Tag Archives: Memories

Kids Photos on My Office Desk

Some additional items that I will need to take home before I retire are the photos that have graced my office desk for all these years. I started working at this location over 30+ years ago, before my daughter and youngest son were even born and when our oldest son was just one year old. So you could say, my kids have literally grown up with me while I worked here.

The earliest photos I brought to display on my desk were the ones that were taken when they were in school (or pre-school), the ones taken by a professional photographer in September at the beginning of each academic year. Each fall, they would get a new picture made and I would bring them all to work to replace the previous year’s photo. I have used these same frames all that time so the frames themselves are almost as old as my kids.

During the year, it was a gradual growing up process that my wife and I witnessed. But when I replaced the photo from the year before with the newest one, there was typically a stark difference in their appearance. My daughter was actually born five days after I started working here so every year she celebrated her birthday; I too celebrated a work anniversary.

Each time I added a new photo, I put it in front of the previous photo so that the frames include all ten or so photos of each child. Their last photo was of a high school graduation, a college graduation, or a graduate school graduation photo (not necessarily a reflection of their highest achieved degree but rather just the last time the event was captured by a professional photographer).

I often thought these would make a nice collage, all 5 X7 prints in a single matted frame but since I have previously scanned all these photos, I could also make a digital collage.

It is bitter sweet to look back over the photos and see how each child has grown over the years.

Photos have always been some of my most prized possessions as they bridge us back to another time, a time we may not be able to recall so easily within our mind. But it is also with the knowledge that these photos provide only a visual image of each child at that stage of their life. To know their personality, to know the fine adult that they have grown into and to know the person whom they really are, you would have to have witnessed their growing up all these years.

Sadly working full time all those years, I missed a lot of this growing up and so these photos, no matter how precious they are cannot make up for that. But once I retire, I will be able to spend more time with each one of them, the families they have started (and the grandkids!), to reflect on the memories of them growing up, to get to know them more, and to share in the sheer joy of just being there with them.

Photos on My Office Wall

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Some of the items that I will need to take home when I retire are these 11 framed photos hanging on my office wall. I cannot even begin to fathom how long they have hung on my wall, but I know they have moved from one office to another each time my office changed. Considering that I have worked at the same site and in the same building for over 30 years, they are probably quite old.

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A close up inspection reveals that these are really cheap, 8” X 10” metal frames with a “faux-wood” finish.   I think I probably bought them at Target years ago. At least once when I moved into a larger office, which had a larger wall, I had to search for additional frames of the same design to expand my gallery.

Over the years, I would occasionally change out a photo for a newer one but with one exception, the photos were always either of my family (wife and kids), travel, or my cars. And the reason I know this is because each time I added a new photo, I simply put it on top of the photo previously displayed.

I recently took down each frame and took off the back just to see what treasures were hiding inside the frames.

In some, I found just a few photos but in others, the frame contained four or five photos. As I looked through the photos “archived” in each frame, I saw some of these images for the first time in many, many years.

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Harahan Bridge over Mississippi River

The earliest of these photos were black and whites. Prior to getting married, I had bought all the equipment necessary to develop and print my own black and white photos from black and white film. But some of the ones in the frames I realized I had printed from color 35 mm negatives as I recognized the image as a familiar color snapshot from my first year of marriage (back in my “artsy” pre-digital camera age when the only way I could make a black and white photo was to either print it this way or to use black and white film).

Based on finding just four black and white photos, my earliest wall gallery must have only included four frames.

Once I started traveling internationally, I began to add pictures from my travels, replacing all of my black and white photos with color photos.

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Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

And as my travels increased, I needed to add additional frames to accommodate photos from all my trips.

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

When family members traveled with me on these international trips, they appeared in my displayed photos as well.

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Sometime in the early 2000s, I began to display photos of my cars (at first two and then three cars in 2006) and then in 2011, I added photos from my two oldest children’s weddings.

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As my travels continued, I began to replace old travel photos with newer ones.

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In May of 2016 when I bought my latest car, I planned on replacing the picture of my Mini, which we no longer owned, with my new WRX.

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But then just days later, I got word that my work site was closing.

So rather than adding to my collection, I began to think about what I was going to do with my photo gallery when I left. Since the frames are so cheap, I wouldn’t want to display them inside our house unless I invested in much nicer frames.

And then I came upon the idea of hanging them all in our garage over my workbench. After all, once I retire, I will be spending a lot more time at my workbench doing one of the things I love doing, working with my hands.

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I’ve wanted to take down these shelves for quite some time since they just end up becoming a storage space for old paints and chemicals that are not even good anymore. Now I have a good reason to.

So rather than boxing up these old frames and sticking them in the attic or worse yet, throwing them away, they will simply relocate to one of my “new” office walls. Because after all, every time my office moved these gems moved with me. And so they will!

