Sunday, August 2, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
I have to apologize for not contacting you sooner. You and PresidentLarsen have been on my mind since I received the news of his passing fromyour family. I forwarded the information to as many missionaries as Ihave contact with, which are not many. I still keep in close contact withElders Ron Gordon and Cameron Jenson and a few other more casually.
In any event I have been trying to think what I could say other than givemy condolences to you and your family. It seems so inadequate. I wish Icould have worked out coming down to his funeral but as with many things Iwould like to do, I could not put it together because of priorcommitments.
I thought it might be appropriate to share an experience or two that Ifeel might help express my feelings of gratitude and loss. While amissionary in Okinawa I made a couple home movie type videos and I havebeen watching them and reminiscing. In one clip Elder Gordon and I aretalking about our day at a Zone conference we had been to with thePresident. Elder Gordon was talking to at the conference and I wassitting in the back with the "BUCH" as we lovingly called him. All of thesudden the BUCH started kind of crying/laughing. He leaned over to me andhe couldn't even talk because he was laughing so hard. It wasn'tdisruptive and no one could see or hear but me and Elder Gordon. As ElderGordon continued on he gave me some eye contact wondering what was goingon and if everything was ok. He though maybe his fly was down orsomething. I just shrugged as to say I have no idea what the deal is. Finally the BUCH is able to ask me if I had seen Elder Hunter's Hair cut. I indicated that I had and he proceeded to laugh uncontrollably whiletrying to communicate to me how unbelievably bad his hair cut was. Ithink he may have even had to leave the room to compose himself. I stillcrack up when I think about that.
Another experience occurred when I was in Ishigaki. I was interviewing asister for baptism and something came up that required she speak with theBUCH. She was an older sister and her whole family was at the Churchbuilding anticipating her passing the interview. It was a little awkwardfor her and Me and I think she was quite scared and nervous. I explainedthe situation the BUCH put her on the phone to talk to him. I am not sureall that was said but I saw in her eyes the love she was feeling from theSavior as she talked to the BUCH. It was an amazing experience. Sheended up getting baptized as did several others of her family members.
On the BUCH's Birthday we decided to throw him a little surprise party,although I think you may have let him in on our little secret because ofall of the food you had ready. Anyway, we all met at the top of the hillyour house was on and then yelled happy birthday when he came to the door.I know the missionaries loved to be in your home, their home away fromhome. We always felt so loved and welcome, especially in the massagechair.
When Gordon and I were AP's he we could tell how concerned he was for yourhealth and well being. He put many responsibilities on us, which I don'tthink he would have done, unless he absolutely had to. Not that he didn'ttrust us I don't think but because he wanted to do all he could for themission and his missionaries. However at this particular time as I recallyour health was especially fragile and we could tell how concerned he was.I think at that time all of his attention was turned to you. It was agreat lesson to me. Even if you have a calling and responsibility, yourfamily and especially your spouse has priority. I have always tried toremember that in my callings. I don't say this go brag but those fewmonths that Elder Gordon and I had to fill in gaps trained us for ourcallings at young ages later on. We both served as Bishops at the sametime a few years ago and we would recall those times to help us through. It turned out to be a huge blessing in our lives. I believe the BUCH bothknowingly and somewhat unknowingly trained us and other missionaries tocarry the work of the lord forward as missionaries and in whatever othercallings he had in store for us. I owe the BUCH a great debt.
Finally, when the time came for me to go home and my parents came to pickme up, the BUCH dropped us off at our hotel in Naha. As I shook his handand then embraced him we held each other for a long time and I sobbed likea baby. I was so grateful to him for the opportunities he had given me togrow and confidence he had placed in me. My mission was a life changingexperience for me as it is for many missionaries, but I attribute much ofthose changes as a result of the way he let me spread my wings.
I thank you and I thank your family for sharing him for those few shortyears.
With much love.
Elder Jim Barnett
P.S. you are welcome to share this with your family, I think it isimportant for them to have some insight into who he was a missionPresident.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Rather than dwell on that, however, I’d like to reflect back on the many lessons I learned from the man whose life we‘ve come to celebrate.
