The Should Haves

I live my life with a perpetual and terribly unrelenting case of The Should Haves.

It’s been over five years since my Dad’s death, but I was fortunate enough to spend 26 amazing years with him on this Earth. In those 26 years, I’m blessed to say that we experienced lots of wonderful, amazing moments together as Father and Son. We swam in our backyard pool nearly every evening during the summer, jumping and diving and splashing late into the night. We wore our arms out tossing a baseball on the sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama while the sun browned our shoulders. We went to Reds Opening Day together and weathered the cold that always accompanies the early-April debut, and he was right by my side as we suffered through the agony of watching our Redlegs get their hindquarters handed to them in a playoff sweep by the Phillies. We watched movies together, biked together, went to church together, and rode in trucks together.

But no matter how much time we spent together, and no matter how many memories we made, I’m still left wanting more. I’m left with a case of The Should Haves—a nagging voice that constantly reminds me that although our story as Father and Son was vibrant and full, there was more story left to be written. There was more to do together that we never got the chance to do because of his premature and avoidable death.

I rarely live a day in this life without thinking of something we could have done together had he not died on that July morning in 2013. It’s hard for me to experience the beauty of my own life without recognizing that Dad should still be experiencing it as well.

There are always the things that we didn’t have the chance to do—things that only exist with the passing of time, and things that weren’t available to Dad and I when he was alive. New restaurants always evoke this feeling. I’m a self-identified foodie, and I definitely inherited this love for food from my Dad. Dad always enjoyed a great meal, and he and I shared a lot of them together. Since his death, new restaurants have opened and I’ve discovered more great places to gradually expand my waistline. There are countless burger places and barbecue joints and other hole-in-the-wall dives that I know Dad would have enjoyed, and when I’m savoring a great meal, there’s usually an endless thought that loops through my head: “Boy, Dad really would have loved this place…” Each and every time, it pains me to know I can’t enjoy it with him.

And then, there are roller coasters. My Dad loved roller coasters—the wilder and more insane, the better. Even though it took me longer than I’d like to admit to overcome my fear of thrill rides, I eventually did and got to ride a lot of them alongside my Dad. Our extended family always spent a summer day at King’s Island, and I always looked forward to that day of the year. Together, Dad and I got to experience the weightlessness of the first drop on Diamondback, the seemingly-incomprehensible height of Delirium, and I can’t even begin to count the number of nighttime shrieks of excitement we let out as The Beast tore through the woods.

But new coasters have popped up since he died. There are new adventures to be had, and new memories to be made at Kings Island and lots of other theme parks across the country. I remember riding Banshee for the first time and thinking how much Dad would have loved the seemingly never-ending loops and twists. After riding Mystic Timbers, I wondered what Dad would have thought of the surprise in The Shed (I hear you’re not supposed to go in there, by the way…). I can still envision his huge smile at the end of a great ride. I can still hear his laugh, yells of “YEEHAW!”, and jokes about how the wind of the ride had thoroughly ruined his hairdo. I miss those moments. I miss those memories.

These moments, these desires to keep living life with Dad, are painful. But these aren’t really “Should Haves” when it comes down to it; these are “Wish I Could Have” moments. It’s inevitable that life will go on and the Earth will continue to spin after a loved one leaves us. There was more life for us to live together, and things were naturally going to happen that I wished I could have done alongside my Dad. My Dad was a victim of suicide at only age 50, and regardless of the mechanism of death, leaving this Earth unnaturally with (likely) many, many more years to live leaves many chapters unfinished. But deeper than the truth of life continuing to go on, there is a reality that haunts me night in and night out. There is a nagging feeling of guilt that will likely follow me to my grave—a feeling that hinges on the things we could have done while he was alive but we failed to do. It is the idea that I took time with my Dad for granted. It is the belief that there were things I should have done with my Dad while he was still here. Things that I likely told myself I would get around to. Things that, had I known then what I know now about the fragility of life, I should have done with my Dad. It feels awful to think that I squandered time with my Dad, but I know

The “Wish I Could Haves” are painful; but the “Should Haves” are much, much worse.

If Dad had a bucket list, I never knew about it. I often attribute this to the fact that he lived life to the fullest every chance he had, so there was no need to keep a list of things he wanted to do—he just did them. But I do know there were things that Dad mentioned to me that he hoped, someday, we’d have the chance to do together. He wanted to go to a Luke Bryan concert together (please note, this was when Luke Bryan sang actual country music and before he became a complete sellout). There were other beaches I’m sure he wanted to see. There were other air shows I’m sure he wanted to attend. But for the most part, Dad lived his life free of any regrets.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t live with many, many regrets now that he’s gone.

For his entire life, Dad was a nature lover. He was constantly hiking and biking and traversing the woods of nearby Rentschler Forest Preserve, and he didn’t need headphones or even the company of others to keep him entertained. He didn’t just love nature—he was in awe of it, bewildered by it. His sense of adventure was something I was always envious of, and for the last few years of his life, he always talked about another adventure he wanted to take up: kayaking. Dad knew of a number of waterways that were nearby our house, and he would often talk to me about wanting to grab a kayak and a paddle to see how far he could take himself. Dad often talked about this desire around me, mostly in the hopes that I might reciprocate his excitement. I’m ashamed to say I never did, and there were many times when Dad asked me to spend time outdoors with him and I declined his invitation. I hate to think of the times when I could have taken a bike ride with him but decided to stay on the couch watching yet another mindless sitcom rerun. I think of all the nights that he asked me to sit with him near a backyard bonfire and I decided to stay inside for no reason while Dad sat there by himself, likely a bit lonely but still happy to be outside. I had many opportunities to appreciate nature and my Dad together that I didn’t take him up on. But I should have.

Then there were the chances to share my feelings with Dad that I failed to lean into. I think of the song we played at Dad’s funeral, a deeply-powerful country song by Will Hoge called “Strong.” It was the perfect song to play at Dad’s funeral—a testament to a life well lived—but it was a song I discovered well before his death. Although it provided a lot of healing to those of us who heard it at Dad’s service, I desperately wish I had played that song for Dad while he was alive. I should have played it for him and told him how the lyrics about a loving, devoted, hardworking, and strong father made me think of him every time. I often wonder if it would have made a difference. Would hearing that song and the way I felt helped to heal his feelings of depression and inadequacy? I should have played the song when it could have warmed his heart, but my desire to avoid emotional vulnerability kept me from doing this until he was already gone. I didn’t share my feelings with him. But I should have.

The moments when purely stupid pride and arrogance kept me from just being around him, however, are the most sickening. I think of all the times, especially as a teenager, when I avoided spending time with my Dad. I’m disgusted by the lame excuses I fabricated, and I wish I could take each and every one of them back. There were so many times when Dad would ask me to hangout or do something that I didn’t want to do. Being a typical, moody teenager, I found lots of reasons to close my Dad out of my life. Too tired, too busy, perceived to be too-cool. And yes, those times when I thought I was too cool to hang out with my Pops haunt me most. I should have spent more time being with him. I should have spent more time realizing that my Dad deserved my time more than anyone else. I didn’t do that, but I should have.

The should haves plague my soul. I remember sitting awake one night after Dad’s death. It was rare for me to find sleep in those immediate nights after losing him, and my mind would race with doubts; concerns that I had missed easily-perceptible signs about Dad’s illness and the feelings that were high jacking his mind. On one of those nights when I couldn’t get the thought of losing Dad out of my mind, I began to think back to all the moments when I had failed to spend time with him. I thought of all the dinner invites I had declined. All the phone calls I had ignored. I even thought of all the times over the past year when Dad had stayed at my house later than expected, and I, being so selfishly-consumed with my own schedule and routine, had silently wished that he would leave.

And on that night, a few nights after losing him, I sobbed and said “I’m sorry, Dad,” in the hopes that my apologies and grief could carry themselves up through the clouds to Heaven.

I stood at Dad’s casket just a few nights later and tried my best to express my love to the people who had loved my Dad in this life, and among many wonderful condolences I heard from those who came to grieve and show their support to Mom and I, I heard “Don’t feel guilty, Tyler,” over and over again. I listened intently to those family members, friends, and loved ones, and I assured them that I wouldn’t feel guilty. I assured them that I wouldn’t let regrets take my mind captive.

But I didn’t for a second believe I would actually be able to live free of guilt; and now that Dad has been gone for over five years, I’ve begun to understand how the Should Haves can actually be a confirmation that my grief is justified and natural.

Even though it ended prematurely, my Dad lived a big, full, exciting life. He treated each day as a gift as best he could, just as God directs all of us to do. As I’ve experienced my own grief and suffering, I’ve realized that the gaping hole my Dad left behind in this world could only be filled by his big heart; and although I’m in severe pain because of this loss, I would take the pain for a hundred eternities to spare the alternative. Had Dad invested minimally in the people that he loved and life in general, his loss would have been easier to overcome. But that isn’t my Dad, and that wouldn’t have been an authentic life. I feel my Dad’s loss more because he made life that much better while he was in it. I would rather experience the pain of losing him knowing that he lived a life that made a difference. The pain is worth the love I experienced for 26 years while he was here. I’d much rather have that love, even if only for a short time, and experience the pain of losing it than the alternative of never having him at all.

Although it’s difficult, I’m also learning to cope with the Should Haves better because they are showing me that I’ve learned something from my Dad’s death. They are showing me that, although he shouldn’t have died, his death was not in vain. They show me that, even in death, my Dad is still my greatest teacher. Dad’s absence has taught me the importance of never taking time for granted. Dad’s death has taught me that time is my most valuable resource. It is the only resource in this live that can never regenerate. Dad’s death has taught me an important lesson: By the time I get to the end of my own life (which will be a very, very long time from now), I want to be able to look back and say that I made a wise investment with the days God gave me. I want to be left with very few instances of things I should have done.

In my grief, I decided that one of the best ways to fight back against the Should Haves was to go out and do the things I should have done with Dad, even if he’s not around to do them with me. A summer or two after losing Dad, I decided to do something that I likely wouldn’t have done while he was alive. With my friend, Steve, I went out and bought a kayak. We each bought one, and shortly after buying them we decided to take them out on the water. We dipped the kayaks into the Great Miami River at Rentschler Park—the same exact spot my Dad had vowed to kayak but never got the chance to.

The kayaking excursion was filled with lots of things that Dad would have appreciated. Namely, he would have really enjoyed the fact that my kayak tipped and tossed me into the water the exact second I stepped into it (Note to self: always step into the middle of the kayak, not the side). I flopped around in the mud and water while Steve laughed, and all I could see was an image of my Dad laughing hysterically as I tried to regroup. After I recovered from the capsizing, we paddled up the beautiful, wooded shoreline and soaked up the rays of sun as they beat down upon our shoulders. After paddling upstream for an hour or so, we turned around, kicked our feet up, and floated back to our drop in location. All the while, tears streamed out slowly underneath my sunglasses as I wished, deeply, that I had had the opportunity to enjoy this moment alongside my Dad. I should have done this with him. In the actual moment, he wasn’t there; but in a spiritual sense, he was right by my side.

I know that the Should Haves are a natural part of grief, which is why I try not to avoid them. No matter when my Dad would have died, I would have always been left wanting more time with him. More experience, more adventure was what I always would have wanted and what he always deserved. Had he died at 117, I would have wanted him to be around for another 117 years. And in my mind, that overcompensates for any guilt I might feel. In my mind, a life that feels too short and a life that induces “should haves” is the sign of a life well lived.

