I’m Here

I think the college crisis is worse than the mid-life crisis.

I mean, come one, at least you get a motorcycle out of the latter.

I was in college. Away at college. And I felt like I just needed to get away.

I think I’ve always dealt with anxiety to a certain extent. In a sense, I think I’ve had those moments where the world just feels too overwhelming at different points throughout my life. It’s likely that I’ve suffered here and there from anxiety before I could even put a name to it.

But even though I didn’t quite know what was going on or why, my Dad seemed to know. And he seemed to understand.

And most importantly, he was there.

The Fall of my junior year in college was not the Fall I had anticipated. I was living in an apartment in Oxford, and I was navigating one of those difficult moments of my life where the road was not only less-traveled, but it was windy and curvy and full of potholes and empty of any road signs. A road that had once seemed so straight and so predictable was suddenly anything but. It was treacherous, and I was trembling.

For the few months leading up to this moment, I had been questioning so much about my journey, mainly my vocational call. For my entire life, for as long as I could remember, I had said I wanted to be a teacher (except for that one weird phase when I mysteriously wanted to be a park ranger… too much Yogi Bear I guess…). When I was little, I would actually make-believe that I was a teacher in a classroom before I even started going to school myself. Once I went to school, I took an immediate liking to it. I enjoyed being in classrooms, and I always got along with my teacher and had deep admiration and respect for them.

As a youngster, I said I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher—mainly because kindergarten was all I knew. And it was awesome. We had fingerpaints, and snacks, and we were home by noon. Even as a little kid, I would often think about all of the fun activities I would someday replicate for my own students. I pictured the joy they would experience, all the coloring we would do, and the impact I would have in their little lives.

But then, once I got into middle school, I began to really enjoy my English and Social Studies and Science classes (no offense, math teachers), and my dream of teaching kindergarten began to fade. I was slowly warming up to the idea of teaching a single subject and working with older students. Also, Barney had lost his appeal…thank God.

And just when I thought I had everything figured out, I made it to high school…and, go figure, I decided I wanted to be a high school teacher. Specifically, I wanted to teach high school English. I loved my English classes. I loved reading, and I enjoyed writing, and I really appreciated the opportunities to be creative, explore different worlds, and express myself in ways that only literature and the written word could provide. I dreamt of sharing that excitement with my high school students. I longed for the days when I could choose the books they would read. I thought intensely about lectures I would give, activities and discussions I would lead, and the hundreds of students I would be able to reach.

It was no surprise to people who knew about my dream that I decided to go to Miami University and pursue a degree in teacher education. What was a surprise to those who knew me best, however, was my decision to leave it all behind and run in a different direction.

At the end of my sophomore year, I was having serious misgivings about my vocational choice. I had taken a number of education courses, and I just didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as I enjoyed the content-focused courses in the English department. Especially one class, taught by an arrogant and demeaning faculty member who was supposedly an “expert” in classroom techniques, even though he had spent only one year in the field actually teaching (wow, I guess I’m still bitter about that!). I learned I would rather be reading fiction novels than reading about how to teach them. I realized I wanted to work in education, but not the education I had always known.

So, I changed majors. To American Studies. The study of America. It sounded interesting. And…it happened to be the first major listed alphabetically in Miami University’s course catalog. The divine providence of the English alphabet still amazes me.

I dug into the curriculum, and the major looked perfect for me. I could take courses in all the areas I was passionate about and largely self-design a major that met my academic interests and desires. Literature. Communications. Political Science. Media and Journalism. History. Psychology. Nothing was off the table. It was a perfect mix.

It was also completely terrifying. People who got teacher education degrees became teachers. People who got American Studies degrees became…professional American Studiers? I had no idea what I was going to do with this degree, but I knew that studying those particular topics would make me extremely happy. Even though I was confident in my content choice, however, it didn’t diminish the employability concerns I had.