Dad was a hard worker and he was meticulous in everything he did. One image of childhood that I remember clearly is of him standing behind an old surveying instrument as he surveyed a vacant piece of land. I--the oldest of his children--had the pleasure of holding a long stick upright and moving a pointer up and down until he told me where to stop. Another memory--and this is probably why I used to wish for an older brother--was of me on the apex of the guest cottage, holding the top end of the roof facing. Dad kept yelling at me to hold it while he nailed. I tried my best, but I‘m not sure the board was ever still enough for him. Another time when I had to use all my strength, was the day Dad--who was Branch President then--decided to put up several boards in the church’s hallway to show all the home teaching assignments. They were accompanied by tags that were red on one side and white on the other. Red meant home teaching hadn‘t been performed yet, while white meant the task was done. Well, someone had to help Dad attach those heavy particle boards to the wall and it became my great joy to do so. They were so heavy that, while Dad drilled and tightened the screws, I wondered if I would pass out.
Dad was a strong leader and I’m sure he’s already been assigned some position beyond the veil. Throughout my teenage years, he was a stake president. Then later, as a regional representative, he was asked to speak on the topic of leadership at a student gathering at BYU Hawaii. Standing before a roomful of young adults, he began by asking this question: What’s the most important prerequisite to being a leader?”
Immediately hands went up and several students offered opinions. One of them said prayerfulness was the most important attribute for a leader. Another said it was knowledge of the scriptures. Someone else said it was a relationship with God. After each reply my father nodded, but said was looking for another answer.
After several minutes he finally responded to his own question. “The most important prerequisite to being a leader, is…BEING IN THE LEAD.” I can honestly say that regarding his service to the church my father was always in the lead. Not that he was constantly barking out orders or handing down judgments. Instead, he led by being the first to his meetings and staying past the benediction to stack the last chair.
He was, in my opinion, an example of what Christ spoke of in Matthew 20:26-27.
Whosover will be great among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
After Alan and I were married, we received numerous congratulatory cards from friends in Hawaii. My father sat with us as we opened each envelope and offered details about the life of each sender. He spoke of the people’s aspirations and achievements. So much pride was in his voice, a casual listener might have assumed he was talking about his own accomplishments. It was evident that he not only knew, but deeply loved the people he served. Then, from one of the cards, a five dollar bill slipped out and Dad got misty-eyed. The money, he said, had come from a widow, who lived on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the gift without cutting something important out of her budget. That’s when he wiped away a tear and said in a resolute way, “I’ll make it up to her.” Now, I don’t know what he did, but I have no doubt that in some quiet way he did make it up to her.
Our Dad was compassionate and believed everyone was important. Those who knew him well, knew that he was opinionated (a trait that my sons and I inherited). And although Dad and I often disagreed on issues, I couldn‘t help but appreciate his love and empathy for others. As the leader of a ward or stake, he did all he could to be in the chapel as members arrived. He wanted to greet them with a handshake and ask how they were. Dad especially sought out those who migrated toward the back of meeting areas. Dad never judged. He always tried to understand our problems. And he was forgiving.
Don’t get me wrong: He certainly believed in corporal punishment--there‘s no question about that. Once I was caught cutting classes for what I thought was a good reason. It was at the end of the school year and a couple of us wanted to gather flowers for a seminary graduation that was scheduled for the following night. I was busted because Dad was home with a broken toe when the school called to ask where I was.
To make a long story short, I received a message that I was to wait at the Stake Center and that Dad was coming to get me. I knew enough about his punishments to be terrified. But I got a little giggly when I remembered that he had a broken toe and wouldn’t be able to kick my hind end at least. In the end the punishment was worse than I‘d thought possible: He grounded me from Youth Conference, which I’d really been looking forward to. So I begged and pleaded for forgiveness, but Mom told be to back off. Eventually Dad gave in and let me go, as long as I entertained Elder Groberg’s two daughters who were going to be there. We had a blast, but I guess you can say it’s an example of how Dad spared the rod and spoiled the child.
