Wednesday, June 1, 2016

open letter to my stepdad

In the 34th book of Deuteronomy there is a wonderful combination of a modern day obituary/eulogy for Moses. The Word tells us in obituary fashion how old Moses was, where he was from, where he died, the circumstances of his death and where he was laid to rest. But there’s a shift in verse 8 that conveys to us not so much the factual content of Moses life … but it tells us how Moses lived because it says that the people of Israel wept for Moses for 30 days. 

In traditional fashion, there was an obituary published about our sweet Joe. It told the world he was born in Evansville, Indiana to John and Callie Risse, 

he married Patty Decker in 1988

he has 4 sons … Joseph, Jr, Brian (Sharon), Greg (Marcie) and John (Patsy)  

2 step-daughters … Amy (Randy) and Mindie (Jack) 

that there were 16 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren 

What the obituary didn’t convey was the tremendous love and joy that poured from his familiar smile and infectious laugh. His sense of humor was next level and If you never heard him tell the story about the wooden leg he scared my mom with … ask her sometime!! 

It didn’t speak of lifelong Indiana friends like Kenny.

It didn’t tell about how much he loved people like his Sissy, Mike, Jacki, Kathleen and Kisti. 

It didn’t talk about his church family that loved and supported them through thick and thin while they lived in Florida. 

It didn’t tell about the coffee club and just how much the car shows, fixer upper projects and tall tales made the physically hard days bearable. 

It didn’t convey the depth of a father’s pride that framed every story and every memory of his family. From ballgames, academic accomplishments, professional success and personal integrity … not one of us ever had to wonder if he was proud. Likewise, in the light of inevitable places of disappointment or failure, none of us ever had to wonder if he had given up on us. He knew all too well that grace and mercy were meant to be given lavishly. 

It didn’t communicate that if you looked up Grandfather in a picture dictionary, there would be a picture of Joe Risse. A variety of pronunciations would be listed from Papaw Joe to Grandpa to Crappaw (an innocent mispronunciation) … a gentle wisdom accompanied his quick wit and keen storytelling abilities making him the epitome of a grandfather. Our kids will never wonder about the pecking order of creatures living in a hole in the bottom of the sea or about the veracity of the Wolfgator. 

And it certainly didn’t convey what it meant to Joe to be a husband. I never heard him refer to my mom as his Proverbs 31 wife … nor did he quote “come away my love, my fair one … the winter is here” … but I did hear him call from the rooftops and the garage and the car and the kitchen and his sick bed … “Mine?” The questions that followed were as varied as the seasons they loved each other through. Mine? “Where are you? Mine? Did Daisy eat her bites? Mine? Is there bologna? Do you want ice cream tonight? Translating, Can we please go to Love Boat? Mine? Can you hand me those shingles? Mine? Do you want to ride in the “vertial” tonight? 
All the while living out … 
Song of Solomon 6:3 
“ I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine …” in concrete, practical ways. 

In the fast-paced world we live in filled with jobs, school, obligations and events … we seem to think that mourning has a social timeframe of about 3 days … 10 days max. And then life really does, as cliche as it may sound, go on for most of the world. The end of verse 8 speaks the words that Joe would have wanted for each of us … “they grieved until the time of mourning and weeping had passed.”  He didn’t want us to be sad forever. And he blessed us by loving us in a way that will lead us to the One who will bring us through this journey. But make no mistake … there will forever be a void on a porch … whether on Burlington Ave or Azalea Lane … one that’s as hometown as they come with pot of coffee that never ran dry, stories that never grew old and a smile that will be etched in my mind until we meet again. 

II Timothy 4

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.


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