Dad, Jeff and I at Kings Island with SB LogoDad, I’m sorry for all of those moments that we should have spent together. I’m sorry for all of those times that I wasted when we had the opportunity to just be together, but I didn’t realize the value of those moments. Ultimately, I’m just sorry we didn’t have more time. Dad, you brought such joy to my life—and to everyone’s life that you interacted with. Any amount of time with you would have failed to be enough. There are so many things we should have done together, and I’m sorry I didn’t make a more genuine effort to make those things happen. Dad, I hope that I’m still learning from your life. I hope that I am taking the time that God has given me and using it more wisely than I did before you died. It still doesn’t erase the pain of losing you and the desire to have more of you in my life, but I hope that I’m realizing the fragility of life and the need to invest my time in the things that matter—the things associated with loving God and loving other people. Dad, please continue teaching me. Thank you for living a vivid life that still feels important each and every day. And Dad, I’m keeping a list of all those things we should have done. Someday, we will have the opportunity to do them all, and I can’t wait. Until that day and the glorious reunion that awaits, seeya Bub.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14 (NIV)

Quietude

“You better slow down.”

It was a constant refrain from my Dad when I was fifteen-and-a-half and he was teaching me how to drive. I was planning to inherit my first vehicle: My Dad’s old 1992 Chevrolet Sierra pick up truck. It had a single bench seat, manual windows and locks, and roared pretty loud any time you hit the accelerator.

“Is this the pot calling the kettle fast?” I would reply. It was ironic that Dad was telling me to slow down, because he was the family member with the heaviest leadfoot.

Dad enjoyed driving fast because he enjoyed feeling the power of a vehicle. He never drove fast because he was in a hurry. He drove fast because…well, he just enjoyed driving fast.

Whether I realized it or not, I inherited the gene that causes leadfoot syndrome, and like my Dad, I enjoy driving faster than I probably should.

But Dad also had an uncanny ability to slow down—and I’m not simply talking about his ability to ease his foot off the accelerator. My Dad was a pro in slowing down at life and eliminating the noise that so often crowds our minds. Dad was very good at embracing the quiet and simple moments of life, and I’ll always envy his ability to do that.


My Dad was a man who could enjoy the simplicity of everyday life. The moments that so many of us take for granted were moments of complete serenity and clarity for my Father. When things were quiet, my Dad was at an extreme peace—a level of peace I hope to obtain someday.

I think some of it may have been a result of his vocation. My Dad was always a physical laborer. He started out in construction, and during his life he was able to build remarkable structures: from the garage and foyer addition of our family home to a handful of wooden crosses at our local cemetery’s veteran memorial. Where there’s building there is often banging, and the sound of a hammer pounding a nail was a natural one for him to hear.

After his career in construction, my Dad worked in a number of different steel plants as a maintenance technician. If you’ve never been inside of a steel plant, they are notoriously noisy places. Machines bang and whir as they roll out steel and cut it into pieces for customers to use. Cranes fly overhead and forklifts zoom across the floor, picking up steel while honking, buzzing, and beeping to alert pedestrians of their impending arrival. Dad, being a maintenance technician, was very close to all of the machines in the plants where he worked. It was his job to know that machine inside and out; to capture the intricacies of how it worked so he could fix them when they didn’t. Dad was very, very good at his job; but being good at his job required him to be in the midst of constant noise.

So when Dad came home, he got very good at finding ways to escape the noise and enjoy the peace and solitude of our life in suburbia. And Dad enjoyed finding that quiet peace outdoors.

The weather can be a bit of a mystery in our corner of Ohio, but from mid-April to September you can usually rely on a nice evening with a beautiful sunset rather regularly. Where most families like to eat at a dining room table, my Dad was always fond of eating outside. When I was young, he built a beautiful brick patio that became our family’s private backyard oasis. Dad would often grill (I mean burn) our dinner, Mom would salvage the meal with a handful of delicious sides, and we would all settle in to share a meal. Dad, often covered in the grease and grime of a hard days work in a steel plant, would sink back in his patio chair, eat his meal, and throw back a can (usually two cans) of ice cold Coca-Cola. There was nothing fancy about these dinners, but you could tell Dad enjoyed them.

And although he would talk and converse with us, we didn’t have to say much for the dinner to be enjoyable. Dad would enjoy listening to the sounds and sights of birds flying through the air. He would watch clouds as they moved across the sky. He would laugh as a squirrel tried to steal food from our bird feeders, or watch our family dogs as they meandered across the back lawn. Simple things brought him extreme pleasure.

On a nice summer night, Dad usually enjoyed a bike ride. My family was fortunate enough to grow up within biking distance of Rentschler Park, a beautiful hidden gem in our neck of the woods. Rentschler Park is full of hiking trails, natural woods, and a waters-edge view of the Great Miami River that is hard to beat. Whenever I take a bike ride, I will nearly always have a pair of headphones in, listening to my favorite music; but Dad’s bike rides were different. My Dad was never a big fan of headphones. He enjoyed taking in the natural beauty and wonder of the world around him without the noise of every day life. He would ride his bike, yes, but he would also make a stop near the river bank and listen to the wake of boats as they lapped against the shore. He would stop and listen to the stream near the hiking trail, or watch the waterfall as the cool water meticulously pelted the gray clay of the streambed. He would listen for birds as they chirped, and talked with any stranger who had a dog—always eager to steal an opportunity to befriend a puppy.

And when he would come home from these bike rides, usually after an hour or so, Dad had a favorite spot in our backyard. It was around the fire pit that he built for all of us to enjoy. My Dad enjoyed so many sounds, but I think he enjoyed the pops and crackles of a wood burning fire more than any other. Using the flame thrower that he “engineered” (an extremely dangerous toy that is hooked to a propane tank which I was fortunate enough to inherit after his death), Dad would start the fire, toss on lots of wood, grab our family dog and a lawn chair, and settle in for a few hours of quality rest and relaxation. He would try out new burning materials to see what interesting sounds they might make. He became a particular fan of bamboo which, if you don’t know, makes a loud explosion when it burns. Or pine tree limbs which, after a significant drying period, will burn faster than just about any other material. For hours my Dad could sit in his chair with the warmth of a good fire on his face. He would drink yet another Coca-Cola, eat a few popsicles or Klondike bars, and stare at the night sky above him. He would wonder at the marvel of the moon and the stars overhead, pointing out obscure facts he had learned about them over the years. No frills, nothing fancy—but completely and utterly at peace and happy.

Not every night was like this for Dad. There were nights where my Dad would have to work late or get called in after returning home. There were nights where he would go out to eat or come to one of my baseball games. There were nights where Dad would work side jobs in an effort to support our family financially. And on the unfortunate night that the rain and foul weather would prohibit any outdoor enjoyment, Dad would be relegated to the couch for another night of UFC reruns.

But I have no doubt that my Dad was happiest on the nights where he could enjoy nature and the peace and solitude they provide. I have no doubt that my Dad experienced a slice of heaven on those nights where he could escape the noise of everyday life and marvel in the joy of the world around him.


Mister Rogers popularized a unique phrase: “quietude”. Quietude was the act of withdrawing from the noise and constant chatter of the world we live in to embrace the beauty of God’s creation and listen as He speaks to us. Mister Rogers was a tremendous appreciator of silence, and he found ways to make quiet time for himself each and every day. Mister Rogers would wake up early each morning to pray, and then he would swim laps relentlessly. In one of his books, he even talks about a day he spent doing nothing but reading, praying, and listening to the world around him. He said that that particular period of “quietude” led to a restful night’s sleep and an extremely productive day of work. Fred Rogers said that his moments of quietude were an opportunity to “stop, reflect, and receive.”

I like to think that my Dad was able to achieve this same state of quietude pretty frequently in his life. Although he may have lost his final battle with depression, I like to think that he was able to fight of the mental illness for so long and so successfully because he was able to close off the distraction and noise of the world around him and embrace quietude. He was happiest listening to a bird chirp. He was happiest listening to a river flow. He was happiest listening to a dog bark. And he was happiest listening to a fire crackle. He didn’t need to talk to be happy. He didn’t need to be productive twenty-four hours a day to enjoy God’s creation. He took God’s command to relax and enjoy life seriously. And he lived it in a way that we should all strive to do.

Although it’s been many years since my Dad gave me that initial driving lesson, I think he’s still telling me that I better slow down. I think my Dad is still telling me that I need to find ways to take my foot off the accelerator of life and strive for a level of quietude that will brighten the world around me. There are so many times where my “to-do’s” distract me to the point that I can’t enjoy anything else I’ve already done. I’m constantly thinking about what’s next, what I can be doing to be successful, and all the ways that I can be productive and contribute. I rarely think that the best way for me to be productive might be to slow down, but I’m still learning this lesson from my Dad—even if he’s been gone for over three years.

There are days, less frequently than I’d like, where I’m able to replicate the life my Dad led. I’m trying to take more bike rides and make more backyard fires. I’m trying to listen to the natural world around me and pay attention to the amazing things that God has created all over. There are days where I’m able to hop on his bike, pedal my way back to the park, and enjoy the sights and sounds of a sunset over the river bank. In those moments, I find myself hearing the still, small voice of God that is so often described in the Bible.

But I also find myself hearing my Dad’s voice. We have conversations with one another. I’ll ask him questions about the tough things I’m dealing with in life. I’ll ask him to help me fight my feelings of doubt and insecurity and uncertainty and hopelessness and fear. I’ll tell him that I still don’t understand why things happened the way they did. And I’ll tell him how much I miss him and love him.

And I know I’ve found Dad’s quietude on the nights where I hear him answer back. And more than anything, I always hear him say “I miss you, but I’ve always been here and always will be. I love you, and I can’t wait to see you again, even though I see you in every moment of every day.” I hear it in the break of a wave against the shore or the flap of a bird’s wing overhead. I hear it in the crackle of log in the fire, too. But there are many times where I hear it in his voice. Speaking to me, from the heavens.

When I force the world around me to slow down and get quiet, I hear some of my favorite noises. I’m thankful to God for all that He’s created, but I’m especially thankful for my Dad for showing me how to slow down and enjoy it.

Dad Leaning Back in a ChairDad, I know that there were so many times when I didn’t understand why you would tell me to slow down, but now it all makes sense. I look back on the moments when you were happiest here in this life, and it seemed to be the moments when you were unplugged, disconnected, and severed from all the chatter and distraction that we think is important. You found what was really important in life, and you embraced it head on. You found ways to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation, and you found a state of quietude that led to happiness and rest. I’m striving to be like you in so many ways, Dad, but I’m working especially hard on slowing down. You’d be proud to know that I still drive a little fast, just like you, but I’m slowing down to enjoy the things that were important to you and are important to me. Until we can enjoy them together in heave, I’ll seeya, Bub.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” Psalm 23:2 (NIV)

Friendship Through Fire: Guest Blog by Chris Beatty

Ty: “Have you talked to Chris lately?”

My Dad would always ask this question, knowing darn well what the answer was before he even asked it. Chris and I hadn’t talked in a long while.

And that, in and of itself, was extremely unusual. There was a period of time when Chris and I would have called each other three or four times throughout the day to share a joke, tell a story, or just chat. Chris Beatty and I had been the best of friends for many years. The type of friends who were completely inseparable. We spent nearly every night we could hanging out, going to country concerts, and commiserating over our inability to talk to women. Now, it had been months since I had even heard from Chris. We let a disagreement get the best of us, and now it was showing our worst.