Dad taught us the importance of family. Recently I was reading a journal I kept as a girl and came across this entry:
While Mom, Annette and I were living in my grandmother’s cottage, Dad was still in Japan finishing the building of a church. We all missed him terribly. I had no idea when he’d be coming so I just waited patiently. One day, after returning home from school, I saw my father’s shoes on the porch. I was so excited. Mom was trying to trick me by saying that he only sent some of his clothes home and he didn’t come yet. I wouldn’t believe her for one minute and I went ahead into her bedroom. Well, there was Dad. I was so happy to seem him, I cried. Even now as I write of this experience, tears still fill my eyes.
We love our family. We love hearing the stories of the past and going to Fairview where dad grew up. We love that Dad was our dad and we miss him terribly, but we also know that there’ll be a time when we‘ll see his shoes on our porch again. On that wonderful day, we’ll hold him close and let tears of joy mark the reunion.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It was during that same trip that I first saw pictures of my great-grandpa and great-grandma Larsen. I asked my grandpa where they lived, genuinely perplexed as to why I’d never seen them before. My grandpa looked at me and just said, “oh, they died a long time ago”. As a young child completely naïve to the facts of life and death, I felt a stab of sadness for my grandpa.
“Aren’t you sad?” I asked. I couldn’t comprehend how life can simply go on after losing someone so important in your life.
The truth is, I still don’t.
That vacation, just like every visit to my grandparents, ended with my grandpa gathering my family together for a blessing. Those blessings were always a powerful and special thing to me. They offered needed comfort when our goodbyes always came too soon, and ensured my family’s safety on our long journey home. Even at that young age, I knew that my grandpa had a special connection with God. His faith and dedication to doing the Lord’s work was so strong, that if grandpa asked for God to watch over us, you know that He’d deliver.
There are a few things that I will always remember about grandpa. I’ll remember his one piece jumpsuits that he always loved to wear. The way his hair was always immaculately combed with the part on his left, and his large thick-rimmed glasses. I’ll remember the way he smelled. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll always remember his ever-present grin, the one that made him look like he was up to no good.
My grandpa always had an open heart. His capacity for empathy was unsurpassed. He never passed judgment on anyone’s shortcomings, and I should know. Even when fully aware of my own adolescent misdeeds, he never looked at me with anything but complete love and the profound belief that I would eventually find the right path. My grandpa seemed to know that things would work out well for me in the end, and I can only hope that I’ve come to earn that support that he always had for me.
My grandpa had the tendency to cry during movies. He also had the tendency to hide defensively behind his handkerchief, and deny completely that he had been.
During the 6 long years it took for me to complete my undergraduate’s degree, I took some time off from school. I moved to Maryland in the hopes of making it as a guitarist in my friend’s band. While things didn’t go quite as I had planned, it was a learning experience and I felt like I was beginning to understand what it meant to be an adult. I drove cross-country back to California a few months later with a friend of mine, and we stayed a night at my grandparents’ house here in Las Vegas. I still remember what my grandpa said to me when he first saw me. He gave me a hug, looked me over with a smile on his face, and said that it looked like I had matured a lot. He told me that he believed that my time off school could be nothing but good for me, and could already see the difference in the way I carried myself.
I can’t express how much his words meant to me. Never mind the fact that I still didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, or that I had just a few months ago withdrew from all my classes and dropped out of school with the intention of never going back. Grandpa could do nothing but look at me with a smile on his face and pride in his voice.
One of the last time’s I saw my grandpa was at my brother’s wedding. Grandpa gave the opening prayer for the ceremony, and I remember standing there between my brothers, beside my grandfather, and having to choke back tears. I remembered all those times that my grandpa had blessed over me and my family. I remembered the constant support and faith he always had in me. I felt so blessed to be descended from such a humble, hard-working and loving man, and being in the midst of such a loving family.
My grandpa is an inspiration to all of us. He was a kind man, and was always quick to forgive. He was always able to empathize with those that needed a helping hand. My grandpa never judged others, and instead chose to excuse their faults and focus on their good.