All of those feelings then decided to collide in the Fall of my junior year. Classes had only been in session for a few weeks, and I was unbelievably worried that I had made a huge mistake by dropping out of the teacher education program at Miami. Being a teacher was what I had wanted to do forever. Now, I was taking great classes, but also closing myself off from what had been my lifelong dream. Had I made a huge mistake? An irreversible one?

I was also dealing with many other huge life changes. I had made the transition from Miami’s Regional campus in Hamilton to the main campus in Oxford, and life on a residential campus was great—but it was also much different from what I was used to. Any transition, no matter when it happens, causes some anxiety. Making this transition into adulthood while simultaneously questioning the only dream I had ever known collided together in a wave of desperation and doubt, and on a random Wednesday night, I could only think of one thing…

I needed to get away.

I had been sitting in my apartment all day attempting to study. Instead, I was obsessing over the decisions I had made and convincing myself that they were all mistakes. At that time, I wouldn’t have even known what an anxiety attack was; nor would I have ever believed I was having one. Now, knowing what I know about mental illness, it’s easy to see that I was in the midst of a really severe period of overwhelming, paralyzing anxiety. The worst part is that I had kept all of this to myself. Like my Dad, I wasn’t crazy about letting people into my world far enough to see my darkness. I didn’t like the idea of telling other people I was hurting or confused or overwhelmed. I would internalize all of these feelings and endlessly ruminate over them, which likely fed a vicious loop of self-criticism and doubt that paralyzed me emotionally. And near the end of that night, I decided to get in the car and drive for a bit because getting away was the only thing I knew to do.

I got in the car and didn’t really know where I was going. In the age before smartphones or GPS devices, this was always a bit of a scary endeavor for a directionally-challenged individual like me. So I told myself to turn right out of my apartment complex, drive in a straight line, and see where it would take me.

As I drove in my silver Envoy, I passed cornfields and….well, cornfields. I began to think about everything, and my emotions started to get the best of me. Before I knew it, with the radio turned all the way down, I was beginning to tear up. I started to call myself names, questioning how I could have been so stupid to do what I had done over the past few months. How was it possible that one person could make so many idiotic decisions? And…why did that person have to be me? I drove across the Indiana state line—which sounds super dramatic to those who don’t know the geography of Oxford. Indiana was only about ten minutes away from campus, but there was something metaphorically significant about crossing a state line that made this drive feel scary. I felt like I was running away from something. I felt like I was giving up.

It was in the midst of all of these thoughts and doubts when my cell phone (a sweet Motorola Razr) began to buzz. I looked at the screen and the caller ID read “Incoming Call, Dad.”

I hesitated to pick up the phone, but after a few seconds I knew I had to. I collected myself and flipped the phone open (remember when phones used to flip?!) and put it to my ear. “Hey, Dad,” I said lightly.

“Hey, Bub. I’m here. Can you let me in?”

“You’re where?” I replied nervously.

“At your apartment. I’m standing outside,” he said.

“Oh, uh….I’m not home,” I answered.

“Where are you?” he questioned, a bit surprised.

“I….I don’t know,” I said. And then, I started to fall apart again.

I told my Dad how I just needed to go on a little drive. That I didn’t know where I was going, both on this drive and in life. I shared everything with Dad, and I let him in.

My situation hadn’t changed, but there was an immediate relief in being able to finally tell someone that I was having serious doubts.

“Bub, why don’t you come back and we will sit together and talk?” he said to me.

I listened. And I turned around. And I drove in a straight line until I was back at my apartment where I saw my Dad standing on my front porch.

The reason this story is so important is because I hadn’t told my Dad anything about how I was feeling before he drove to Oxford to visit me that night. And driving to Oxford on a whim like that was not a regular occurrence. My Mom and Dad were always planners. They came to visit me pretty often when I lived in Oxford, but they always scheduled it ahead of time. Even in college I kept a really busy schedule, so we usually had their visits to Oxford scheduled in advance.

Which is why Dad’s visit on that night was all the more special—because Dad had picked up on the fact that something was wrong. We had talked earlier in the day, but I thought I had concealed my feelings pretty well. I thought I had been able to keep my sadness to myself.