“You know, you really should call him. Life’s too short,” my Dad would always say. I had no idea at that time just how short life could truly be.

But I was stubborn and I was afraid to admit that I had made a terrible mistake and sinned against my fellow man—and not just any fellow man. My best friend. I was too arrogant to pick up the phone and call him. I let anger consume me for no reason other than haughty self-righteousness, and it was tearing my heart to pieces. I was too ego-conscious to drive over to his house and say I was sorry. I was too focused on myself to focus on God and what He wanted me to do to repair this friendship. And I let self blind me to everything that was important in life.

Even in the immediate aftermath of my Dad’s death, I had people telling me that my God could take horrible situations and make something good out of them. That even in the midst of tremendous, lifelong heartache, God can create brightness. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, God would be able to take this pain and bring His people closer together.

“Well, God,” I thought, “you’ve got your work cut out for you on this one.”


Chris: I was driving home the night I got the call.  In her most comforting, yet emptied and wounded tone, my mom asked me if I could pull off to the side of the road because she had something ‘very important’ to tell me.  This was a tone in which I have never heard from my mom’s voice, so I ‘pulled off’ the highway and prepared myself for the coming words that would change my life, forever.

“Chris, baby I don’t how to tell you this.  Scott passed away.  I don’t know all of the details, but he committed suicide.”

My body went numb.  Honest to God, I literally pinched myself twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.  It was at that point, that I really did pull off I-71N to clear my blurred vision from the tears that had cascaded my eyes.  After gaining my composure, and taking a few deep breaths, I did something that I couldn’t bring myself to do for last 2 years.  I swallowed my pride, dialed those 7 numbers that I still had memorized, and waited in anticipation for a familiar voice on the other side…

For those of you that don’t know, Ty and I met each other in Mrs. Hopkin’s 2nd grade class at Fairfield North Elementary.  Since 9th grade, we have been best friends, and often mistaken for lovers by many.  I guess going out with your buddy for ice-cream on a Friday night might’ve been the wrong play when trying to pick up girls.  Ty and I share countless memories, many of which his dad played a part in.

Of all the memories, my personal favorite was when Ty and I started a business one summer, called Beatty & Bradshaw Landscaping.  Scotty let me use his truck to pull out all the stumps and bushes from the ground.  He also let us use his chainsaw, flame thrower, pressure washer, and Cub Cadet riding mower!  I forgot to mention, all his tools were brand name and looked legit, which in turn, made us feel like real men.

*Side note: During our 2 years as business owners, Beatty & Bradshaw Landscaping had 1 client and 2 total invoices.  We later liquidized all assets of the company and took up poker instead.  That, too, was a failed venture.

beatty-and-bradshaw-landscaping

Admittingly, I am a prideful person.  Prideful to the point in which I squandered a lifelong friendship with Ty over something trivial.  During our 2-year sabbatical from each other, a lot happened in our lives.  We got real jobs; we each bought houses; I got married.  In planning my wedding, there were some important questions…location, church, venue, colors, wedding party, honeymoon, etc.  Up until that point, I had one obvious choice as my best man.  Despite desperate attempts from my future wife and family to bring us back together, my pride restricted my ability to pick up the phone and make things right with Ty.  As the wedding planning proceeded, Ty was not my best man. He nor his family were invited to celebrate the best day of my life.  That decision was a life lesson that I learned the hard way.

Two years later…

Anxiously dialing Ty’s number, a number I had dialed so many times before, a calmness and a sense of compassion that only God can give someone filled my entire body.  I heard Ty’s voice, but it was just his voicemail.  I have no recollection of what I said, but in my most sympathetic tone, I asked him to call me.

It was the next day, I was about to walk into my office, and I saw those 7 familiar numbers pop up on my phone that I had answered so many times before.  I can’t recall what Ty even said to me, but it didn’t matter.  Differences aside, I knew this was the moment that Ty needed his brother.  I cancelled all my meetings and raced to his house, which I realized was the same yard where we completed our 2 landscaping jobs at Beatty & Bradshaw Landscaping.  Talk about poetic justice.

I remember apprehensively walking up to his door and thinking about what I wanted to say and how I was going to say it.  How do you approach someone who you’ve known since you were 7, yet completely shut out of your life for the past 2 years, who just tragically lost his father?

God has a great way of working things out for you when you put your trust in Him.  I walked inside and Ty greeted me with the most exposed, regretful, and heartbroken hug I’ve ever received.  I spent so much time rehearsing what I would say and how I would apologize.  Instead, we hugged each other and sobbed in each other’s arms for what seemed like an hour. It was at that point that every chain and shackle had been lifted off both of our stubborn hearts.

My greatest life lessons have always been learned the hard way, and this was no exception.  It took a tragedy to bring my brother and I back together.  Since that day, Ty and I have picked up where we left off; going to Red’s games, eating at Buffalo Joe’s and ordering extra blue cheese, singing every word to “We Rode in Trucks,” in Scotty’s GMC Silverado, and yes, still going out for Graeter’s black raspberry chip ice cream.  In fact, we recently checked off a life-long bucket list item the other night when we went to go see Garth Brooks in concert.  It was such an honor to share that experience together because we both had that same dream since we were 7 years old.

Pride blurred my vision, causing me to view myself in a distorted reality.  Pride shields sin as strength and steadfast.  I am so thankful that my God forgives me for my transgressions.  If someone tells you that a burnt bridge will never be built again, or forgiveness isn’t possible, I can tell you differently, in ways not a lot of people can.  While Ty and I will never get those 2 years back, I’m excited to open new chapters where I can be a part of the memorable moments in his life.

I know Scotty is smiling up there seeing his two boys back in action again.

Thanks, Scotty.  I love you, man.  I’ll thank you again in person one day, but until then, Seeya Bub.

opening-day


Ty: Dad, Your death created a lot of heartache in my life that still continues today. But I’m also amazed how God was able to take this horrible situation and shine a light in other areas. I know that you are happy looking down and seeing Chris and I have mended our friendship. If it was possible, I think we’ve become even better friends than we ever were, because we know what truly matters—and Dad, you taught us that. You taught us that forgiveness isn’t an option, and that love for your fellow man is what matters at the end of this life. Chris and I are both able to cherish the example you set for what it means to be a friend to someone, and we are thankful that you are still watching over us, at times laughing with us and other times at our stupidity. I have no doubt that God has his hand over our friendship, and I have no doubt that you are there right next to Him, watching along and smiling at your boys. We miss you terribly, Dad, but we will see you again soon when we can all laugh together forever and ever. Until then, seeya Bub.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

chris-beatty-headshotChris Beatty

Chris Beatty is the Sr. Vice President of Business Development at Hyur Staffing Services, LLC., specializing in customized recruitment and staffing support.  Chris graduated from Miami University (Oxford, OH) obtaining his B.S. in Marketing from the Farmer School of Business.  He is also a member of Inner Circle Cincinnati, Inc., a 501©3 non-profit organization and men’s ministry devoted to turning lukewarm Christian men into spiritually mature disciples and leaders.

Visions

I haven’t seen my Dad in over three years. But I see him every day.

I remember the first time it happened. I was walking through the mall doing some shopping before Christmas when a sight stopped me dead in my tracks.

I could have sworn it was my Dad. A man was walking a few steps ahead of me, and everything in me told me that it was my Dad. The glare from the mall’s overhead lights shone off his bald head (a fact that I had teased my Dad about so many times before). He wore a shirt that my Dad would have worn, along with jeans and boots that I swore I had seen him wear before. I could see glasses hanging over his ears, and I knew in that moment that my Dad was there, walking just a few steps ahead of me.

The moment I saw him my breathing ceased. I felt a tightness in my chest that I hadn’t felt since the funeral. I was almost paralyzed in the middle of that mall, but as I stood there stock-still, he continued to walk.

I realized I was losing him, so I quickened my pace, bobbing and weaving through nonchalant mall-goers in an effort to catch my Dad. With quickened breath I evened myself with him, and as his head turned towards me, I saw a man who was not my Dad. A man who, from another angle, resembled him, but a man who could never fill his shoes or the hole in my heart. A man whose outward looks captured my attention because I longed to see him again so badly.

I nodded briefly with a disappointed look on my face, and veered off to a bench in the mall where I sat down and attempted to recapture my emotions. I sat there wondering how many more times I would see my Dad in the physical features or gestures of other people.

I haven’t seen my Dad in over three years. But I see him every day.


I saw my Dad nearly every day of his life. I saw him at home, yes, but most often I remember seeing him at an unlikely spot—at the games where I would announce.

When I was in college, a random flyer on a campus corkboard led me to a unique career that continues today. As I was making my way down the stairwell of Mosler Hall on the Hamilton Campus of Miami University, I saw a flyer that jumped out at me: “Interested in becoming a Sports Announcer?”

I had never shared this with anyone, but from the time I was in high school I had always had an underlying desire to become a sports broadcaster. Partly because I knew my voice could cut it, and partly as an effort to redeem my horrible history as an athlete.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my days as an athlete were few and full of trouble. For some reason, the genes that allowed my Dad to be successful at about any sport he ever played had not been passed down to me. I was even bad at tee-ball, which I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t envision anything getting better once they took the tee away, so after a short-lived and completely underwhelming career in youth recreational leagues all across Southwestern Ohio, I retired—much to the excitement of the other kids’ parents who wouldn’t have to watch me any longer.

But I loved baseball, and I loved basketball, and I loved many other sports, even if I couldn’t play them respectably. My favorite pastime in high school was going down to Great American Ballpark and watching a good…well….watching a Cincinnati Reds game. I loved watching Kentucky Basketball, and had grown up a fan of the Wildcats all my life. If I had a chance to go to games on campus at Miami as a student, I always went, no matter the sport. All along, I envisioned myself being in the shoes of those athletes, knowing darn well that I would never come close. The mind wanted to do it, but the hands couldn’t make it happen.

Sports announcing was my way of bridging the gap, and I got that job as an announcer for the Miami University Hamilton athletic department at the end of my freshman year. My debut came during a women’s basketball game in the Fall of 2016, and although it was a small crowd who came out to watch the Harriers, the most important people in the crowd that night were my parents.

My parents came out to see me announce, but it was a deeper commitment than seeing the novelty of my first game. They were there for that game and they were there for nearly every game that came after it. As the years went by, I continued to find new jobs as an announcer. I started filling in for games at the main campus in Oxford, and then when a new summer collegiate baseball team, the Hamilton Joes, established themselves in my hometown, I was tapped to be the voice of the team. No matter the sport or the team, chances were always good that my parents would be in the stands cheering on the team I announced for—and silently watching over me. I often joked that I was the only sports announcer at any level whose parents would travel to watch him at any game, but underneath the joking was a deep sense of gratitude. I absolutely loved having them there.

Whenever I finished announcing a basketball game, Dad always made it a point to stroll across the hardwood floor and visit me at the scorer’s table before he left for home. We would catch up on our day as I packed up my things. We would talk about the game. We would criticize the players who had made boneheaded decisions. He would tell me that I sounded good that night or compliment me on a particular line I had used. Those five or so minutes were always extremely special to me. I would introduce him to all of the people within the athletic department, and he would befriend them like he did nearly everyone he came into contact with. As much as I appreciated those interactions after the game, I definitely didn’t realize how special they were until he was no longer there to greet me.