I will always be grateful to have had him in my life, and I can only hope to one day be just a little bit like him.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
My Dear Esther and girls,
I am truly saddened at the departure of Evan from this life but will continue to cherish the joyful times we experienced together while you folks were here on Maui and more especially the personal training he provided me in Church leadership. I can never repay him for his leadership, time, and devotion in the service of God and the lasting example he will always be to me and so many others.
We just had a ward luau and celebrated the 34th anniversary of the Pukalani Ward. Evan's pictures were prominently displayed in the hallways of our chapel where the food line passed and so everyone got to see him and the history of our branch, district, ward, and stake. I'm glad I got to renew my memories of him and the family with other pictures that were displayed.
Esther, I know he will be missed but his legacy is priceless and his place in history secure because of his faith and obedience and because you were right there with him all along. Maile and I send our sincerest condolences and our expression of love to you and yours. May we all meet again and renew our ties as an eternal family. No ke akua e ho'opomaika'o ia oukou. God bless you all.
Boyd and Maile
To my mother, from Linda Akinaka:
Esther, I'm so sorry to hear that Evan is no longer with you. He was wonderful to my family. His influence as a church leader, construction boss, and friend will always be remembered. I hope you will find comfort as you start on this phase of life. I wish the best for you and for Lori, Annette, and Emi - Much Aloha, Linda
To mom from Vance Akinaka:
Esther - My sincerest sympathies to you and the family. Evan meant so much to us all. He was my mentor in so many ways. Most of all he was my friend. I called him a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned his health challenges weren't that good. I tried to cheer him up a bit and let him know what he meant to me. My the Lord be kind to you and fill his void with the love of family and friends. Our fondest aloha to all. Your friend always, Vance
Sunday, April 26, 2009
There is a certain breed of human being that I have always admired. The kind of people who will, without hesitation, set themselves to work. The kind of leaders who pick up a shovel and join their workers; the kind of men who see a task and set themselves to its completion without question or complaint. People with selfless devotion to service.
My Grandfather, Evan Allan Larsen, past away last Thursday. He left quietly, in the hospital, after a brief bout with cancer. His daughter, my aunt Annette, was at his side, while my grandmother, mother, and my aunt Emi were in route.
Emi thinks that he left this plane knowing grandma was on her way, and chose to go before she arrived. I can't help but agree. He was always a man of service and action, and it seems fitting that he would choose to go in such a way. In service to his family; to their feelings and needs.
My mom alerted me to the diagnosis a few weeks back. The expectation was that he would go sometime in the summer, and we were arranging to visit as a family. But I can't seem to think of his quick and quiet exit from the stage as anything but a blessing. This is a man who took pride in work; in doing. He was the breed of person I spoke of before. He was diligent in his work, charitable in his service, and compassionate to a fault.
He was a carpenter. He worked tirelessly, even in retirement making little (and large) additions to the home. Always working, always bettering his environment. That's why I'd rather not imagine him bed-ridden and useless; his spirit broken and body defeated. No, it is better this way; that he go before the pain was too great and his body too weak.
My grandfather understood the NEED to help people. He always had a knack for uplifting spirits and helping others. I remember once, as a small child, I made some now insignificant error and found myself in a worrying mood. When I came to him with my little trouble, he related to me a little story, and a common saying I had not yet heard.
"No use crying over spilled milk."
And there was no judgement in that saying. It was simple; the past is the past, and there is no changing it. So there is no use crying for it. And while I don't remember the exact situation that prompted Evan's response, it has stayed with me for years. Always look forward. No use looking back.
But now it is time to mourn. It is not only to show love for the dead that we mourn, but to share that love amongst our family and friends. We all have memories of grandpa and it is best they be shared. It is best the love for him grows and we can all feel that love. Share in the love for someone lost. Though ultimately not lost at all.
He was a good religious man. And while I have certain disagreements with his beliefs, I have nothing but respect for his diligence and service.
