The earliest memory I have was with dad. I was 2 years old, and as any toddler who is on the road for awhile, I was getting restless on our way back from grandma’s, so we pulled over for a break. Dad took me on a walk on the dry Colorado terrain, and we saw a beautiful cactus flower. Seeing it, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the flower to mom. Before my dad could beat me to it, I reached for the flower and got a handful of cactus needles instead. And as with any little boy, this wasn’t the only time dad had to rescue me from my hair-brained schemes.
Fire-Ants: When I was 4, my dad and I were taking a walk again, this time in a floridian park. But instead of a cactus flower catching my eye, I noticed a large fire-ant hill. Being 4 years old I had not yet learned the traditional ways of torturing ants with a magnifying glass. Instead, I resorted to picking up a stick and jamming it right into the ant hill, following the foolhardy act by a leisurely (a bit too leisurely) retreat. Within seconds the ants had caught up to me, and dad once again came to the rescue.
The Dutchman Paradox: His protective nature was just a glimpse into his personality. A way to describe my dad, would be a dutch paradox. If you’ve ever known a dutchman, he can be very blunt, sometimes not having a filter or just “telling it like it is,” or at least telling you like he perceives it to be. The paradox here though is that despite his bluntness and passionate opinions and beliefs, my dad was quite reserved. With family and close friends he wasn’t so reserved in sharing his opinions and beliefs. But with others, the Dutchman only came out in cases of politics and evolution debates (he was a vehement Republican and creationist). Even then, he reserved his fiercest rhetoric in hypothetical conversations my dad had with himself, pacing back and forth while whisper-yelling to his imaginary opponent. I wouldn’t say this was a habit of his, but he did it quite often.
His Daily Routine: My dad did, however, have quite the habitual routine. Every morning, my dad would get up, put on his sealant-stained jeans, his velcro shoes (as he hated to tie his shoes), and a plead collared-jacket with a front pocket, and walk out the door with a thermos of sweet iced-tea.
He’d then go to Village Inn, where the waitresses would bring him a pitcher of iced tea. Without needing to take his order, they’d bring him his special-order huevos rancheros: a tortilla with one egg (over-easy), covered in green chili and cheese, and one pancake on the side, which he would drown in maple syrup. He then would drive, usually to Denver, to install replacement windows, listening to Rush Limbaugh or the Bible, and skipping lunch most days, working non-stop usually until dusk.
Upon returning home, dad and I would take rusted boat anchors to throw at the glass he had taken out from the windows he replaced—nothing like greeting your son when you come home than bringing him back something he can destroy. Then he would watch the Broncos if they were on TV, if not, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would fill the gap. He would also teach me chess, or help Shannon and I with homework if there was a project due. For dinner, if we couldn’t make it out to Chili’s, he preferred anything with meat, ranch dressing, or chocolate. He even tried ranch dressing with a brownie once… and liked it.
At the dinner table, while normal conversation ensued, my dad would almost always blurt out some random statement that didn’t have anything to do with the current topic. While sometimes completely random, it was usually something about politics or creationism.
Indiana Jones and Zip-lines: Though he worked a lot, he still found time to create a great childhood for Shannon and I. Growing up, my dad built us a wrap-around tree fort complete with a zip-line and tire swing. As a kid, the zip-line was my go-to “escape module” when playing as James Bond or Indiana Jones. Quite often he’d take us on the loveland trail with our Malamute dogs and rollerblades, which made us imagine we were in an iditerod .
The Christmas Tree Debacle: With the winter time came a special series of traditions and stories. My dad always wanted to put up the best lights in the neighborhood, get a good christmas tree, and, if weather permitted, make an unconventional snowman manger-scene complete with a kangaroo. For a couple christmases, we went up in the mountains to cut down our own Christmas tree. We had a 16ft. vaulted ceiling in our living room at the time, so my dad, of course wanted a Christmas tree that would almost reach the top. The first year, it was quite a success, as we found a 15 ft tree full of pine needles and in the perfect cone shape. However, the second year we weren’t so lucky.
Wanting to top the success of the previous year, he was only looking at the big trees. After a good while of searching, we came across a giant, distorted mangled looking tree. While the rest of us, particularly Shannon, could see that the tree would not fit into our house, my dad’s eyes were filled with delusions of grandeur. Barely able to cut it down and load it in the truck, we took it home. After probably 2 hours of trying to jam the tree through the patio door, trimming a few branches down in the process, the monstrosity of a christmas tree finally tromped its way into the living room. Still, after all that work, Shannon’s warnings were made realized when we stood the tree up.
Sure, the height of the tree didn’t surpass the ceiling, but the branches jutted so far from the trunk, it covered the TV and part of the couch, several feet away. But my dad, being the stubborn man he was, would not take defeat so easily. He resorted to sawing off the bottom limbs, shortening them, then drilling holes in the trunk to put them back in. For some of the limbs that he couldn’t put back on the tree, he made a monster-wreath to accompany his “franken-tree” creation. Needless to say, my dad never heard the end of that Christmas.
