Beg pardon, but does anyone know who mans the obituary desk at the newspaper? Is it generally known as an entry level job for new graduates or people in a journalism program nearby? I ask because as grouchy as it may seem, and while I ought to feel appreciative of the Minneapolis newspaper’s choice to run an expanded article on my dad in the obituary section, I take issue with the quality of the article.
You should go see the article for yourself, formulate your own opinions and only then, come back here to have your viewpoint tainted by my observations. Here’s the link: Click to see the published expanded obituary article
There are probably certain things the writers are required to include, and probably a framework for every article they print. This ain’t the front page or even the main section, so creativity or hard-hitting think-pieces are probably discouraged. Trying to take that into consideration, here are some of my problems with the article:
1. My dad was 67 years old, not 65. In my opinion, getting that fact wrong does not start things off with a good impression.
2. Unless you are very familiar with Christian lingo, when you use the term “breaking down the Bible to the community” it implies that he spent decades disproving the Bible and trying to show others how it was somehow misleading or unreliable.
The journalist may have interviewed someone who used that term, but it’s unclear here and definitely the antithesis of what Dad did for decades in the pulpit, not to mention in para-church organizations. He knew the Bible inside and out, read Greek and Hebrew, had a mind-boggling memory for details. He was excellent at making difficult Biblical concepts accessible to people who hadn’t studied them in depth as he had and helping them see how those concepts applied to their own lives — that was the intended meaning of “breaking down the Bible” but that meaning was not conveyed.
3. While I understand that column space is often limited, in the hard-copy, printed version there was at least 1 1/2 inches of empty space. Empty space! They didn’t have enough material to fill the allotted print space? The article goes from his time spent in Young Life and jumps straight into church ministry. It doesn’t even mention important years spent at Youth Leadership or as an adjust professor at Bethel, teaching and discipling people to come alongside high school and college students? Or what about mentioning his dedication to Israel, leading multiple group pilgrimages there? Maybe mention the time he spent as World Servants’ Director of US Operations, commuting to Florida half time because he believed in their commitment to come into an underserved community as servant leaders, rather than the great white hope. Come on! There’s a treasure trove of inspirational gleanings from even a couple years of this man’s life, and instead there is white space. What a wasted opportunity to dig deeper.
And finally, number 4. There is a very unfortunate sentence that may have been a quote (it’s presented as such) but definitely does NOT convey the meaning behind the statement. The quote says something about him being a very bright man, but “he never acted like a very bright man.”
Oh. My. Word.
This sounds like he came across as a dingbat.
Or maybe he made foolish decisions.
It implies that by his behavior, language or demeanor, he portrayed himself as an unintelligent person.
This really ruffles my feathers because a). my dad was not foolish in any way and b). I know the intended message of this quote.
My dad never talked down to people. He never acted superior. He didn’t put on displays of intellectual acrobatics to show off his academic prowess. He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone and rarely put on display the full breadth of his knowledge, which was wide and varied. He was a life-long learner and enjoyed analysis and learning new concepts. Biblical exegesis came easily to him. but he didn’t use these skills to elevate himself or diminish others. He had the ability to make people feel heard, make them feel seen and valued. That was his focus. His schooling and intellect gave him tools to approach the world of study, speaking and navigating the intricacies of business; Jesus gave him his purpose.
The writer got one thing right: Dad’s life mission was to be a friend maker for God. He wanted to help others discover how they could be made friends with God, be adopted into God’s family and discover the freedom that is living fully in Christ. This mission to be a friend maker was woven into the fabric of Dad’s life, and if they’d missed that, they’d really have gotten it wrong.
Ultimately, the expanded obituary article doesn’t matter. I know that. It doesn’t matter how many people read it or if they now have different information about my dad. The people who actually knew him know so much more than any newspaper article could ever communicate.
Is it possible to capture with ink the joyfulness of a person’s spirit?
You can’t convey the full range of exuberance or positivity that comes across from a person’s smile.
There’s no way to offer more than a glimpse of him being fully engaged in a conversation or how he listened with his whole body.
A “hopeless romantic”, he and my mom whimsically named the various places they called home — how would an unconnected newspaper writer be expected to ask the questions that would draw out this information?
That writer can’t be expected to know the specific questions to ask.
But we know, don’t we? We know the things that made him special, the things that made him stand out in a crowd of people.
And what a privilege it is to be on the inside of that large cloud of people who knew him and were impacted by him. We all have our stories, and in our minds, we can fill in the blanks of a flat obituary article with the true prism of colors that represent my dad’s life and his heart.
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