My mom related a beautiful story to me. When he was Stake President in Maui, he was going to church once with the Hansen's disease patients on Kalaupapa. There was a woman tending to the garden there, a woman with the disfigurements that come with Hansen's. He said she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. He could see her spirit and it's strength. He saw her tending to flowers, and saw so much more in her than a leprous woman. And that is a skill to be praised. He saw something of Heaven in her, and now I'm sure he has gone to see much more.
And while we can never know what comes after this little time we have, I can't help but imagine Evan in a large green field, walking with a smile on his face, a big black lab running at his side. Off in service for someone in need.
Bye Grandpa, I miss you tons.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I will always remember the times where he offered to fight me. He would come up to me with fists raised, much in the manner of an adolescent schoolboy, and say "ooh, so you wanna fight now?" His eyes on these instances were the brightest I have ever beheld. Sadly, every time he tried to scrap with me, I politely declined with a snicker. I cannot wait til the day when we are reunited and I can finally take him up on his offer and "put 'em up."
I love you Grandpa and know that you love me too "cause the bible says it so."
Thursday, April 23, 2009
It is still sinking in that Uncle Evan has passed away so quickly. It is so sad, but at the same time I can't help but feel as though our prayers were answered. I prayed, and I am sure others too, that he would not have to suffer. I am glad Dad was able to have a few long conversations with him before he passed. I am sure he told him he loved him, and I'm sure Uncle Evan knows that we all love him and will miss him. What I remember most about Uncle Evan was his smile. He had the kind of smile that lit up his whole face, one that said, "I might be up to something." I told the boys of his passing and told them that he had a great sense of humor and he was fun to be around. Jack said, "Maybe that's why I'm so funny, I'm like him." I had no idea that Jack thought he was "so funny." I remember Dad and Uncle Evan arm wrestling, and full body wrestling! They would laugh so hard their faces would turn bright red like they were going to burst. We stayed with Uncle Evan in Hawaii on our first anniversary. He was very kind and generous. He took us shopping and bought chocolate for everyone back home. Bottom line is I remember someone great. He was always interested in us as kids, and we loved him for it. I am glad that our family knows that we will see him again. That one day, Dad and him will hug again, and they'll both laugh, because Dad will have a full head of hair, just like Uncle Evan.
-When Piper and I visited shortly after our marriage, it was grandpa who had to take us back to the airport. Just before we stepped out of the house, he turned to grandma and said, "Don't go getting any boyfriends while I'm gone".
-He spoke Japanese with an awful American accent.
-Talking with grandpa about politics was a big no-no. Doing so would invariably end up with complaints of the government wanting his money and references to problems caused by the "left coast".
-He could build anything with his bare hands.
-One-piece jumpsuits were always in style. The only other outfit I've seen him wear is a white collared shirt, black pants and a tie.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Dad was released from the hospital this last December after having kidney failure and congestive heart failure. He was so happy to be home before this New Year, excited about making some changes to his home, purchasing a new car, etc. He seemed to be recovering very well. I would say, about the beginning of February, he began complaining about how he hurt all over, he wouldn't get up as much to do anything, and basically sat for most of the day. The rest of us all thought that we was just feeling his old age and that if he would get up and do more things, he would feel better. Soon he complained of how nothing tasted good and we would nag him of how he needed to eat. He never did make those changes to his home, nor buy his new car.
One test led to another and on March 31, Dad was diagnosed with Bone Cancer and Liver Cancer. We have no clue where it originated. I guess that really doesn't matter. . . No wonder he was in pain and didn't want to eat. More tests.
On Thursday, April 9, his doctor confirmed the cancer had spread throughout his body. He didn't recommend Chemo. We (his daughters) wanted a second opinion from the Oncologist so waited before seriously thinking about hospice. The Oncologist was going to do more research on Dad’s condition before making an opinion. I don’t know if we ever got this second opinion…
On Wednesday, April 15, he had a very difficult day when his catheter wouldn't drain. For hours he hoped it would. Then finally, about 8pm he and my husband arrived at the Summerlin Hospital. More than 4 hours he waited. Agony. I honestly believe this set him back immensely. My thought was "There is no way he can EVER do this again." So I looked into home-health care, which led to hospice and forwarded the information to my sister Annette.