Of all the teams I announced for, I think my Dad was happiest when I became the Voice of the Hamilton Joes. I loved baseball, and so did my Dad. There was something about the team and the experience at Foundation Field that he loved from day one. Dad was so excited when he found out the team would start playing in the summer of 2009, right after I had graduated from college; and he was absolutely thrilled when I told him I would be the announcer.

dad-mom-and-i-at-joes-game

Maybe it was the fact that the players truly hustled as they tried to turn the eye of a major league scout and up their draft stock. Maybe it was the fact that he got to see college players using a wood bat. Or maybe it was just his love of being outside on a warm summer’s night. No matter the reason, Dad absolutely loved being there watching the Joes.

He was “all in” from that very first season—they both were. Dad bought a t-shirt that first season, and he and Mom rarely missed a game. He wore that t-shirt to nearly every game, and loved wearing it around town, even when the Joes weren’t in season. When the team made it to the league championship in only their second year, Dad made sure that he and Mom were ready to go on the road with the team to watch them win. We travelled to Granville, Ohio—I was in the broadcast booth calling the win, and Mom and Dad were sitting in the stands cheering like crazy. Dad was so happy that night, but win or lose my Dad was always happy to be watching his favorite team.

As much as he enjoyed watching the game, I think that Dad enjoyed being there with the team and the other fans just as much. My Dad was a man who was able to relish in the simplistic beauty of life’s regular moments, and I’m always envious of his ability to slow down and experience joy in the everyday. He found joy watching college kids play baseball. He found peace sitting in the stands as the sun would set at his back. He found happiness eating a hot dog and nachos and washing it down with a Coke on a July evening. He enjoyed life the way that I wish I could.

me-mom-and-dad-at-gabp

And he made people feel so valued and so important when he was there, too. Shortly after I launched Seeya Bub, Amy Baker (the daughter of the team’s owner) submitted a story about my Dad through the “Scott Stories” link that warmed my heart and reminded me of those wonderful summer’s nights (I’d love to see you submit a story about my Dad if you have one too. Use this link). She wrote:

Scott was always one of the first people to say hello to me and my children at the Hamilton Joes baseball games and the Miami Harrier basketball games. He was always so proud of Ty and his passion for sports announcing. I envy the support he gave.

I’m sure that most people who interacted with my Dad at Joes games felt the same way, because he had a way of interacting with people that made them enjoy life too.

My Dad died right at the end of the Joes 2013 season, and I just couldn’t bring myself to announce the few games that remained that year. I didn’t want to go the stadium knowing that he wouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to look down from my perch in the press box and see an empty seat in the grandstands where he sat. I had looked down from that press box window so many times and watched my Dad’s bald head glaring in the stadium lights. I would see him smiling and laughing with my Mom or a fellow fan. And I was desperate to see that vision again, knowing deep down that I would never see him sitting in the stands at one of my games ever again.

That summer mercifully expired, but I knew another would be right around the corner. And with it would be the painful reminder that the game and the team my Dad enjoyed so much would continue to play without him in the stands. As awful as this sounds to admit, life moves on in the face of painful tragedy, especially for those who aren’t in the epicenter of the trauma. Some are more prepared for the moving-on than others, but I was definitely not ready for a season of Joes baseball without my Dad. The pain was still too real. The sleepless nights and vivid nightmares were still too frequent.

I thought about whether or not I should even return to the pressbox at all, but every time I thought about my options I knew that I only had one. I had to return, because it’s what my Dad would have wanted me to do. My Dad would have been so disappointed in me had I let his death ruin my love of the game and being behind the microphone. I wanted to honor him, and as painful as it was to think about getting back to business without my Dad, I knew that I had to do it.

So, in June of 2014, nearly a year after my Dad had passed away, I made a familiar walk in unfamiliar territory. I returned to the broadcast booth as I had so many times before, sat in the same chair, put on the same headset mic, and went through many of the same motions I had gone through so many games before.

And then I stopped. And I looked out from the pressbox window. I looked at the spot where my Dad had enjoyed so many Joes games. And that spot was empty. And even if someone sat in that spot, I knew that for me it would always remain empty.

I made it through that first game back, but there were numerous moments throughout those nine innings where I had to turn my head towards he wall and shed a few tears. I would lean back in my chair a bit so I couldn’t see my Dad’s seat—even though I desperately wanted to see him.

When the game concluded, I began to pack up my things as I had always done, but I felt something coming over me that stopped me dead in my tracks. Before I could even gather all of my things, I made my way out of the broadcast booth and descended the grandstand stairs. Then, I made my way over into the bleachers to the spot where my Dad had enjoyed so many games, took a deep breath, and sat down.

I sat down next to that spot and surveyed the field with tears in my eyes. I thought about all the great times we had enjoyed together at baseball games and other sporting events. I thought about all the times I had looked down from my pressbox perch and witnessed my Dad cheering, eating a hot dog, and enjoying the simplicity of a summer night at a local baseball game. I thought of all the joy that those games had provided for him night in and night out. And I thought about how many bad days he might have had that were completely remedied by sitting in those bleachers and watching a game.

And I turned my head and looked next to me, and I could see him there.

I still see him in that seat. It’s been over three years since he died, but every time I look at that spot in the grandstands I seem him sitting there.

Don’t get me wrong. It still hurts every time I look down from my perch and see that empty seat. But then I see my Dad, and I see and remember the great times he had watching baseball. It doesn’t make losing him any easier, and I would still do absolutely anything to have him occupy that seat again. But it also reminds me that he lived life to enjoy it, and I’m so very thankful for that.

I haven’t seen my Dad in over three years. But I see him every day.

And as painful as it is to see him, I’m so grateful that I do. I’ll never stop seeing him—and I love that.

family-at-joes-gameDad, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss seeing you at my games. I may not have always shown it like I should have, but I always loved having you there. You made it a priority to come and hear me announce, and you didn’t do it out of obligation—you did it because you loved me. You did it because you enjoyed the simple moments that life provided. Every time I look down at the grandstand at a Joes game, I picture you sitting there. Every time I announce a game at Miami Hamilton, I can still see you strolling across the court towards me once the game ends. I long for the day where I can be there at a game with you again. If there are baseball games in heaven, I can’t wait to sit next to you and enjoy one together. But for now, seeya Bub.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 (NIV)

The Time Line

On page 673 of my Bible, there is a line drawn at the end of the 68th Psalm. To the side of that line, there’s a note written and outlined in a box: “7/30/13: This is where I resume my reading of Psalms after my Father’s suicide and death. I miss you Dad.”

The line that’s there in my Bible is an important one. I had been in the process of reading through the entire Bible from start to finish when Dad passed away. I had started by reading through the New Testament first, and I was in the middle of working my way through the Psalms a few chapters at a night. When I closed my Bible on July 23, 2013, I had no idea that the trials and storms I had read about over so many chapters were getting ready to become very real for me and my family.

Over the years, I had written many notes in my Bible. Since college, I had always been an avid “underliner” in the books I read, constantly writing notes in the margins, boxing in concepts that stuck out to me, and marking up each and every book I could get my hands on (to any frequent readers who find red pen marks in their library books…please don’t report me). Grab any book on my bookshelf, and you’ll usually be able to tell if I’ve read it or not by red pen markings or the lack thereof. My Bible, of course, is the most marked-up book that I own because its marked my life more than anything else. I mostly use pencil or a soft highlighter because of the tissue-paper-thickness of the pages, but even in graphite my handiwork is pretty evident.

But no marking is more important than that line on page 673. It’s a line in the most important book I’ll ever own, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the most important line I’ve ever drawn, and it’s one I had never expected to draw in the first place.

When Dad died, the way I described time became very, very different. Suddenly, every time I told a story, the time descriptor I used resembled the language I had heard in so many history lectures. I found myself saying “Before Dad died…” or “After Dad died…” every time I told a story.

At no other point in my life had I ever used a single event or circumstance to define when I had done something. Yes, there was the occasional “In fourth grade…” or “When I was a kid…”, or “That one time I got rejected by a girl in high school…” (which was used more frequently than the rest), but those descriptors usually changed based on the story. Now, no matter the content, I was using “B.D. and A.D.” time to preface every story (Before Dad died, and After Dad). It’s a feeling that I think anyone who loses a loved one begins to experience, and it’s much more than a simple line. Understanding the significance of that line can help to understand the magnitude of grief that permeates a survivor of suicide or any traumatic experience.

I remember drawing that line. It felt like a momentous, life-defining exercise. It had only been a few days after my Dad’s death, and just a day after his funeral when I felt the urge to retreat to my office, close the door, and pick up where I had left off. I partly wanted to escape and just be by myself for a while, because for the past week it felt as if I hadn’t been able to spend a moment’s time to myself. I knew that my thoughts were building up, but I hadn’t even had time to process them just yet. Mostly, I wanted to try and recapture some of the normalcy of my life, because things had been anything but normal for the past six days. Sitting at my desk and reading my Bible had become the most regular activity of my life over the past year or so. It seemed only natural to sit down and resume the work, but there was also an immense guilt that swept over me. My life’s history was transitioning periods from B.D. to A.D., and there was a mourning in my soul that told me if I refused to draw the line, maybe things would go back to normal. It’s irrational, but it’s natural.

When I drew that line, there was a sense of finality that swept across my mind. One chapter, an extremely significant chapter in my life had closed shut rather abruptly. And the conclusion of that chapter would affect all the ones that came after it. That realization weighed heavily on my shoulders.

But I drew it anyway. With tears in my eyes, I slowly and weakly drew a single solid line across the page, deliberately and slowly recognizing the magnitude of the moment. But the fact that I drew a line at all helped me comprehend one very, very important truth.

There is life after the line.

It sounds insensitive to even write those words. Even now, three years and more removed from Dad’s death, I feel guilty when I write that. But I can’t deny truth, and I refuse to let evil thoughts and the storms of this life hinder the joy that can still exist all around me. Yes, life isn’t the same after Dad died; but there is still life. And for all the dark moments it’s been filled with since he’s gone, there have also been beautiful moments that celebrate everything that my Dad loved.

When Dad died, there were moments, heart-wrenching moments, where it felt like life couldn’t go on, even when you know deep down that it will. Convincing yourself that life will go on in spite of the tragedy is the difficult part, but it does.

Life after the line isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, there are days where it feels impossible.

But guess what? Just like life before the line wasn’t always wonderful, life after the line isn’t always horrible. Don’t get me wrong—I would give anything to completely erase that line from my Bible and my memory and have my Dad back with me again. Life was just better when he was in it, and life will never be the same without him. But even though it’s not the same as it once was, there are moments in life where I see glimpses and snapshots of the joy I once experienced when Dad was alive. Since Dad has died, I’ve met wonderful friends and had tremendously fun moments with them. I’ve reconciled friendships from the past that have made life more enjoyable. There are times when life feels normal again, even though its dramatically broken, and instead of feeling guilty about those moments, I’m slowly learning to accept them. Day by day, I’m learning to live life after the line. I’m learning that it’s okay to hurt, but that it’s also okay to live. If I needed to learn anything from my Dad’s death, it’s that truth.


