Sunday, June 15, 2008

Memories on Father's Day

Me and my dad (Christmas 1975)

Me and my boy (Easter 2008)

My dad was born on November 8, 1939 in a place that no longer exists. He was "born in space" because the small hospital where he was delivered was on top of a present day, open pit copper mine in southwestern New Mexico near the town of Santa Rita. My father was an only child and grew up playing golf in the desert amidst the yucca. He was an excellent tennis player and worked as a lifeguard during high school. He was a great student and became the valedictorian of his class and gave the commencement speech. I still have his handwritten notes. He later went on to get a chemistry degree and hated it, choosing later to go in to accounting. He also joined the army with a college buddy because, as he put it, "he thought it would be fun."

He met my mom at a Christian singles group through a church in Denver in the late 60's and before long the family grew to 7–Dad, Mom, Michelle, Marc, Matt, Christin and Dave. Wow, 5 kids! I'm still in awe. Today is exactly 3 days from Katie's due date–our 3rd and (we think) final. I still don't know how they did it. It is truly amazing to me and I was THERE. One day at a time I guess.

It has been nearly 12 years since my dad died suddenly as he and the family were helping me move back from Montana after college and get their house ready to sell. It was sudden and shocking and left me shell-shocked for quite a while. I remember I used to have dreams (they stopped a few years back) about my dad just showing up at the door one day and saying that he hadn't really died after all but was just really sick. I was always overwhelmed with joy and relief to have my dad back, to talk to him and hear his voice, to hold him and to be able to just spend another day with him. But even as I was dreaming a part of my consciousness knew it was not real, that I would wake up and he'd be gone. I never knew if these dreams were a way of God letting me spend time with my father or whether the "experts" were right. When he died we heard from different people that it would be healthy to view his body in the casket to create a sense of closure. I never did. All my brothers and sisters did but I didn't want to. I didn't want to remember him in a casket. I wanted to remember and preserve my dad the way I wanted to—alive, smiling, and loving everyone around him.

My father (and mother) also he led me to Jesus. I remember it clearly. I was probably 5 or 6 and I was on my parent's oversized bed watching the news with mom and dad. The news was reporting on some violence in the middle east and showed several dead bodies and I suddenly had the realization (after hearing all that stuff in Sunday School) that all those people probably died not knowing Jesus so they wouldn't be in heaven. The thought scared me quite a bit and as I began crying I told mom and dad I wanted to go to heaven where Jesus lived in case I should die. Right then and there they led me in the sinner's prayer and I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour.

OK, enough of the heavy stuff. My dad really was a great father to me. He focused on love and relationships and our family meant everything to him. He taught me how to golf, play tennis and ski. He taught me how to use his tools in the garage and gave me my first (and only) gun. He was so involved in our swim lessons, soccer games, youth group at church. It seems he just gave and gave and gave. Their are so many stories in my mind but I'll share one that really reminds me of how loving he was.

Dad lost his job in Denver in 1987 and was out of work for a year before finally finding a good position in Montana doing accounting work for a mineral company. He went up a few weeks before the family to start work and look for housing. The town he worked in was called Three Forks and it was literally the company building, a small school, a park, some storefronts and a few hundred houses. Knowing what shell-shock it would be for us kids to move from Denver to a town this small, dad made the decision to buy a house instead in Bozeman, a town of 30,000 with a movie theatre, bigger schools, and more opportunities. The only problem was the town was 40 miles away. So everyday, dad got up early and drove an extra hour and a half so his family could live in a more comfortable place. That just blows me away.

Dad left us a note that we didn't find until after his heart attack. It means so much to me that I carry it around in my wallet. I want to post it here to inspire others and as a tribute to him.

Grace's Father's Day card 2008


Lisa said...

Your dad was a truly amazing man and I miss him too. He would be so proud of you! His letter made me cry because he was always thinking of you guys before himself. He was in ever essense of the word a great father.

The Rogers Family said...

Matt, what wonderful memories. We wish we could have met both of your parents. There is a part in your Dad's letter where he asks you to "be available to people...". You would make your Dad so proud because that is exactly what you do. We treasure you and you family and are honored to call you our dear friends. Thank you so much for sharing your Dad with us...we can't wait to meet him face to face one day!
Justin and Comfort

crutch's wife said...

Thanks for sharing that Matt! Thats so cool, I wish I had a great letter like that from my Mom. Glad you all had a nice Father's day! So... any news? Diatlating going on? Signs that babe #3 is on it's way? We are so anxious!!!!!!!!!!!!

The DeCostes said...

Thanks to all. Such kind words. I get choked up just thinking of all the wonderful people we know and how very important those relationships are to us. The kindest compliment I could receive is to hear someone say I remind them of my father.

SarahinCO said...

Wow Matt. I'm crying my eyes out. What a wonderful legacy your dad left- and how NEAT that you had a letter from him before he went to be with the Lord. My dad died suddenly too- so it just causes me to weep knowing the pain that you and your siblings went through.
Know that even though I saw my dad's casket- I still have those dreams, and still think I see him places...
God is so good to carry us through such times.

Congrats on your new little decoste. I know he'll be a blessing like every other decoste I know. :)