Friday, April 17, my sister Lori arrived in town to help. I am so thankful! Carla from Solari Hospice came over. Although he had such a bad night before, she and Dad had a wonderful conversation. He signed on. Within hours, there was a hospital bed in the living room, oxygen, wheelchair, walker, nebulizer and a whole panel of pain, nausea, anxiety, constipation, and other medication. All to make him more comfortable and take away his pain. This day was the last day I was able to have a "real" coherent conversation with my dad.
Saturday, April 18 - Dad's last time walking. With a burst of evergy, he got himself out of bed and walked to the living room to rest in his new bed. It was disturbing to see him later that day in a daze. It was as if he was in the hospital ICU again - only this time with no beeping machines, no IV, no annoying blood pressure cuff hurting his arm every few minutes. This really bothered me but he did look more at peace. More relaxed. Ayren said he must have been in so much pain for so long. We just never knew how much. He was in the midst of family - I'm so grateful for that.
With each day following, things just seemed to decline quickly. Maybe too quickly for me. He was so tired. He would raise his arms and say "I want to be free!" My friend told me we needed to tell him it was okay to be free – I wasn’t ready to say it. . .
This past Tuesday night, I gave Dad his medication. I was a little nervous because Lori had been doing it all. His morphine medication was time-release so was not to be cut. Well, he had such a difficult time swallowing it, he ended up biting into it. I SHOULD have fished it out, but wasn’t thinking straight – and it went down. Later that night, Lori said he looked as if he may have been a little “high” as he was waving his arms in the air seeming to be having a good time. By Wednesday, the day before yesterday, he really couldn't swallow his pills anymore. Liquid meds were ordered. Lori told me she told Dad Wednesday night that he doesn't need to worry about Mom - she will be taken care of. I had this feeling since she told him that, he felt like he could leave and things here would be okay. He now had permission to be “free.” I was getting nervous but still felt – or hoped – he would get through a few more days.
An infection ultimately took him "home" yesterday. He had a fever of 103 degrees and the nurse couldn't stablize him at home so they admitted him into in-patient care at the Hospice center by about 12:15pm. I feel really bad that I wasn't there. Annette tried to call me at 1:30 but I didn't have my phone on me - I was in a meeting. She called back at 2:08 and said where Dad was and that they were going to try to get him through the night. She said I should hurry there and that Lori was on the way down with Mom. Annette held him and she could feel the heat leave his body - he was cooling down rapidly. After the last shot of morphine, his labored breathing calmed down. Soon the nurse told Annette to tell him goodbye and that she loved him.
I think Dad knew Mom was on her way, that he wanted to leave before she got back. Maybe he didn't want even Annette there. What a special moment for her, however. . . I hope she is not upset I wasn’t there. . . Annette was always Dad’s “favorite” – and I don’t mean that in an angry or harsh way. She always had a special way with him. She is the one that saw him through this whole ordeal, taking him to doctors appointments, making sure he was always properly cared for.. It was truly a break for her that Lori was here these last few days. I am so thankful to both Annette and Lori for all they have done!!! I hope Annette feels this was a special blessing for her to be there when he passed. She said it was so Peaceful - his last breath. He is now free of pain, free of agony, free of worry. My Aunt Julia worked with the elderly at Kula Hospital in Hawaii before she retired. She said it was very very painful for those who had bone cancer that had to endure the extent of it. She said it was good that Dad was spared that anguish. I am so glad and relieved.
When I walked into the room at the Hospice Center, it seemed so strange to see Dad’s lifeless body. I was so relieved at how peaceful his room was. He looked like he was asleep and I kept expecting to see his chest fill with air – nothing. During the time I was there, talking with Mom, Lori, and Annette, his hands just got so cold. I kissed him on his forehead before leaving and was a bit surprised at how cool his head was. When we finally left, it was so hard to say goodbye and just leave him. I had to remind myself that all was there was his empty body – not his spirit.
