Ugh. The pain of grief. Man, it hurts. First off, I want to apologize to anyone who has lost a loved one who I maybe rubbed the wrong way in those first two months after Bella died. I am in so much more physical, emotional, and spiritual pain now than I was then. I was in shock then, and I knew it to some degree, but this past week it has REALLY become clear how much so. I haven't yet gone back and read what I wrote (really dreading re-reading ANY of this to edit for a book), but I'm sure I had some arrogant moments. Please forgive me.
I am also pretty sure that I completely forgot to tell you about last Saturday morning.
Saturday was Founder's Day at my Alma Mater, Chapman University. It is the day where we get together and have a reunion, share in worship, lunch, and some good speakers, and raise money for scholarships for kids from our churches, Christian Church - Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ. Anyway, we have not been going to church since we returned home (big confession). We went back I think twice, but it was far too painful. (After my 5 best friends were murdered in 1995, it took me several YEARS before I could sit through church without balling my eyes out.) So, seemingly out of the blue, I got an email from Cisa, Associate Director of Church Relations at Chapman, letting me know that Dennis Short, the minister at Bella's CA memorial, was being awarded Church Leader of the Year, and she asked if I would introduce him.
First off, I literally forgot about Founder's Day. Felt bad about that, because I really like going to Founder's Day. That's just how disconnected I had become so quickly from my church. Second, Cisa was the one who organized and gave me the green light to do the memorial at Chapman. Third, Dennis is the man that married us, prayed with us through both births, and mourned with us in November. How could I say no? It would be my honor.
Then, I found out that the worship service where they were giving the award was no longer in Memorial Hall where I was used to it being. Its new location? The Wallace All Faiths Chapel where Bella's memorial was held.
We were going to be on the same dais again. Me and Dennis.
Dennis wasn't told who was going to introduce him. It was meant to be a surprise.
Here is my introduction. I include it in its entirety because you should know Dennis like we do. There is SO MUCH MORE to tell about him, but this is a start:
Dennis “Answer the Call” Short
It is said of leaders that they answer the call, whatever it is. If this is the case, then this year’s award for Church Leader of the Year is well placed.
Dennis Short has answered the call his entire life. Sometimes that call came from God, sometimes that call came from his fellow man.
Growing up in a family active in its church gave Dennis early practice at answering the call. Upon graduating high school, Dennis found his way to Chapman College on a –get this – athletic scholarship. Two years into college, Dennis met Linda on the first day of school, and he certainly was wise to answer the call then!
Upon graduation, Dennis answered the call to ministry by moving to Indianapolis, IN to receive his Masters in Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in 1968. Since then, Dennis has answered the call within church leadership to serve on the PSWR staff, and sit on or head up too many committees and councils and panels to even recount.
He even answered the call from his Alma Mater. Chapman College called Dennis to be Chaplain/Campus Minister in 1975. In the late 1970’s Dennis was one of the founders of the Peace Studies Program. Dennis earned his M.A. in Counseling Psychology in 1985. During his tenure at Chapman, Dennis always had a staff of two – seven student assistants. Over 20 of those students have answered the call and gone into the ministry themselves. Upon his retirement from Chapman, the Faculty voted to give him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Since his departure from Chapman, Dennis has answered the call as Interim Minister for the Garden Grove First Christian Church, the Community Church Congregational (UCC) in Corona del Mar, California, and a 15-year pastorate at Harbor Christian Church in Newport Beach. After more than tinkering with the idea of retirement, Dennis answered the call yet again and is currently the Interim Transitional Minister at Downey Memorial Christian Church in Downey, California.
Why am I the one sharing all this with you? Well Dennis has answered the call from me on many occasions as well, (by the way, Leaders also have to be able to “Make the calls…” Anyone in here ever have to answer the call from Dennis?)
When my wife and I wanted to be married, we found Dennis over the internet and he answered the call and married us.
When I wanted to come to Chapman to get my degree in Music Therapy, Dennis answered the call by connecting me to D.O.C. and DanO and Cisa.
When I had my first guitar recital that I actually allowed friends and family to attend, Dennis answered the call and was there.
On the morning of my first daughter’s birth, it was Dennis that led the prayer with the nurse, Angelique’s mom, Ang and myself.
When my second daughter was born with a rare, fatal childhood disease, Dennis is sitting with my wife in her recovery room when I returned from the NICU for the first time.
And when it was time to mourn the death of our daughter, Dennis answered my call and led her memorial service from. Right. Here.
Leaders answer the call whether morning or night
Leaders answer the call whether they are busy or tired
Leaders answer the call no matter the cost.
Leaders answer the call whether afraid or not.
My friends, Dennis Short has answered this call his entire life, and for this reason, it is my HONOR to introduce him as our Church Leader of the year.
Well, before the service, I found myself out back sobbing, and I certainly didn't make it through this speech without crying either. I couldn't even fake it or hold it back. I just plowed through, and when he rose to receive his award, I gave my wonderful friend Dennis a hug very few get from me. If my dad were still alive, he might get the hug I gave Dennis. What that man has meant for Ang and me over the past 8 years, wow. I always said that I wanted us to have a relationship with the man that married us.
Boy howdy did THAT ever work out.
It was quite poignant that the service was in the same space as Bella's memorial. Full Circle. I got to contribute to Dennis. Oh, and the preacher that gave the sermon of all sermons shortly after me?
We shared compliments on each others' speeches afterwards, and I told him that we weren't called to that spot by Cisa to minister to each other necessarily, but that was what God had in mind. After listening and watching him, I said to myself, "I WANNA PREACH LIKE THAT!" After the service, another preacher from our region who is quite a preacher himself, asked me, "Are you sure you're not a preacher?" to which I responded, "No, I'm not sure."
To bring the hope, the warmth, the light, the energy, and the love of God into people's hearts through my words... spoken, written, or sung.
This is my purpose. This is what I am built for. This is what brings my ULTIMATE JOY.
Thank you for letting me 'preach' to you. For those of you still with us, you may not always agree, but you listen. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your attention, time, prayers, thoughts, wishes, intentions, and energy with us. I just write, but you come here and read. That means so much to us, you don't even know. You don't even know.
Now, here are two other items I threw up hastily the other day when I wasn't supposed to be on the blog. Sorry, couldn't help myself. In the chance you didn't accidentally check the blog, here they are for you now...
1) The chromosome tests for Julian all came back normal! So far so good. That rules out the chromosomal disorders like Down, Fragile X, and the various other Trisomy ___ syndromes out there. One set of scary tests down, one really big one to go. The genetic counselor had more info to share, so Angelique hopefully will catch up with her today. We're hoping she knows more accurately when we'll hear back on the EB test.
2) We are building a suite of products, services, and information that are going to be initially tailored to parents of children with special needs, critically ill, and deceased children. We will be donating half of every dollar we make to PUCK. If you have been positively touched by our journey and my writing, we would be honored if you would be willing to write a short 3-4 sentence testimonial we could use to help launch our services. The testimonial could be about how the blog has impacted your family relationships specifically. We want stronger families. We want stronger marriages. We hope that at the end of our life, not only did we work to this end through our own marriage and family, but also positively impacted scores of others as well.
Really, if you feel called to write a testimonial, it can be about any area that may have been impacted in case you don't fit the above description, and that will help us at some point, so please, we welcome any testimonials here!
Please send your 3-4 sentence testimonial with your name could Just be First name and Last initial if you want), city/state/province/country, and please, if you are willing, send a picture as well. Photos exponentially help with testimonials! If not, no worries, text only will be gratefully received and appreciated as well!
Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you very very very very much for this. We really appreciate your support!