I don’t think it’s any coincidence that God put me where He did within my Bible-reading journey, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that that line is drawn where it is. God knew that I would need the words that would follow in the 69th Psalm to guide me through my life beyond the line, and those words continue to speak to me when I think about my Dad’s death. The first section of that Psalm, the words I read through tearstained eyes on the evening of July 30, 2013, will be with me forever:

Save me, O God!

The water is already up to my neck!

I am sinking in deep mud.

There is nothing to stand on.

I am in deep water:

A flood is sweeping me away.

I am exhausted from crying for help.

My throat is hoarse.

My eyes are strained from looking for my God.

(Psalm 69:1-3)


May my prayer come to you at an acceptable time, O Lord.

O God, out of the greatness of your mercy,

Answer me with the truth of your salvation.

Rescue me from the mud.

Do not let me sink into it.

I want to be rescued from those who hate me

And from the deep water.

Do not let floodwaters sweep me away.

Do not let the ocean swallow me up,

Or the pit to close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, because your mercy is good.

Out of your unlimited compassion, turn to me.

I am in trouble, so do not hide your face from me.

Answer me quickly!

Come close, and defend my soul.

Set me free because of my enemies.

(Psalm 69:13-18)

When those words were written, God answered David. And when those words are read thousands of years later, God answers me. He responded to my cries on that July night a few years ago, and he continues to respond as I navigate life on the other side of the line.

The dawning of another year always causes me to think about my Dad and the loss we all feel not having him around. I still quantify life by his passing, and I have no doubt that on New Year’s Eve this year, I’ll consciously start the counting in my head. 2017 will mark the fourth year of “A.D.” life for me. It’s a difficult chapter of life to embrace. But I’ll remind myself that life after the line isn’t always bad. I’ll be thankful for life in general—before or after the line. I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to have had a wonderful Dad for 26 years of life on this Earth, and I’ll rest easy in the fact that I’ll have a Father for all eternity that can lead me through this into a greater relationship with Him.

The line will always be there, but the Scriptures that surround it will never be outdone.

bible-page-with-sb-logoDad, I’d do anything to go back to that awful day in July 2013 and never have to draw a line in my Bible. But the fact that I’m even drawing that line means you made a tremendous impact on me and my life. You always approached your work with the utmost sincerity and dedication, but there was no job more important to you than being my Dad and the leader of our family. I’ll always be appreciative of that. I’m sad when I see the line, but I smile when I remember the man whose memory deserved it. I promise that my life after the line will honor you and make you proud. I promise that you will not have died in vain—that people will live their lives differently when they hear about you. Keep watching over me. Seeya, bub.

“Come close and defend my soul.” Psalm 69:18 (GW)

Merry Christmas from SeeyaBub.com!

 

A few months ago, I decided to launch this blog thinking that a few people would stumble across it and that it might help someone who is struggling with depression or the loss of a loved one to suicide. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I didn’t expect what all the readers, and God, have provided in these few short months.

Over the past two months, Seeya Bub has had a few thousand views and has reached individuals in the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Philippines, India, and a whole host of other countries.

To those of you who read each post, what’s been more important than any number or marker on a map, however, has been the overwhelming response of your heart. I can’t tell you how many nights I sit at my desk with my mouth agape, baffled at the work God is allowing this blog to do.

There have been the conversations with those of you who struggle with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Hearing you open up and tell your story has been the privilege of a lifetime. From the moment I started this blog, I knew I wouldn’t be able to provide simple answers—but I could provide comfort, an open ear, and a shoulder to cry on when needed. You matter. Your story matters. And your life here on this earth is vitally important and consequential. I am honored to walk with you and share my Dad’s story in the hope that it might change and improve yours.

There have been the messages from survivors of suicide and individuals who have a friend or family member that struggles. There’s so much confusion, especially when a parent is suffering from a mental illness. How do we go from that person being our ultimate provider to suddenly having to take care of the caretaker? Your confusion is real, and it’s maddening, and it’s frustrating—but it’s a lot less overwhelming when you share that burden in community. I hate that you and your loved one are suffering, but I love that God has connected us so we can struggle and suffer together. Hearing so many people deal with their loved ones more tenderly after reading this blog has made it all worth it.

And to those of you who have lost a parent, regardless of the circumstances around their death, your pain and love for your loved one has touched the deepest parts of my heart. The loss of a parent is so profoundly painful. They’ve always been there, and they’ve always known just what to say when times got tough. And when they aren’t around anymore to say those things, the void hurts so deeply. I’ve found comfort in your experience and your journey, and I’m learning from you how I can continue living life when life seems unlivable.

To those of you who have shared stories about my Dad, all I can say is thank you. You have no idea how comforting it is to hear stories about my Dad. You would think, having known him my entire life, I would know everything there is to know about him. But I don’t, and as time goes on, one of the most difficult and troubling realizations is that I might be forgetting things about my Dad. When you tell me stories about my Dad and the things he did in this life, it’s like he’s right there next to me again. He’s still living in on your memory, which makes him even more vivid in my own. I can’t wait to share these stories in future posts.

This Christmas season, I simply say thank you. For reading, for sharing, and for connecting. For validating my story while processing your own. You’ve inspired me to make this the mission of my life—promoting a message of hope in the face of fear, light in the presence of darkness. I am completely astounded by the response, and I promise to continue serving all of you, and God, with all my heart and energy.

Dad and I were fans big fans of Garth Brooks…well, let me rephrase that. I was (and still am) a HUGE fan of Garth Brooks, and Dad liked him up until that whole “retirement” stunt. Recently, Garth (yeah, that’s right, we’re on a first name basis….well, at least I am) released a song with his wife Trisha Yearwood and the legendary James Taylor that is simply dubbed “The Thanksgiving Song”. The lyrics spoke to me at a heart level, and I wanted to share some of them with you:

What I’m thankful for ain’t on no list

For it only in my heart exists

For time has helped me understand

The things I can’t hold in my hand.

 

For those that came before my turn

Oh, from whom I’ve gathered lessons learned

That light the path that lies ahead

I see them as I bow my head.

 

Yes I’m thankful for the Lord above

The gift of His unending love

The promise kept that there is something more

These are the things I’m thankful for.

To all of you, I’m thankful that you’ve agreed to walk alongside me and all those who suffer from mental illness and grief. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours, and thank you for making the start of this journey such a remarkably blessed experience.

Dad, You would be astounded by all of the people who have visited this blog and read your story. You wouldn’t want the credit for any of it, but I give you so much credit for all the good things that have happened in my short life. You taught me all the things a Father should (and then some), and although the lessons didn’t always set in (I still can’t change my own oil in the truck), the important things you taught me will always be there. I miss you more than anything, and especially around Christmas it’s hard to think that you won’t be there to enjoy all the fun and food and family. But you are there, in my heart, and I’m thankful that you made me the man I am. Until that first Christmas that we spend together in heaven, seeya Bub.

The Christmas Quilt

It’s really hard to think of a present you’d like to have on Christmas when all you want is your Dad to come back.

2014 marked my second Christmas without Dad. My second Christmas without seeing his smile as he opened gifts. My second Christmas without watching him laugh at A Christmas Story over and over and over again. My second Christmas without him snoring loudly as he napped on the couch after eating entirely too much holiday food. My second Christmas without the sound of his laughter, the presence of his joy, and the love of his heart.

I fought desperately (and still do) to hang onto those memories of Christmases now gone. On the surface, the holiday season looked the same. The Christmas trees, the lights, the presents, the cookies, and the family get-togethers. But Christmas now felt different. The feelings of joy and anticipation had given way to the pangs of loss, regret, and overwhelming sadness. All the emotions I had once felt around Christmas were so clouded by loss that it was nearly impossible to enjoy any part of the season. I thought a second year in the rotation might take off some of the rawness of the pain, but in actuality, it didn’t. It still hurt, and the pain still ran just as deep.

There was a guilt in time progressing, in life moving on. How could I just continue to exist without my Dad? How could I just continue celebrating Christmas after Christmas without him? It didn’t feel right, but I also didn’t know what other option I had. Christmas was going to come whether I wanted it to or not. Man is in an eternal fight against time, and I was on the front lines.

I couldn’t stop these thoughts from racing through my mind as I created my makeshift bed in the family room of my parents’ home. Our yearly tradition of a Christmas Eve celebration with my Mom’s side of the family had just concluded, and I was settling in for the night in the family room where I last saw my Dad alive. Even though I had bought my own house, I had made it my tradition of staying with my parents on Christmas Eve so we could all wake up under the same roof for Christmas morning. If anything, Dad’s death had made me want to do this even more, to hold on to some sense of tradition and normalcy as much as I could.

As I was laying out the sheets and pillows on the couch, Mom made her way down the staircase with a wrapped package. As an only child with a devilish smile, I had often been able to convince my parents to let me open just one present the day before Christmas. Even into semi-adulthood, I had still been able to work my magic to get at least one gift the day before. But since Dad had died, there wasn’t the same fun or eagerness in opening gifts.

Seeing her come down the stairs with that package made me remember so many unique gifts that my Mom and Dad gave me over the years. There was the year when they bought me a Fischer Price castle playset with action figure knights and boulder slingshots and a working drawbridge, which became the breeding ground for countless hours of imagination as a child. Another year, my parents bought me a wonderful art desk with a revolving marker and crayon stand, and a bottom-lit desk surface for tracing. I felt like a real cartoonist when I sat at that desk! Against Mom’s better wishes, I’m sure, there was the year that Dad bought me a dirtbike. Although I never got very good at riding it, there was something about being a kid and getting a motorcycle on Christmas morning that made me feel really, really cool. And now, I sit and think back to all those wonderful gifts and want nothing more than to have the gift of my Dad back on Christmas.

I could tell from the look on Mom’s face that this gift would be a little different from the hundreds of toys I had probably received as a child. As she came down the steps with the package, I noticed she had been crying. Unfortunately, this wasn’t much of an anomaly in our home around Christmas, for either one of us. We cried at Christmas, sometimes together and sometimes alone. There was no getting around it.

“Ty,” she said, “I’d like for you to go ahead and open this gift tonight.”

She laid it on my lap, and the child inside me from years gone by couldn’t resist the temptation to guess what was underneath the wrapping. “It feels soft, and definitely feels like clothing,” the inner child said to me. Much too big to be socks, thankfully.

In the soft glow of the Christmas lights strung across our mantle, I unwrapped what has since become my favorite Christmas gift I’ve ever received.

As I pulled back the paper, I immediately recognized one of my Dad’s old t-shirts. I began to cry before even realizing what the gift actually was. Suddenly, I realized that what I thought might have been a jacket or a coat was a quilt—but not just any quilt.

What lay in my lap was a quilt made up entirely of my Dad’s old clothing.

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Fighting through tears and a complete loss of words, I threw the paper to the side and cleared out room on the floor. I spread the quilt out across the floor of our family room, admiring an item that was more valuable than any treasure I could ever receive. Mom had found someone who lived in our local community who had made the quilt–a strong Christian woman who took the time to learn about my Dad, pray over his clothing, and create a beautiful keepsake that would allow me to hold onto him forever.

