Three weeks ago today, I got the call that Dad was going to admit himself into the hospital after a CT scan revealed that something was going on. During these three difficult weeks, I have had time with him to reflect on who I am because of him; in those discussions have been very direct conversations about the meaning of his life and the legacy that is left.
One day sitting by his bedside after Hospice has cared for him and having been told the reality that he will leave us soon led me to think about the word “calling.” My dad’s calling lives most vividly in the world of an educator. A high school Social Studies teacher and varsity boys basketball coach, he was there every day of high school. I even had him in class as a Civics teacher.
He loved transparencies and each class period, he would pull out a few of them from the drawer of the chest that held up the projector and begin his talk. With a variety of jokes and cartoons, Dad would weave the story of our nation onto these transparencies. Arrows here and circles there, each offering direction to understand what made America a special place to grow up, live, and ultimately offer back some of ourselves as citizens. When I think of a life that reflected a real “calling,” I look back at those times with Dad in the classroom.
I also think about the many nights at boys’ basketball games, watching him coach the team, sucking on lemon drops. I think my love for the game began with this vision. I shared years of having players in our home for fun team dinners and parties, late night pizza after coming home famished after an exciting game, imagining and planning for the next game. These memories live, threading their way into my own story. Not only did we play together, but we also re-lived the great plays, planned strategy, and enjoyed the beauty of the sport in and of itself. Dad, focused and passionate, dedicated much to this love.
Interacting with and living in the lives of others was an integral element of my dad’s being. Talking last week, he told me he wasn’t sure of his legacy. I told him when I thought of him, all I could think of was one word, “love”. He loved his family, he loved his community, he loved his church, and he loved individuals who crossed his path. He lived a life that reflected his desire to care for others. That day, his response to my comment was to begin crying as he whispered, “I hope so”; crying together, we reminisced on places where love was present or offered. Later, drying our tears, he said, “Well, I can’t imagine a better legacy than to be a love-giver.” I agreed.
One’s calling is a life’s mission, a passion. As I think of my Dad, I know his calling included education and coaching. His gifts were centered around relationships and encouraging others. Whether it be a word of instruction, or an encouraging word, Dad lived happily in his calling, and its world. Yet, in searching deeper, it could be said that his calling was even simpler. He was a love-giver. He was happiest when he could give to another, offer a glimpse of hope or a warm fuzzy.
Editor’s Note: Joy’s father, Bruce Brumels, died on September 4. He was 76. The world has lost another love-giver, but his legacy lives on.