How joyous it must have been for him to be greeted by HIS mom and dad, by my mom’s mom and dad, his brother, his 2 sisters, and all those that loved him that have gone before. My husband and I remind our children of how he is happy now – no pain. That he can now help us in other ways.
This is good for me to reflect over the last few weeks. I am grateful I was able to be with Dad every evening during his last day. I am also grateful my children were able to be there as well to tell him they loved him each night.
Good-bye Daddy. I love you very much!! I miss you already.
I last saw your dad at Matt and Piper's wedding. We joked about the time I called and left the "you no more ooda chike-flied-lice" message. He denied that he yelled at me but I knew that he remembered. He was quite a character. He will be missed.
My first contact with Evan was through a phone conversation we had the winter of 1980, when I called him to announce my intention to marry his daughter. That conversation remains clear in my mind, mostly for the disconcerting quiet that followed my announcement. I let a few seconds tick away, hoping he would offer me his blessing, but he said nothing. Meanwhile, a dozen thoughts tumbled in my head, among them:
- Maybe he doesn’t even know who I am.
- Maybe he's heard of me and thinks I’m an idiot.
Desperate to make a good impression, I commenced to prattle about my plans for the future—how I intended to go to business school and work diligently to provide a good life for his daughter. I waxed on and on. Still he said nothing and the silence was like a fart in an elevator: suffocating and uncomfortable. Expecting the worst, I finally asked him outright: “How do you feel about all this?”
That’s when I heard the sniffles and jagged breathing that must have been there all along. With a pinched voice that couldn’t hide the emotion behind it, he answered: “I always hoped my girls would marry good guys.” Hallelujah, I thought, but in the next instant Evan gathered his composure and drew a line in the sand in a way that we laughed about in the years to come: “But if you ever hurt my girl,” he said, “I will hunt you down and beat the hell out of you.”
Despite that inauspicious start, I would learn to think of Evan as the second-best reason I married Lori. In fact, on more than one occasion I was so moved by his fierce loyalty to family and everything decent that I would tell him: I married your daughter so I could be your son-in-law. There were so many reasons to feel that way.
At one time, Evan was a regional representative for his church, a role that made him responsible for the spiritual welfare of many thousands of people. In that role he was asked to speak on the topic of leadership at BYU Hawaii. Standing before a roomful of students, he began his address by asking a question: “What’s the most important prerequisite to being a leader?”
Immediately hands went up and several young people offered opinions. One of them said humility was the most important attribute for a leader. Another said it was spirituality. Someone else said it was wisdom. After each reply Evan nodded, but said there was another—more obvious—answer. In the end, he responded to his own question by saying the following: “The most important prerequisite to being a leader is BEING IN THE LEAD!”
And that’s Evan in a nutshell: He was first to begin a group task and the last to put a broom away once the work was done. Yet, it’s what put him in the lead that makes his life so compelling. After Lori and I were married, we received numerous congratulatory cards from friends in Hawaii. Evan sat with us as we opened the envelopes and he offered details about the life of each and every sender. He spoke of their aspirations and achievements, and so much pride was in his voice, a casual listener might have assumed he was talking about his own accomplishments. Suddenly, from one of the cards, a five dollar bill slipped out and Evan got misty-eyed. The money, he said, had come from a widow who lived on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the gift without cutting something important out of her budget. He wiped away a tear and said in a resolute way, “I’ll make it up to her.” Now, I don’t know what he did—whether it was to buy her a sack of groceries, or perform some chore she would have had to pay a handyman for—but I have no doubt that in some quiet way he did make it up to her.
I also have little doubt that we will see him again. Noble men like Evan are bigger than death. In a way, he’s only graduated to something far grander. I look forward to walking good dogs along oak-lined trails with him once more. I look forward to hearing more of his stories and laughing with him again. I look forward to speaking the words of thanks I didn’t express in time: Thank you, Dad, for the example of love and loyalty you exemplified with your every deed and spoken thought.
And I love you tons.