There was the Carhart t-shirt I had seen him in so many times. Always the working man, I had grown used to seeing my Dad in Carhart clothing, especially coveralls, any time he was working around the house. Seeing that shirt again reminded me of his strong and calloused hands, often darkened and dirty from a project around the house. It took me back to those moments instantly.

img_0068Then, I spotted a patch made of his softball pants and the stitched name and number (always 11 for symmetry) from the letterman’s jacket of our church team. Dad was a tremendous athlete. Known as “Scooter” since before I was born, Dad was always fast—real fast. I loved watching him play softball, and when I saw that patch, my mind immediately went back to the familiar smells and sounds of a softball field, watching my Dad scoot around the bases as I cheered from a splintered wooden bench behind home plate.

img_0064I noticed his dark blue coveralls from Matandy Steel, the job where he worked for what was nearly the last decade of his life. So many times, I had seen Dad come home weary and exhausted from a long day at work, his hands and face smudged with grease from the machines he worked on all day. But my Dad loved his job, and he loved working, and I always associate those coveralls with pride and loyalty. My Dad was proud of his work, and we were all proud of the work he did.

My eyes drifted over to a green shirt with a soccer ball on it in the upper left corner, and I flashbacked to my short-lived career as a youth soccer star participant. Dad had coached my team—the Green Machine—in a local YMCA league. I saw the shirt, and remembered him running up and down the sidelines, yelling out instructions. I remembered his perfectly drawn out substitution sheets, which I eventually replicated when I started coaching. I remembered the smiles on the faces of all my teammates who, like so many other children, were drawn to my Dad’s goofy sense of humor. He didn’t know much about soccer, but there was never a better coach.

Then I noticed the shirts from Gulf Shores, Alabama (our family’s vacation spot) along with the red “Lifeguard” swim trunks he had worn on so many wonderfully sunny beach days. Dad loved going to the beach, and I loved going there with him. Our days were never boring at the beach. We would lounge in the sand and eat snacks. We would swim deep out into the ocean and see how far we could go before Mom would start freaking out. With our gloves always in tow, we would toss a baseball back and forth for hours as the sun baked on our shoulders. From early in the morning until the sun deemed our day done, we relished those moments together near the water. They were the happiest of times.

There were the Hamilton Joes t-shirts he had worn to all the games that I announced. I am confident that I am one of only a few sports broadcasters at any level whose parents attended nearly any event I announced. I saw those shirts, and I immediately flashed back to the countless times I had looked out from the press box window and saw my Dad completely at peace in the stands of a baseball game—watching the players, talking to his friends, and listening to his son. I loved having him there.

The UFC shirt I had made fun of him for wearing so many times after being completely dumbfounded regarding his fascination with the “sport”. The “Miami Dad” shirt I had bought him a few Christmases ago when I was an undergrad. The Cincinnati Reds t-shirt he had worn to so many games we attended together. They were all there. Everything I had remembered my Dad wearing was stitched together in front of me in a beautiful testament to the life he lived here on Earth. To anyone who didn’t know my Dad, it would tell them all about him. And to those of us who knew him, it brought out the best of his memory.

I cried. And I thanked my Mom. And I hugged her. And I told her how much I missed Dad. The flood of emotions I had been trying to hold back that entire day suddenly burst forth when I realized that wrapping myself in this quilt would be as close as I would ever get to hugging my Dad on this side of Eternity.

And that’s exactly what I do. When I miss my Dad, I wrap myself in that quilt. I wrap myself in the lifetime of wonderful memories he gave to me. I wrap myself in the knowledge that I will see him again someday, and that we will celebrate many more Christmases together. My Dad gave me so many great gifts while he was here with me, but I am so thankful that he gave me a Christ-like model of fatherhood—one where joy, humility, and unconditional love always prevails.

This quilt was a gift from my Mom, but I know that it was a gift from my Dad, too. I can feel his presence in every stitch. I can hear his laughter when I look at the patches. I can see his face and hear his voice every time I’m near it. A great quilt is nothing without a story to go behind it, and this one has a story I’ll tell for years and years to come.

Maybe you’re reading this blog having just lost a Dad or a Mom or a loved one. Maybe you’re reading this blog in the midst of unmistakable tragedy. Or maybe you’re reading these words years down the road from a loss but still reeling from the heart wrenching loss that feels as if it will never end. Maybe for a variety of reasons, you find yourself alone on this Christmas, and you can’t help but feel as if no one understands your desperation. If that’s you, I have a simple message.

God gives us quilts. For me, it was a quilt, but for you it might be something else. A photo. A family keepsake. A bottle of cologne or candle that reminds you of the person you miss. I don’t know what it will be, and I don’t know when you’ll receive it; but I do know that when we hurt, God’s heart hurts as well. And as a loving God, I know He will find ways to ease your pain.

I find so much comfort in the words of Psalm 139:13. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (NLT). If our God has known you so intricately and for so long, we have to believe that He knows exactly what we need in our deepest moments of hurt. And we also must believe enough in His promises that what we need will be provided.

Maybe it will be this Christmas, or maybe it will be months down the road, but I pray that you receive your quilt, and I pray that you receive the comfort that comes with it. Pray to God that He gives you your quilt, and believe, deep down, that He can provide.

And God gives us people who know we need a quilt. God uses His people to do extraordinary things, and he always positions them in our lives for the moments where we might need each other most. I didn’t ask for a quilt—mainly because I didn’t know I needed one. But God knew I needed one, and put the idea in my Mother’s heart to have one made for me.

This Christmas, I’m thankful that my God has put a mission in my Mom’s heart—a mission to help preserve the memory of her husband, my father. When it comes to gifts that honor my Dad, my Mom is an all-star. She thinks of ways to honor him that I never would. I’m confident that God has been developing that type of attitude in her throughout her entire life, knowing that our family would face a storm unlike any other.

I don’t know who will give you your quilt, but I’m confident that if you open your heart to grace and community and fellowship, God will give you an army of people who will help you walk through the wind and rain of life’s storms. He’s given it to me, even at times when I didn’t deserve it—and no matter how far I might stray from him at times, I rest easy knowing He will always be putting “quilt-givers” in my life to pick me up when I fall.


History records the day when the White House was attacked by the British in 1814. As the home of our nation’s most powerful executive burned to the ground, First Lady Dolley Madison grabbed the official portrait of our first President, George Washington, in an effort to preserve our national history. She escaped from the flames with the portrait intact, and made her way to safety.

Although I never want my house to burn down, I’ve already made up my mind about what I would grab on my way out, and it’s not a presidential portrait (Sorry, George).

The quilt my Mom gave me on that Christmas Eve is my most cherished family heirloom. For generations, that quilt will be able to tell the story of a man my children and grandchildren will never have the gift of knowing on this Earth. But more than that, it’s a reminder to me of the tremendous life I spent with my Dad for 26 years. Now, on Christmas Eve, I have a new tradition, and even though it’s not the one I want, it’s the one I will settle for until better days. On Christmas Eve, on that same couch where I said goodbye to my Dad, I wrap myself in his quilt, and it’s like he’s still there with me in some way. A quilt provides comfort, and so does a loving Father—and I’m thankful that I have both wrapped up together in the warmest of memories.

dads-quilt-with-sb-logo-1Dad, I would love for you to see this quilt, but I would give anything to see you wearing the clothes that make up the patches again. You would be so proud of Mom for finding such a wonderful way to honor your memory. When times get tough, I grab that quilt and think about you. I press my face against your work uniform, and remember how those patches used to feel on my face when I’d hug you as you came home from work as a child. I remember how sweaty those softball uniforms used to get after you had played a game on a hot summer night. I remember all the days we lounged together on the shores in Alabama, and how we all felt closer to God and each other being close to the ocean. I long for those days—and I know we will have them again, only better. My quilt only has meaning because of the meaning you gave to our lives when you were here. That quilt tells a story because you made life so special, each and every day. And although it will be sad to go through yet another Christmas without you to provide the fun and laughter, I feel you watching over us each and every year. Until our first Christmas together again, seeya Bub.

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Playing Catch

I love the sound of a baseball hitting a glove on a good throw. Not the kind of throws I usually make, but the throws my Dad made. POP. POP. POP. POP. Back and forth, on and on and on. Well, our throwing sessions were more like “Pop” (his throw), “Thud” (my throw). Pop, Thud. Pop, Thud. Pop, Thud.

On and on and on this went, most nights of the week after dinner. Although I wasn’t a great athlete, I could manage to throw a baseball back and forth from a stationary position. And I loved everything about it.

I should probably spend some time expanding on this whole “not a very good athlete” moniker. In reality, I was a terrible athlete. No matter how hard I tried, and no matter how much I may have loved sports, God chose not to bless me with athletic ability or the perseverance to train hard enough. And when I say terrible, I mean terrible…across the board. It wasn’t just baseball, which I promptly retired from once they started throwing the ball at you instead of putting it on a tee. It was basketball, which I played for 3 years and never scored a bucket. It was soccer, which I was moderately functional at if they allowed me to be a keeper. On the hardwood, the basepaths, or the field, one thing was always consistent…I would give it a shot, and it wouldn’t go well.

Which is surprising that my parents were willing to suffer through the humiliation of watching their athletically inept son suffer so many setbacks, often times with our family name stitched on the back of my jersey. My parents even went so far as to support me publicly. You know those buttons you can order from the team photographer that have your headshot on them? I almost expected to show up at games and see my parents wearing buttons of other kids on the team. That’s how bad I was. But they never did. Even in front of people, they wanted folks to know that I was their son, and no matter how bad I was, I would always be their son, and they would always be my parents, and I would always be loved.

And I knew I was loved by the fact that no matter how errant my throws, my Dad still made it a point on most nights to ask me if I wanted to go play catch, long into my twenties, even after he had worked a long day in exhausting heat. My Dad worked as a maintenance technician in a steel plant (which he loved), and on some nights, even though I knew he would have preferred a quick nap after dinner instead, he would ask if I wanted to toss, go grab his glove, and meet me out in the sideyard.

On the topic of that sideyard…it wasn’t technically our sideyard. It was our frontyard, which bled into the sideyard of our neighbors. If you threw property lines out the window, it was a perfect place to toss. The houses were out of range from any of my misguided throws. They were also out of reach from any of my Dad’s perfect throws that would miss my glove because of my previously detailed athletic struggles. The grass was always well kept by both homeowners, and of the utmost importance, our neighbors willingly allowed us to take over their yard, if only for a few minutes each night, so our games of catch could continue.

I loved those nights. Those perfect summer nights, sweat dripping down our brows, the pop-pop-pop echoing down our lazy suburban street. But as much as I enjoyed hearing that perfect pop in my glove, I actually lived for the moments in between the pops. The conversation between a father and son, each one living a different life but connected in a way that only a father and son could quite understand. We would talk about anything. And everything. When I was in high school, we would talk about my classmates, the funny things that happened after school, and my ongoing struggles with girls. When I moved on to college we laughed about crazy things happening within our family, my academic endeavors at Miami University, my ridiculously busy schedule, and my ever-present struggles with girls. And when I graduated from Miami and started my career, we would talk about the difficulties I faced transitioning from a student into a professional, my desire to go on to graduate school, things I needed advice on like money and cars, and my ever-present struggles with girls. The conversation changed over the years, but one thing never did—and I’m not talking about the struggles with girls. I’m talking about our love for one another and interest in each other’s lives.