The Manger bargain that wasn’t: And that wasn’t the only thing. When my parents came to see my sister and I graduate from a missionary school in Jerusalem, he was set on on bringing back home a manger scene. Now, my dad was not aware of the terms “bargaining” and “looking around,” so at the first shop he saw a manger scene, he went ahead and bought it for $120. When Kayla and I found out about this, she went out and bargained that same manger scene down to $8 to prove it was a bad deal. Kayla never let him forget it either. But my dad was humble enough to take the never-ending jokes at his expense.
Mister Fix-it: Despite the fact that he did not acquire adept bargaining skills in his lifetime, if there was anything my dad was good at, it was in fixing and building things. Besides our zip-line treehouse, he also helped Shannon and I make the best science projects. One year he helped me (or rather, I helped him) build a 3D topographical map of the longs peak mountain area out of plywood and spray paint. Another year he took over my science project on how the Grand Canyon was formed. He also custom made his truck toolbox, made dog houses complete with a heater and dog doors with wind-protectors. At our old house, he built me a room in the Attic, and even when he had cancer, he directed me in “fixing” the way his food pump was positioned on his pole—he thought the way to plug the power cord in was poorly designed.
I wish I would have made more of an effort to glean the knowledge and skill my dad had in the “fix-it” and construction field, but I definitely learned a lot of other, more important things, from him, like having dedication and a good work ethic.
Himself Took, Forgiveness, and Love: Growing up, my dad would also frequently quote a couple of verses to us. The main one I remember was what he reffered to as the “Himself took” verse in Matthew 8:17, “For he himself took our infirmities and carried away all our diseases.” Whenever my sister and I would get sick, he would say “Himself Took” over us. However his personal favorite, was Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” It was these verses he particularly leaned on during his battle with cancer.
Two major themes that stuck out in my dad’s life was forgiveness and love. Before I was born, I remember dad telling me how some coworkers of his had cheated him. He was so angry, he cussed God out. Then, after he was done venting, he felt his burden lift off, and God taught him that if Jesus forgave his sins, which he many did against others, God also forgave the sins committed against him.
With these spiritual truths, he lived them out in practice and in love. He’d always say God does not want to use you, he wants to love you, and with this mentality, he knew the importance of being with God was greater than doing things for God.
No Expectations: As I am now a father, my dad taught me from his good example to not place expectations on my children. He was an avid proponent of owning your own business and quite the Broncos fan, yet he never persuaded or pressured me with career choices or in playing football growing up. He believed in me whatever I did or wanted to pursue, even if it was wanting to be a professional Lego builder growing up.
My dad wasn’t always candid in speaking his feelings toward us, but you could tell by the look in his eyes and consistent goodnight phrase “Good night, I love you.” Probably the 3 times I felt most loved from him was a few of the times he told me “I’m so proud of you.”—when I became a missionary, when I got married, and when I had my son.
Faith and the measure of Strength: Over the last 3 months from when dad was diagnosed with cancer, he taught me one of the greatest lessons I’ll ever learn—to have a steadfast and unrelenting faith. Right up to the last day, my dad had a faith that could move mountains. His first instinct upon hearing the diagnosis was not on finding treatment, but finding prayer, and lots of it.
His persistence and perseverance puts him in a worthy spot among the Heroes of the Faith in Hebrews 11. And like the heroes of the faith, my dad “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that [he was a] stranger and exile on the earth.” as it says in Hebrews 11:13. I have learned before that the promises of God may not be fulfilled in mine or other’s lifetimes, but not in such a personal way. The reality is, not everyone who is prayed for gets healed. My wife was healed of infertility, but my dad died of cancer. How do I reconcile this?
I have truly realized that though the Kingdom is advancing “on Earth as it is in Heaven” it has not reached the full measure that will be realized upon Christ’s return. It is until He returns that the true and full extent of the promises will be realized.
Now my dad leaves behind his legacy to me and the others whom his life touched. He is now among that great cloud of witnesses that encourage us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and [telling us to] run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race marked out for my dad did not end the way he or any of us perceived. But, in seeing the strength and resolve in his character during his last days, I know that his wish to die like moses, “eyes not dim and strength not abated,” was realized in his spirit, though his body’s strength left him. At the end of his life, he taught me the true measure of strength.
A family legacy continues: His legacy does not end there. The greatest thing he ever did for me was leading me to the Lord. One night, my dad sat me down and told me of my brother Seth, who was in heaven. He told me that if I wanted to meet him one day, I would need to accept Jesus into my heart.
My dad and brother have been reunited in heaven, and one day, some years down the road, I will sit my son, Hezekiah down and tell him of his grandpa Clark. I will tell him about a man who could build anything, who would frustrate you to no end playing card games, and who had a love for flying, sailing, and the Grand Canyon. But most of all, I will tell my son how his grandpa’s life, with all his quirks and peculiarities, painted a unique picture of Jesus. Sometimes from the rough, rocky patches of our lives a beautiful flower can spring up. So it was with my brothers death that salvation was made realized in my life, so I also hope to one day have my dad’s death become a light into my son’s soul.
And so it is with a heavy heart yet also an encouraged spirit that I say goodbye. I love you dad, you were my wise counselor, mentor, friend—the best dad I could’ve asked for—and I will miss you dearly.