But Dad had realized that something wasn’t right. He could pick up on the fact that there was something troubling me. He knew that I wasn’t okay.

And because I wasn’t okay, he was there. He was there without warning. He was there in a moment’s notice. He was there as long as I needed him. And he was there at just the right moment.

Eerily, I look back on that night and it is strangely reminiscent of the last conversation I ever had with my Dad, even though our roles were reversed. On this night, I was the confused wanderer, perplexed by my inexplicable emotions. Dad, on the other hand, was the encourager. The trusted confidant. The Father full of wisdom and, most importantly, love.

We sat in my apartment and talked through all of the things I was feeling. I told him about my concerns for an eventual job after graduation, and Dad told me not to worry. He told me that I could major in anything, and that I would find a way to be successful. “You’re too talented,” he would say, “and any career you decide to pursue will be a good one.” Dad built up my academic confidence, reminding me that I had many years of success in the classroom that were proof of my ability to conquer the road ahead. Even in the midst of our serious conversation, Dad found a way to land a perfect joke or two at just the right moment at my expense. “How many girls have you had over to your apartment OTHER THAN the ones in that Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition calendar you have?”

Comeback? Anyone? I had nothing.

I don’t remember all the things that we talked about on that night, but I do remember this: I felt better. None of my circumstances had changed, but I felt relief. None of my decisions were any better or worse than they had originally been, but I felt hope. I felt security. I felt confidence.

And I felt all of this because of two simple words my Dad had spoken.

“I’m here.”

It was more than just physically being in my apartment. When Dad said “I’m here,” he meant he was there. He was in my corner. He was rooting me on. He was leading the way on that windy, curvy, confusing road when I couldn’t see far enough ahead to make sense of the journey. He was giving me all of the support and encouragement I would need. I don’t know whether or not my Dad agreed with my major switch, and I’m thankful for that. Instead, I know that Dad said he trusted my ability to make my own decisions. He trusted that I would find success. He empowered me to believe in myself.

Dad stayed at my apartment for a few hours that night. If my memory serves me correctly, he eventually coerced me into going out for dinner against my will. We came back to the apartment and watched television together for a little while. And then, when the night was nearing its end, he hugged me and told me that he loved me before he left for home.

My Dad didn’t have all the answers that night, so he did something even better.

He was there.

And I wish he was still here because there have been so many moments, just like this one, where I still need him.

There have been moments in my life, and there will always be moments, where I will revert to that same young college kid from many years ago—a young, lost, and wandering boy who just needs his Father for a little encouragement and advice. There have been moments when I’ve been at a crux in the road with an important decision to make that I’ve grabbed for my phone (no longer a Razr) and began dialing those familiar numbers, only to realize that he will never again pick up on the other line. There have been moments when I have felt his loss so deeply that I break down inexplicably, unable to escape the grief of losing him so suddenly, unexpectedly. Those moments are completely paralyzing. They rob me of my joy; but they can never rob me of my Dad’s memory.

That’s because even though Dad isn’t here, he is here. Even though he has been gone from this Earth for nearly five years now, I still feel Dad’s gentle hand guiding me and directing me on a daily basis. Although I can’t experience his physical embrace, I feel his watchful eye from up above, encouraging me when I doubt, celebrating with me when I find joy, and telling me that he is proud of me over and over and over again. When I open my eyes, I only see his absence; but when I close them, I see that beaming smile, those kind eyes, and a Father who is still with his wandering son.

I still feel my Dad saying “I’m here” in those moments where I crave his presence most. I hear him reminding me that he is here with me in each and every moment. There will be crises and good moments and desperate moments that fill the pages of my own life story, but it will be my Dad’s spiritual presence that is the common denominator in all of those moments. I am fortunate that I have a Heavenly Father who guides and directs me in the God I serve, but I’m lucky because I have another Father in Heaven doing the same exact thing.

My Dad may be gone, but he is still here.

