, and a friend. I’d put two and two together and come up with a very profound four. Looking around at the kids and grandkids, listening to the memories shared by his pastor, his Gideon brothers, and his friends, I was surprised at the things that made Bob so dear to these people fit neatly into those four characteristics. I needed only to see his impact on the people in church that day to see that Bob had succeeded in each of those four roles. That’s what I want.
The convicting part, of course, is that it requires a man to step up. You can’t be known as a Christian if you’re not out there sharing your faith and behaving accordingly. You can’t be selfish with your time and accidentally become a good husband or father. A true friend is ever present in times of trouble. None of these things come easily, and they all require sacrifice and selflessness. Who would have thought a person would have to set themselves aside in order to have an identity they can be proud of!
Like I said, any guy would be honored to have a group of friends and family to remember them so lovingly someday. Who’d have ever thought that touching so many people over the years, while certainly not easy, could be so simple? I guess you can count me among those who Bob touched, because I’m going to use this moment of unusual clarity of vision to inspire me to be a better Christian, husband, father, and friend. In the end, it will be a life well lived.