You might think that growing into adulthood would slowly strangle a boy’s desire to play catch with his Dad; but if anything, as life becomes more complex and the world becomes more suffocating, what a boy longs for most is to return to a time when all you had to do was play catch. All you had to do was keep your eye on the ball, let your glove bring it to a stop, make a solid throw back, and position yourself to do it all over again. When you’re a kid, you think that those games of catch will never end. When you’re an adult and you realize that each time you play catch is one moment closer to your last, you panic. And you do anything you can, anything you have to, to grab onto those moments and never let them go. If your arm is tired, you grimace and keep throwing. If it’s growing dark, you squint and hope you can still see the ball. You hope and pray for a stronger arm and a sun that never sets, so those games of catch never have to stop.

Which explains why I did something unthinkable, something unreasonable, and something that seemed entirely foolish. I lived with my parents for a few years after college, because working in education isn’t as lucrative as…well, most anything else. But I had saved, and I knew I wanted to buy a home.

I looked at a number of different spots, and even made a few offers on different homes, and just when I thought I might cool my jets on the home search, an interesting home came on the market. The house right next door—yes, the house with the sideyard that my feet knew all too well—was up for sale.

Well, it actually wasn’t up for sale to just anyone. Those same neighbors who had graciously allowed our games of catch to continue hadn’t put the house on the market just yet. But they knew I was looking, so they had my Dad relay a message. He came home one night after a bike ride he had taken (too often by himself), and said, “I know you probably don’t want to live next to your Old Man, but the neighbors wanted me to let you know that if you’re still looking for a house that they’d be interested in selling theirs to you.”

I went over that very evening to talk with our neighbors about buying the house next to my parents. They took me through the small brick ranch, walking me through each of the rooms and all of the great amenities the house offered. I knew that I would have a lot of painting ahead of me, and the yard had grown completely out of control, but no feature inside the house could dare stack up to the property itself. Once and for all, I could own that sideyard. I could call my Dad any time I wanted. He would walk out into his yard, and I would walk out into mine. And we would just toss. And the world would be right.

So I made an offer. Probably not a fair offer considering the market value of the house, but the only offer I could make. An offer made by a young man just a few years out of college, trying to get ahead in life but too enticed by the allure of “things” and “stuff” to have a considerable savings. I left the house thinking “They’ll never take it. I’ll have to keep looking. Wow—you even asked them to leave all the appliances at that price?! What were you thinking?” Disappointment was beginning to set in.

I love when God defies your expectations. I’ll never forget the message I received the next day from the owner, Steve. “Beth and I talked, and we want to accept your offer for the house. We really feel like God is telling us that if we are going to sell the house, we need to sell it for you. Let us know what we need to do to get the process rolling.” To this day, I know that it was God telling them to sell the house, because they couldn’t possibly have seen the building tsunami that would come my way, but He saw it all along.

I called my Mom and Dad, and shared the news the same way with each of them. “Well, it looks like you’re going to have another horrible neighbor.” I could tell they were both excited, each for different reasons. There was something reassuring about knowing I was going to venture out on my own, but I was venturing close enough that if a pipe burst, or an appliance broke, or if I needed to borrow a lawnmower, the kind folks next door would always love me enough to help me through.

And deep down, as much as I may have bought the house for the low interest rate and the instant equity…I bought it because I wanted to keep playing ball with my Dad.

And boy did we play. There was something freeing about knowing I now owned the sideyard, so we tossed more than we ever had before once I took ownership of the house. In fact, we played the very night I closed on the house—just because we could. It was the only proper celebration I could envision. Yes, there was plenty of work to be done on the house. Yes, there were rooms to paint and weeds to pull. But more importantly, there was catch to be played. And that mattered more than anything.

The conversations that we had always had continued too, even though the content had changed since I was now a homeowner. We talked a lot about ways we could now improve our games of catch: keeping the grass cut a bit shorter, possibly adding a few lights in the yard, cutting down a few tree limbs. At one point, we had even made up our mind that the bumpy and uneven terrain of the sideyard required an entire regrading. We were preparing to tear up the entire thing, truck in dirt, relevel, replant, and re…watch it grow. We continued to talk about work, and school, and yes, my still ever-present struggles with girls. I always joked with Dad that buying a house next to my parents was never going to help me land a girlfriend, but he insisted that when those girls took one look at him and saw what I could look like when I grew up, they’d be hooked like never before. So I would remind him that he was bald, and had been since the age of 30. And of course, he would remind me “Yeah, but I make bald look good, boy.”

So it continued. Pop, thud. Pop, thud. Pop, thud. Night after night after night after night. We cherished those moments, enjoyed them more than any other part of our days.

And now, I cherish them more than I ever did because I haven’t played catch in that sideyard for two years. Instead, I find myself in that sideyard in the middle of the night, with nothing but the moon and the occasional passing car. The terrain is still bumpy, because we never got a chance to embark on our ambitious regrading project, and the moon provides the only shine because we never installed those lights. Instead, it’s the same grass I’ve always known, but it’s often wet at 1-or-2 o’ clock in the morning. Oftentimes, I lay in that wet grass and look skyward, knowing not whether my face is wet from the grass or the flood of tears that stream down. Sometimes, I talk. Other times, I listen. Hoping and praying I’ll hear that “pop” again. But I only hear it in my memories, in my dreams. I only hear an imaginary “pop”—never the real thing. The sideyard that was once a stadium of backyard heroes is now a memorial to summertime fun lost forever. And on bad nights it’s the new sounds, the sounds of horror and heart-wrenching disaster, that drown out the “pops” that I so desperately long to hear again.

I would do anything to play catch with my Dad again. I would do anything to relive the entire experience. I don’t know if it’s theologically sound, but when I think of Heaven and the life to come, I often think that a lot of my time will be spent playing catch with my Dad. We will talk, and laugh, and even in Heaven where life should be perfect, I’ll probably still be a terrible athlete. But none of that will matter, because I’ll be spending time with my Dad.

So Dads, keep playing catch with your sons. And sons, keep playing catch with your Dads. And no matter how old you get or how tired your arm may be, don’t ever stop playing. The time to toss will eventually come to an end, but the memories you’ll create with each and every throw will live with you forever.

Dad, I hate to tell you this, but my arm hasn’t gotten any better since you left. I’ve tossed a handful of times since you died, but never in that sideyard. That sideyard is hallowed, sacred ground for me because it’s where I feel your presence most. When I step out in that sideyard, I can still hear the pop of the glove, but more importantly, I hear your laugh. We had so much fun on so many summer nights, even if I wasn’t a shadow of the athlete you were. Thanks for being a dad who was never too tired, too old, or too busy to play catch with his son. More than anything, I am longing for the days where you and I can toss forever and never grow tired—of the activity or the conversation. Until then, seeya bub.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (GW)

Great Days

At the age of 26, I never thought I’d have to tell people that one of my parents had passed away. Even more, I never thought I would have to explain that my Dad, a constantly happy and smiling man, was a victim of suicide. That he struggled against depression and had many dark days that most people never saw. Often times, it just doesn’t compute because the people who knew my Dad never saw him struggle. And I’ll admit…there are a lot of days where it doesn’t make sense to me either. But explanation or not, the pain is real. There is a unique pain that emerges when a boy loses his father, and the greater the man the greater the void is left when he’s gone.

I created this blog knowing full-well that I could never tell my Dad’s story. He is the only one who could ever tell that. Instead, I wanted to tell my story of my Dad. I wanted to talk about what it was like having a father who embodied everything a good father should, but who struggled with an illness that he couldn’t control. I wanted to tell the story of an amazing Dad. I wanted to give our friends and family an opportunity to relive the excitement and fun he brought to all of our lives, and introduce an amazing man to millions of other people who never knew him. I wanted readers to know Scott Bradshaw. And I wanted readers to know how much I love him.

You can’t understand this story unless you understand the man who inspired it. I’m a little overwhelmed when I sit back and think about all of the great things I will have to tell you about him, because a man who lived a life as full as my Dad has a lot to share. No matter the story, however, there is always one common theme. When I think of my Dad, no matter what image of him is conjured up, I can always hear his laugh or see his smile. My Dad was a laugher, and if you know that, you understand his outlook on life and the way he chose to live. I don’t often picture my Dad on that last “bad day”. I picture him during the thousands of good days that came before.

I say “good days”, but they were really “great” days. Days where you laughed at the silliest and corniest jokes (after a few heavy sighs and eye rolls, of course). Days where the troubles of the world faded away because of some funny prank my Dad had played on a coworker. Days where he would talk in a funny voice at dinner. Days where you went to bed with a smile on your face, even though everything that would come at you the next day might only bring sadness and despair. My Dad had a unique way of bringing light to dark situations—an eternal optimism that I was always envious of.

You’ve seen the Disney movie Inside Out, right? It’s one of my favorites, and I couldn’t help but think of my Dad throughout the movie. The film tells the story of an adolescent named Riley, but as the title infers, it tells the tale from inside her mind using one of the most creative psychological metaphors I have ever seen. The movie is set inside Riley’s brain, and the main characters are her five primary emotions: Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, and the ringleader, Joy. The characters each have their own way of directing young Riley’s actions and behaviors, and with each interaction they create a memory. Riley’s mind is made up of “personality islands”, different dimensions that create her personality and dictate her behavior. At the outset of the movie, Riley has five primary personality islands: Family Island, Honesty Island, Hockey Island, Friendship Island, and (Joy’s favorite) Goofball Island. Each island has a unique resemblance to an amusement park, and the more active the island, the more you see these personality traits exhibited in Riley’s behaviors.

I’m sure there is a more sophisticated way of explaining this, but consider the mental capacity of the author of this post. My Dad’s Goofball Island was on constant overdrive. It was the part of his personality that was most unique, but also the most dominant. Jokes, pranks, jabs, unexpected silliness, and funny stories were the tools he kept at hand for ready disposal. And this made him such a fun person—the type of person everyone else always wanted to be around.

Even before I had my own memories, my Dad was a comedian. In lieu of memories, I have photos and a few videotapes that prove my point—and even as a baby, you can tell I was captivated by his fun-loving nature. On the tape of my first birthday party, there is a segment (that goes on entirely too long) where my Dad sits on the floor operating the camera as I crawl around his legs. Shortly after he hit “Record” to capture my crawling, I notice his shoes and am drawn to them like a magnet. After a few moments of contemplation, the baby version of me attacks the toe of his shoe—with my mouth. Blame it on teething, or extremely tasty leather, but I tried to fit as much of my Dad’s shoe in my mouth as humanly possible (Maybe this was an early warning to my parents for all the “foot in mouth” moments I would have throughout the years…). Rather than scold me to remove the shoe from my mouth, my Dad lets me chew on his loafers and makes it into a funny game (Health inspectors and social workers, please hold your comments). As soon as I bit into his shoe, my Dad would shake his foot rapidly and let out a howl of over-exaggerated pain. On the first go round, Baby Me pulls back for a moment and stares at my Dad in confusion. But sensing a repeat performance, I let out a small giggle, and nervously go back for a second helping of black shoe leather, keeping an apprehensive eye on Dad the entire time, waiting for the next outburst. Once again, my Dad would rattle his foot and scream a fake scream, and my laughing would amplify. I have a feeling that, had my Mom been around, there would have been a severe (and justified) directive to stop letting the baby lick a dirty shoe. With health precautions thrown out the window, my Dad goes on doing this for at least ten minutes, with my laughter growing more and more intense with each continued mouthful of sole. And my Dad, always the entertainer, never gets tired of the act, as long as his audience kept laughing.