Me Dad and Lucy at Picnic with SB LogoDad, There were so many moments just like that night in college where your presence alone was all I needed to find happiness. You had an uncanny way of knowing the moments when people needed you most, and you responded with grace and unconditional love each time you were called. Nearly every day, Dad, I experience a moment when I just wish more than anything that you were here. I miss your smile, your voice, your heart, your shiny bald head, and everything that made you so very special. But in those moments where I experience your loss most severely, I try and remind myself that you are here. You are still watching. You are still listening. And you are still loving me and all those who feel your absence. Dad, thank you for always being there and for still being here. Thank you for being at my side at a moment’s notice–both in the moments when I knew I needed you, and especially in those I didn’t. I’ll never be able to say thank you enough. But, until that day when I try my best to let you know how much you are missed and how much you are loved, seeya Bub.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (ESV)

The Bench

I don’t think I had ever smelled so bad, felt so tired, or been so dirty in my entire life. If this was what home ownership was all about, I was ready to sell.

I had just purchased my house about a month earlier, and although the inside just needed some fresh paint without any major renovation, the outside was a completely different story. Standing there with sweat dripping down my brow, I knew I had grossly underestimated the amount of yardwork that needed to be done, or I had overestimated my ability to be a green-thumbed workhorse.

The list of things that needed to be done was both exhaustive and exhausting. Cut the grass and spray for weeds. Cut down numerous overgrown trees and shrubbery. Pull the layer of weeds that had almost created a natural green carpet covering over the large brick patio. Pull more weeds from all of the flowerbeds, which were many. Take out some of the flowerbeds to prevent me from having to pull that many weeds next time. Pray that there were no snakes inhabiting any hidden areas in the yard (that prayer was not granted). My yellow legal pad ran over with chores to complete. I wondered if I would ever get to complete them before I paid off the mortgage.

But my real nemesis was the pond. Or at least the hole in the backyard where the pond had once been.

The previous owners of the house had been wonderfully nice people, but their landscaping credentials were questionable. When they inherited the house, they were welcomed by a beautiful tiered pond directly off the back patio. Two small pools resided at the top of a flat-rock covered raised bed, with rushing water flowing into a 15 foot by 20 foot main pond. There were lily pads, Koi fish, and all the other amenities that make a pond peaceful and relaxing. Trees hung over the water, shading the fish as they scurried through the slightly green water. Frogs would croak at night, and birds would bathe by day. I rarely remember seeing many backyard ponds that could match the majesty and naturally-disguised beauty of this one. It rivaled many postcard ponds that I had seen!

In nine years of owning the house, the previous owners never took a liking to pond maintenance (and in their defense, there isn’t much to like about it). Slowly, the pristine nature of the pond gave way to algae and plant growth, and eventually, the owners relented to Mother Nature. They let the pond go—completely. As a matter of fact, I don’t think the previous owners had even touched the interior of the pond for a period of at least six years.

I remember trying to conceal my shocked face when I toured the house with the owners the first time. I didn’t want to let them know that I was appalled by the overgrowth of the pond, but I have the worst poker face in the history of the game. I remember standing at the sliding glass door looking out over the back yard and saying something to the effect of “Wow. This is really bad.” I’m really good at sugarcoating my feelings, if you can’t tell.

“I know, I know…we are so embarrassed!” the owner exclaimed to me. “We just didn’t think it would be as much work as what it was. We hate what it’s become.”

Despite my better judgement and lack of interest in all things landscaping, I bought the house and inherited all the yardwork that came along with it. And to think I was only indebted to the bank for 30 years because of this! The pond was on the top of my list of things that needed to be tackled immediately. But looking at the pond as an owner brought on a whole new level of doubt as to whether or not I could actually make this happen.

I know that people often exaggerate when they talk about the height of plants, but I’m not making this up—the weeds and cattails growing in the pond were taller than I was. A huge root mat at least a foot and a half thick had tangled itself in the bed of the pond. The root mat looked like a 15 foot by 20 foot package of Ramen noodles. It was impossible to pull any one weed. It had to be all or nothing. And in the midst of all the overgrowth, there didn’t appear to be a drop of water in this entire pond.

