Today marks my dad's 59th birthday. There is a lot of life that has been in lived in those years and he has the stories and the smile lines and the scars and the gray hair (white hair?) to prove it. If you wonder where my sense of adventure came from, you can look to Larry Joe. In all of who he is, he is a "Yes!" person.
Papa has said yes to climbing mountains, running marathons, riding motorcycles, and water skiing and snow skiing, singing loudly, traveling the world, and to swimming even if the water is a little too cold. This has caused others (my mom) a little bit of stress, the occasional unexpected medical bill (hardcore sledding will do that to you), and an occasional pull back on the reins. Generally, if there is a chance to take a risk, to try something new, or make an ordinary day extraordinary, Papa will do it. He says, "Yes!" and more than anything, it has been the very thing that has brought our family a sense of adventure, plenty of stories to tell, laughter and seeing meaningful moments unfold unexpectedly.
One of the most impressionable yeses has been Papa's willingness and commitment to say yes to people and to dedicate his life to serving and loving them well. As he sees the people in his life, he commits to them and he cares for them and he deeply loves them. You see it in his eyes, and feel it when he hugs you, and know it when he cries with you and makes space for you. It is a large heart that he has protected in his chest, and I find it an honor to be a recipient of its most wonderful gifts.
Today also marks the tragic death of a student from our SPU community. She was killed in a car accident driving back with another SPU student from spending time in North Dakota at the Standing Rock protest. Although I did not know her well, I do know the influence that she had on the SPU community, and her willingness to stand against injustice, love people well, and bring joy to those who had the privilege of interacting with her. She may have only had a little over 21 years, but she, too, was a "Yes!" person. There is a lot of life in those 21 years, and that life has made a forever impression on the hearts and lives of countless people.
In life we are faced with choices every day that will forever make an impact on the lives of others, whether or not we realize it. In death we leave behind our stories that tell of our choices and their impact. We are all connected to one another and we must realize that in this interconnectedness there is a responsibility to see those around us, to listen well to others, to speak out against injustices, to give and to live and to offer compassion, and to never, ever, ever, stop learning from the stories being told in life and in death.
As I celebrate Papa today on his birthday, and as I reflect on the passing of Erin, I find myself sitting quietly, feeling my beating heart and with each breath hearing a gentle whisper: "Say yes, Lindsey. Say yes."