I am not one for traditional or the normal on anything faith based, not that I don't respect tradition, I do, but my faith road is a little crooked. So, it's no surprise my songs of Thanksgiving would be unusual.
The Rascal Flatts song, Bless the Broken Road is my song of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks for the twisted road that brought me to where I am now. At this time of Thanksgiving, I want to get to the point of being Thankful for all of the hard times, and disasters in my life that has led me to where I am. That’s the point of the song. Thanking God for all of the hard times in love and life that led to the one person who makes you complete; for the bad experiences that prepared you for the best times of your life. At this time of year, the week after Thanksgiving and days before the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life, I want to share a stretch of my Broken Road.
At age 15, I was having a lousy year. That summer, I wrecked my moped at thirty or so miles per hour and landed in gravel on my knee. I spent 45 minutes with my Dad holding my hand, as they cleaned gravel out of the knee joint, I kid you not with a toothbrush. Due to that I missed Football camp and pretty much ended my career (not a huge loss, but at the time . . .). In the fall, I contracted pneumonia and spent weeks at home sick, causing me to almost have to repeat my Sophomore year of High School.
Later, the day after Thanksgiving, I was helping a new wrestler learn a new move. I was 10 lbs of weight loss (easily something I could lose in the next few weeks at the time) away from joining the Varsity Team in only my second year. By the way, earning me a new car from my Dad when I got my varsity letter, something every 16 year old would love. In the process if doing the move, he shattered the bone in the center of my foot into five pieces. I got to spend the next few moths, literally up until my 16th Birthday in a cast and ending my season (no car for you). But a little over a week and a half later, what had been bad, turned into one of my worst days ever.
My father, who survived being shot, blown up by a grenade, two helicopter crashes, a plane crash, a fire that melted the section of his ship, etc. in 22 years of military service had just retired. All the time he was in the military, we knew what him dying would look like. We knew because that was one of his duties in the military, telling families their loved one was not returning. We knew that a government car would pull up, two men in uniform would get out, one usually a medic (my Dad) and one may be the base chaplain. They would walk up to the door, get invited in, and the regrets of a nation, etc would be given.
But on December 8, 1983, that couldn’t happen to us. Dad had retired and worked in a lab for the City of Akron Health Department, while he finished his undergrad degree. His biggest day to day danger would be a needle stick. But, on his lunch hour that day, he went shopping for Christmas presents, and died in a car accident. He died instantly when he blacked out, for unknown reasons, and I found out not by the military car pulling up while I played outside, but as I limped in the door and saw my Mom in tears and shock with our family friend, a doctor.
Now, you’re asking yourself, how can I be thinking of this as Thanksgiving. Well, that whole year, that seemed like hell to me, was preparing me for losing my Dad. I got to spend lots more time with him: holding his hand in a way not threatening to a teenage boy; spending time together as I healed from two bad injuries and one bad illness. We got to spend more time together in that year, than most of the previous 14 years. And thanks to the missed school which gave me tons of homework to make up and the crutches, I was not in the car with him when he blacked out driving on a shopping run I was originally invited to join.
Still, grateful for my Dad dying? Well, that’s harder to get to. However, I would not be the man I am now without that time. I would not be the compassionate person I am, having never experienced that loss. I would not be the husband who values every second I get with my wife, whether it would end at year eleven (where we are at now), twenty or so years that my parents got, or another fifty years. I would not be the Father I am now without his example. I would not be the lawyer I am without the fighting spirit, devotion to causes, and ability to annoy I inherited from him. Were it not for the insurance he bought and the scholarship I earned due to his death, my family would not have had the means to help me become a lawyer. Not worth the life lost, but what I life I gained.
So, as the 25th Anniversary of this "worst day yet" approaches on Monday, God Bless the Broken Road that led me straight to you, my friends, my church family, and my wife.