I can’t take credit for eventually getting that pond back to its original working order. There were two people who helped me get things under control.

The first, to no one’s surprise, was my Dad. While every ounce of my soul absolutely despised yardwork, my Dad seemed to find a quiet stillness and peace when he was working in the yard. The sun was his fuel. Sweat and dirt were his tools. His hands were calloused and dirty, and he wouldn’t have them any other way. Planting, chopping, growing, and maintaining came naturally to him, while complaining, procrastinating, and accusing my Dad of child slave labor were my natural responses to any yard-related chores I was assigned. When I bought the house, Dad didn’t hesitate to jump in and help any way he could—even when it included yard work after a long day in a hot steel warehouse. There were even days when I would find him digging up plants or weeding when I hadn’t even asked him. I was lucky to have a green-thumbed Dad.

The second person to help me with the pond and many of the other chores when I bought the house was my good friend, Steve Adams. I met Steve in 6th grade. We shared a study hall table by virtue of our last names being at the beginning of the alphabet. All throughout high school, we become good friends. Steve and I would often leave school together for an afternoon trip to Skyline for a few coneys, and then make our way to Fairfield Lanes where we would bowl (albeit pathetically) a few games. Over the years, we continued our friendship, playing in weekly poker games and attending Reds’ games as often as we could.

Steve went away for college, but ended up transferring back home and attending Miami at the start of his junior year. Steve was a logical roommate for a number of reasons, ultimate among those being his desire for cleanliness, which honestly borders on the level of OCD. I have never seen anyone keep a cleaner and more organized apartment than Steve Adams. I’m sure that our parents must have thought we had girls living with us because our apartment was so clean, but I can assure you from the multitude of rejections I received from the bulk of the female student body at Miami that that was definitely not the case. Steve would vacuum constantly, clean any surface, and straighten any item that was askew. As a matter of fact, I would often move things around on our kitchen or bathroom counters just to see how long it would take him to put everything back (maybe this kind of stuff is why I was constantly rejected by females). In most cases, it was within the hour that he had returned everything to its original place. Unbelievable.

Steve eventually graduated, got a job as an engineer, bought a house, and kept it as clean as it was the day he moved in. Fortunately, his house was just down the road from mine, and we were able to maintain a great friendship. Steve and I would usually see each other four or five nights a week, and I was lucky to have a friend as true as him in my life.

Aside from being a clean freak, it’s more important that you know that Steve is one of the most hardworking and genuinely helpful friends that I’ve ever had in my entire life. Steve has an attention to detail that is absolutely remarkable, which has made him an exceptional engineer and a talented DIYer. His methodical approach to his job translates into being able to do a variety of things around his house, from constructing furniture and hanging televisions to remodeling entire rooms and repairing broken equipment. This is a handy trait to have, but it’s even more powerful when you couple it with his thoughtful heart.

We all have one of those “anything you need” friends. The person who will drop whatever he or she is doing to be by your side and help you when you need it. And when I bought my house, Steve was definitely that person. He jumped right in, so much so that I felt guilty for my name being on the deed instead of his. Every night after work without fail, Steve would drive over to my house in a cutoff and cargo shorts, ready to work. He did absolutely everything. He helped me paint. He helped me move furniture. He helped repair things that had been broken when I had tried to do them myself and failed tremendously. He was an absolute life saver.

And when it came to yardwork, Steve had two green thumbs and an unbelievable amount of energy. He often pushed me when I felt like I was too tired to work. He would shake my shoulders and tell me to “man up” and that we had too much to do to sit still. Steve would pull weeds until his hands were raw. He would work in the hot July sun until it set and had completely zapped him of his energy. If there was something I needed to do in the yard, he would do it right alongside me until the job was done. I was lucky to have him by my side.