Beyond the infamous “shoe chew”, my Dad also had an entire repertoire of other tactics to induce hysterical laughter from the belly of his only child. One of his mainstays was a family room floor version of bull riding that would make the “don’t shake a baby” folks cringe. My Dad would lay on his back, and pull his knees close to his chest. Then, I would grab onto his legs, resting on his feet, which became the saddle. Then, my Dad’s legs would start kicking, slowly at first, and then more violently as I held on for much longer than eight seconds, wrapping my arms around his legs and holding on for dear life. Amidst all the kicking and bucking, my Dad would make bull noises the entire time, interjecting shouts of “Hang on pardner!” and “Ride ‘em cowboy!” all the while. Every few minutes I would fall off, and although his legs must have been exhausted, the bull was always ready for another ride.

One of the classic routines of our bull riding expeditions is still branded in my brain. After being kicked off one too many times, my Dad would say “Alright cowboy, why don’t you come ride this nice calm cow and slow it down a bit?” I would immediately start laughing because I knew what was coming next, but I played along every single time. Giggling, I would climb onto his legs and he would easily and slowly move his legs up and down, making random cow noises and saying “Oh yeah, this is a nice, calm cow.” Then, he would say “Oh boy, we better milk this cow. She’s probably getting full.” He would then reach around towards his feet, and as my anticipation grew, his eyes would widen. Then he would shriek the same line every time: “Uh oh! This ain’t no cow! It’s a bull!” And then the craziness would ensue—an eight second ride for the history books. Snorting and huffing loudly, my Dad would kick and kick and kick until I would fly off, rolling across the floor, laughing the entire time. There was the occasional minor injury, but what kind of bull-riding cowboy doesn’t get injured? I loved bull riding more than anything, and even though life fills up with new and exciting moments as you age, there was always a sense of emptiness that I felt the moment I became too big to bull ride with my Dad.

My Dad loved hearing me laugh, but he loved making people laugh in general. He had a way of growing laughter, and drawing people closer to him through that humor, which was unbelievably contagious.

His pride didn’t matter when it came to making a fool out of himself to get a laugh, which is why he naturally became the “Neighborhood Dad”. Growing up, my Dad would always jump in with any opportunity to play kickball, and he used this as a chance to entertain, too. As was the case with most Dads who played kickball with their kids, he could always kick the ball further than any of his younger, shorter competitors. If we were playing in the backyard, Dad made it a point to blast the ball over our house (our own version of Fenway’s Green Monster) for an impressive homerun (sorry to the neighbors across the street for any damage that might have been done over the years). But rather than trot around the bases with his head down, Dad would throw in ridiculous dance moves—dance moves typical of any father trying to embarrass his child (which he did effectively on many occasions). He would grab the infielders in a big bear hug and run down the line with them. He made it a point to celebrate the homerun—and whether you were on his team or not, you always laughed at his antics.

In the off-case that Dad didn’t kick a homerun over the house (which I’m sure was intentional), his base running became another shtick in his routine. Dad would run to first, and then he would engage in battle with the opposing fielders. Dad would take a few steps off of first base, daring the youngster who fielded the ball to throw it at him—which they always did. As soon as they would throw the ball, Dad would pull off one of his greatest evasive maneuvers. On a low throw, he would jump high, high, high into the air and do the splits, hooting and hollering as the ball went under his legs. On a high throw, he would roll to the ground and jump back up like a circus tumbler. From second to third, he would do the same thing, but he would use a new technique, always more outrageous than the last. Sometimes it involved a teasing dance to try and provoke another throw. In other instances, he would call out the fielder and let them know they were too “chicken” to make the throw—which was always accompanied by a ridiculous chicken impression. Occasionally, he would pull the oldest trick in the book—a shocked face and point with a click “Look over there! A wild elephant!” followed by a quick sprint the second his opponent turned their head. Either way, Dad went from second to third, and then from third to home. And the celebration at home plate was just as obnoxious—and hilarious—as the celebration for an “over the house” shot. Teams rarely mattered in these scenarios, because everyone was in stitches regardless of where they stood on the field. My Dad was an artist who worked in humor, and the only pay he would accept was unbridled laughter.

As we both got older, the kickball games became fewer and fewer, but his timing and delivery got even better. My Dad was still very athletic as he aged, but he definitely spent more time on the couch in front of the television. One of Dad’s favorite lines that always made me laugh occurred any time that a Victoria’s Secret commercial would come across the tube. Lingerie-clad models would strut across the screen into our living room, giving their best lip pouts and “I know you like what you see” looks. My Dad would immediately perk up the second he heard the commercial and would stare at the television, transfixed by the beauty in front of him, as my Mom and I sat nearby on the couch. As the commercial continued, Dad’s bespectacled stare grew more and more intense, his eyes as wide as golf balls. All the while, Mom’s fury would continue to build as she watched her husband oogling over the models on the screen. As the commercial closed, without ever breaking eye contact, Dad would shake his head back and forth and deliver an exasperated (but perfectly crafted) punchline: “Man….they sure are ugly.” I would roar and howl every time he did it, even though I knew it was coming every single time.

And as his tactics and material got better, his audience grew larger. Every venue became a stage, and every group became an audience to entertain—even when he should have been more serious. One his most infamous (and cringe worthy) performances happened, of all places, at our church. Good comedy knew nothing of appropriate boundaries in my Father’s eyes, and this was evidence that any audience could be a good audience. The incident, thankfully, happened on a Sunday when I wasn’t at church, but when my Mom called me after the service, I could tell this particular act had probably crossed the line.

Just a few weeks before, my Dad had invested his hard-earned money in an extremely valuable toy—a set of “Billy Bob Teeth”. Yes, Billy Bob Teeth. Billy Bob Teeth, for those who might be more refined than my Dad was, are a set of false teeth that would make any dentist shriek and run the other way in pure terror. These teeth look alarmingly real, and alarmingly horrific. The teeth stick out at all different angles, rooted in diseased looking gums. Some are crooked, others are jagged, and all are yellowed. Politically correct? No. Appropriate for church? Absolutely not. Funny in a juvenile humor sort of way? Without a doubt. Here’s a visual of Dad to help you get the full understanding:

dad-with-billy-bob-teethOn many Sundays, my Dad would fulfill his churchly duties and serve as an usher, taking up the morning offering. On this particular Sunday, he made history in our church by doing something no other offering taker had ever done (or most likely would ever do again). After the music had concluded, our pastor, Ted, made his way to the front of the stage in between the tear-stained altars, and beckoned the offering takers to come forward and grab their plates. My Dad liked Pastor Ted for many reasons, and one of those reasons was that his humor, as juvenile as it may have been at times, was always in sync with our pastor’s.

As he was being summoned to his post, he exited the pew and made his way to the front of the church to grab the plate and face the pastor. While making his way down the aisle, my Mom noticed his hand reach into his pocket and pull something out. In a moment, my Mom’s heart sank. It was the guilt of a mother who forgot to check her son’s pockets to make sure any Gameboys, frogs, or other toys were left at home before you entered the sanctuary. I can only imagine the anxiety she must have felt, because she knew what was coming. The boy in question, however, was not her son, but her husband. Surely, he wouldn’t embarrass her in front of our pastor, our congregation, and God.

Surely, he proved her wrong. As he reached down to grab the offering plate, he simultaneously slipped the Billy Bob Teeth into position, and as he raised his head, he sported the familiar goofy face he had created any time he wore them. Pastor Ted surveyed his Men of God, his money collectors, one of which was always called out to offer a prayer to bless the offering and our church. His surveying head fell on my Dad’s face and the perfectly positioned Billy Bob Teeth, and his eyes grew wide.

And he laughed. Hysterically. The pastor of a conservative Christian church was doubled over in laughter in front of a crowd of repentant sinners. The pastor’s laugh carried into the over the church’s sound system, but because my Dad was facing the pastor at the front of the church, no one quite knew what was causing the laughter.

Then, Pastor Ted did the unthinkable. He asked my Dad to pray and bless the offering! And my Dad did—with the teeth! He stayed in character for the entire performance, using the Billy he had created to bless the money and offer it up for the building of God’s kingdom. As the pastor continued to laugh, my Dad said “Ay-man” in his best Southern drawl, spun around on his heel, and faced the congregation. As he made his way back through the pews to collect the offering, the laughs spread from the front row to the back. My Dad left the teeth in his mouth the entire time, and he got laughs from almost everyone—except my Mom, who was justifiably embarrassed. And so was I when she called me to tell me this story on the phone. My Dad was a funny guy, but I was just as embarrassed as she was, and I couldn’t laugh at this joke (although I definitely laugh about it now).

I hate to say this, but as I grew older, there were things about my Dad’s humor that I didn’t appreciate the way I should have. When I should have been laughing, I responded with the serious, stern face of an early-twenty something who was trying to be much more grown up than I actually was. When my Mom recounted this story to me on the phone later that afternoon, I experienced the same anxiety she probably felt. It seemed like there were some places that were so sacred, so holy, that not even Billy Bob Teeth were welcome. As I grew older, I began to take life too seriously. Young adulthood is a time where you feel like you can’t laugh at certain things because, well, you’re not a kid anymore. And this particular joke seemed inappropriate. Even though he got great laughs, there was a part of me that was so glad I wasn’t at church that Sunday.  I’m ashamed of it now, but I even threatened that I wouldn’t go back to church with him if he ever tried to wear those teeth in the sanctuary again.

But my Dad never let the “sticks in the mud” like me ruin his fun, and I thank God he didn’t. He continued to get laughs, no matter how embarrassing it may have been. And although I wasn’t laughing then, I’m laughing now when I think about just how wonderful and fun-loving he always was. It’s amazing how many people I run into that were in church that infamous morning, and how they still laugh about the situation. They weren’t embarrassed—they were entertained! And they were smiling. And most importantly, they were probably closer to God because they saw a man who truly enjoyed living in God’s creation.

My Dad understood Proverbs 15:15 where the wise author says: “Every day is a terrible day for a miserable person, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (GW). My Dad enjoyed life and he enjoyed hearing people laugh because he knew their days would be just a little bit better having experienced even a few moments of cheer. That was Dad’s gospel.

What was even harder for me to understand as I grappled with my Dad’s depression was how a man who was so funny and who laughed so much could suffer from such underlying pain and sadness. How could a man who had always been able to make me laugh not be able to cheer himself up? How could a man who, to everyone else, always seemed unbelievably happy be so ill underneath the veneer of satisfaction and contentment?

I struggled with that question for a long time. And although my understanding of mental illness and depression has become much more extensive, I still struggle with it. I still have days where I just can’t equate the stories I have of my always-joyful, always laughing Dad with the defeated and distraught image I have of him during that last conversation. They are questions I might not be able to have answered on this side of the grave, and I’ve done my best to come to terms with that.

But what is more important, so much more important, is that I’ve learned to laugh more because of my Dad. I have so many great memories of him to laugh at because he lived life not to just get through it, but to enjoy it and make it colorful. From childhood until the week he died, he could always make me laugh. He could always make me smile. He could always make me feel better about life and other people.

And even though he’s been gone for over three years, he still does this every single day.

Dad, I hope you know how much I miss hearing your laugh and the joy you brought to all of our lives. I wish you were still here, so I could watch you come up with new routines and corny Dad jokes. You were always so funny, which made life more fun. From the moment I was born, you tried to teach me the importance of a good laugh. And each and every day, I’ll try to laugh more so I can honor you.

“Every day is a terrible day for a miserable person, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 (GW)