And on this particular night, to all of our glee, Steve, my Dad, and I were all standing in the nearly weed-free pond with our hands on our hips and sweat covering our faces. It was another brutally hot night, but we were so close to completing the work in the pond that we pushed through. The root mat was so thick and so tangled that we actually had to saw through it with a machete (which my Dad owned for reasons I will never know or understand), hauling out chunks of weeds that weighed nearly 75 pounds. We eventually ended up with two trailers full of weeds from the pond alone. We were proud of the work we had done because it was unbelievably exhausting, but we also knew that the end product—a beautifully glistening pond right on the back patio—would be well worth the time and sweat we invested. We surveyed the pond and the surrounding landscaping, which was full of trees and ornamental grasses as we tried to catch our breath. Then, my Dad pointed at a bare spot just to the right of the upper pond and the rear waterfall.

“Hey boy. That would be a great spot for a bench. It would be a perfect place to sit,” he said.

“Yeah, that would be really nice. Maybe I’ll look for something the next time I’m out shopping,” I replied.

“No, don’t do that,” he said. “I’ll build you something. I’ll make you something really nice.”

It was just like my Dad to promise to build something we could just as easily buy, but I agreed because I knew anything he built would be top of the line, beautiful, and perfectly crafted in every way.

And with the vision of a bench fresh on our minds, we went right back to work. All the while, Steve stood silently and listened to our normal, commonplace conversation. And like he always did, he started pulling weeds right along with us when we started to work again.  Typical Steve—thank goodness.


My Dad never got a chance to build that bench. He died nearly a year from the date that I had bought my house. I felt his absence in every facet of my life, but especially when it came to repairs and projects around the house. My Dad was the handyman, and I was the son who reaped the benefits of having a handyman father. I didn’t know how to build anything. I didn’t know how to fix a dishwasher when it failed to wash dishes. I would go to Home Depot, pick up a “Plumbing for Dummies” book, and ask the store clerk if they had anything that was easier to read. Needless to say, that spot where my Dad had proposed we construct and place a bench would remain vacant until I could buy something…and pray that it was already assembled upon purchase. It saddened me to sit by the pond and reminisce on all the hard work we had put into it, because Dad hadn’t been able to enjoy it long enough. It wasn’t fair. And there were so many nights where I would stand on the shore of that pond where the bench should have been as my salty tears fell endlessly into the churning water.

But one Sunday morning, my tears began to splash into the pond for an entirely different reason. I woke up that morning tired and emotionally exhausted from the day before. Our neighbors, who had also been childhood friends with my Dad, were kind enough to put on a benefit for my family after my Dad’s death. They went to so many businesses collecting items for silent auction baskets, getting more donations than I ever thought would be possible. Hundreds of our friends and families, as well as many of my Dad’s old friends and coworkers, came out to show my Mom and I how much we were loved. And even through our desperately painful heartache, we felt their love.

As I prepared to start my day, I went through my familiar routine. I left my bedroom, brushed my teeth, and proceeded to the family room where I would throw open the curtains and survey the back patio and the pond.

But what I saw that day stopped me dead in my tracks.

As I looked out across the water, in the exact same spot my Dad had identified a year ago, sat a beautiful wooden bench.

Steve's Bench

I rubbed my eyes because I thought I was hallucinating. This couldn’t be real.

I threw open the door and ran across the waterfall of the front pond, splashing water into my flip flops. I clambered across the rocks towards the bench with my mouth wide open and tears streaming down my face.

I touched the bench, and it was real. I ran my hand across the smooth wooden armrests. I admired the rich brown stained wood and the tremendous craftsmanship. Precise, functional, and completely perfect—all qualities that my Dad would have put into anything that he had created.

And there, at the top of the bench’s backrest, a beautiful silver plaque was mounted:

In Memory of

Scott Bradshaw

1963 – 2013

I lost all composure as I ran my hands across the engraved words. I wanted the pain that those words inflicted to disappear, but I never wanted to let this plaque or this bench go. I was simply astounded—and I had no idea how the bench got there or who put it on the banks of my backyard pond.

I ran back into the house and grabbed my phone, dialing my Mom’s number. She answered the phone, already in tears herself, most likely anticipating my call.

“Mom,” I sobbed, “How did this bench get here? Who did this?”

She immediately responded, “Steve. I can’t believe this, Ty, but he built that bench by hand. He brought it over yesterday while we were at the benefit.”

Mom and I cried together for a few minutes, talking about how much we missed my Dad. After hanging up with her, I immediately called Steve and, through tears, tried to tell him that I couldn’t believe what he had done.

“You’re so welcome, buddy,” Steve said in his ever-gracious and reassuring tone of voice. Then, he said a phrase that I’ll never forget that captures the essence of his heart.

“I couldn’t let your Dad not fulfill a promise he made to you, so I built the bench in his place.”

If I wasn’t emotional enough at this point, I lost all control when I heard those words. Steve had remembered what was probably an unmemorable conversation we had on a busy day of landscaping work. He had remembered a moment in time and a promise my Dad had made me when even I had begun to forget about it.

I shared with Steve how lucky I was to have him in my life, and how I couldn’t imagine navigating the tragedy of my Dad’s death without his unbelievable support. I thanked him over and over again, and after hanging up the phone I went back outside and took a seat on my new bench.

I sat there looking out over the water with my hands clasped around my mouth, still in a state of utter shock and bewilderment. I sat alone and cried, wishing beyond belief that my Dad could have been there sitting next to me.

He was right all along. It was the perfect spot for a bench.

And then I prayed, and I thanked God. I told Him how much I missed my Dad and how I didn’t understand why he was gone so soon, but I thanked Him for positioning so many amazing, caring people in my life to help support me when I was weak—just like Steve. I thanked God for being able to see down the road much further than I ever could. I thanked Him for bringing us together so many years ago, knowing that I would need someone with his steadfast trust and courage to help pull me from the depths of my own despair. I thanked God for giving Steve a heart that sought after Jesus—a heart that desired to turn God’s words into tangible actions in the lives of those around him. I thanked him for giving Steve both the talent and the compassion to give me such an extravagant gift.

And after saying “Amen”, I did what my Dad would have done. I sat and I enjoyed the sound of pond water rushing over a rock ledge. I admired the glory of a perfect pond-side perch. And I smiled as I admired God’s creation and the heart of His people.


It’s a few years down the road from that wonderful morning, and the bench has some slight signs of typical wear. The stain has started to fade a bit, and the wood has started to age—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

That bench has character and it tells a story. A story of a friend so true and dedicated that he taught himself to build a bench to help heal a friend’s broken heart. I have no doubt that that bench is exactly what my Dad would have built me, which is another reason why it’s so special to me.

On occasion when I am feeling low, I’ll traipse out onto the back patio and spot the bench—and I’ll know that I just need to sit on it and rest. But I rarely sit there without having a conversation with my Dad. I will talk with him about my day, toss about my problems, and just tell him how much I miss him. He may not answer, but I know that he’s there with me. That bench is a constant and tangible reminder that no matter what his headstone may say, my Dad will always be right here with me.

But of all the things I hear my Dad say when I sit on that bench, more than anything I hear him saying “thank you”. Not to me, but to my friend Steve. A friend who stepped in for my Dad and built a bench to fulfill a promise to a son when he couldn’t be here to do it himself.

I’ll always be thankful—both for a Dad who knew where a bench belonged, and for the friend who built it after he was gone.

Dad Turned Around in Chair with SB LogoDad, I’m so sad that I never got to see you build the bench that would have sat by my pond, but I’m thankful that I got the next best thing. I know how much you thought of Steve and how grateful you were for him being such a good friend to me. I see a lot of your character in my friend Steve. He is hardworking, trustworthy, and caring—just like you. You inspired so many people why you were here with us. I wish you were still here to keep building benches for all the people who need you most, but I’m thankful that God has dispensed his angels here on Earth to carry on where you can’t. One day, I know you and I will be sitting on a bench by the water again, talking about all the wonderful times we shared. But until then, seeya Bub.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (NIV)