What, Me Worry?

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No doubt that phrase will be very familiar to any baby-boomer from his or hers days of reading Mad Magazine in the 1960s. Interestingly, as I was pondering exploring this topic of worrying from my past, this catchphrase popped into my mind. For long ago, I was a worrier, an extreme one.

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As a young adolescent, I worried about a lot of things. I don’t specifically recall why or what I worried about but I know I did. Whether or not this worrying was somehow related to fear as is sometimes the case, I do not know. But I do know my mother was afraid of a number of things (fear of driving, fear of flying) and maybe I picked up some of her fears (although I am not afraid of either driving or flying). When I became a teenager, this worrying ratcheted up to almost become an obsession.

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When I bought a motorcycle, I recall worrying at night if I had remembered to lock the handlebars so it couldn’t be stolen off our carport. Since locking it was a daily habit I did without even thinking about it, off I would run outside before bedtime to check since I couldn’t consciously recall. Admittedly this was not rational as I am certain it was insured but that didn’t cross the mind of me as a 13-year old.

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When I bought my first car in 1973, I used to worry if I would make enough money each month to pay my car note ($107 I seem to recall). At the time, I was in high school working part-time at a local department selling ladies shoes. But today, looking back over my earnings for those years while in high school and college, I actually made enough money each year to pay off the car in less than 12 months. In hindsight, needless worry but nonetheless enough worry at the time that I even had to seek medical attention for a stomach ulcer.

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After I got married, bought a house, and started a family, I had even more potential things to worry about.

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Later in life, I figured out that a lot of these old worries were rooted in a fear of not having enough money. I used to get very upset whenever something broke (cars, AC, etc.); not so much as I was literally expected to fix it myself but that there might not be enough money to repair it. But there always was.

However, somewhere along the way, and I can’t place a finger on particularly when, I developed a strong faith.

I don’t want you, my reader to think that this is turning into a proselytizing post but this construct is important to the outcome of my worries. For me, growing up the son of a Presbyterian minister, this is faith in God but for others, I recognize that this could be faith in a higher power.

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Whichever form this might take for you, I developed a strong faith that what was meant to work out would work out. I know this belief borders on predestination and I am not necessarily supporting or disputing that theory. I simply believe at any given moment in our lives that what is meant to happen will happen.

With this strong faith, there is no need for worry. But that is not to say that occasionally I don’t slip back into my old ways and worry about something. I do. I just have to remember to step back and recall my faith.

Knowing now that fear of not having enough money was the root of a lot of my worries, I have tried very hard to make sure our three kids know that I have their back, that they can come to the “Bank of Dad” in a crisis. Sure, as all parents do, I wanted them to grow up to be financially independent on their own. But I never wanted them to experience my fear. Hopefully they haven’t.

So returning to my title, “What, me worry?” While it came to mind when I thought about this topic, it is not the laissez faire attitude this question might suggest. Rather, it’s faith that overcame my worries.

Old Files

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Even though my retirement is still months away, I have already begun to clean out some old files as the archiving staff will be leaving before my last day. I have been the head of Stability for over 25 years so some of my files go back that far. On the first day of our site-wide clean up, I began to go through some of these quarter century old files.

It was really interesting looking back at some of the reports I approved in 1991. Even more interesting was seeing the names of fellow workers from that period that I had not even thought of in probably almost that long. Sadly, a few of them are not still alive so as I ran across their names, it was with a touch of sorrow.

But as I thumbed through documents from some of the other companies we worked with in the past, it was joyous to see names of people I know now that back then were just another name on a report. It is truly amazing how small the pharmaceutical industry really is.

That first day, I only managed to clean out one 5-drawer lateral file cabinet so I have a number of other files still to go through before I’m done. I fortunately didn’t come across any original documents that would have to go through the lengthy archival process. I did, however, generate a lot of recyclable waste. I can’t image how many trips I made to the recycle bin but I know I met my Fitbit 10,000-step goal that day (I even had to search for additional bins as along with fellow employees, we filled up all the ones close by.).

In advance of this clean-up day, I actually started going through some even older files that dated back to when I first started working.

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I ran across this photo of me that I think must have been taken for the company newspaper (remember those?).

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When I pulled out this file labeled “Programs”, I didn’t quite know what would be hidden inside. I was floored when I opened it.

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Inside was a Basic computer program I had written to crunch method validation data. My boss, when I first started, was very much into computerization (this was 1982) and challenged me as one of my first special projects to come up with a program to perform these method validation calculations.

When I was in college in the mid 1970s, I had studied Basic programming in a calculus lab course I had to take. Back then, the computer we had was a mainframe the size of two deep freezers end to end. We hand wrote out our program (there were no word-processors) and then typed each line of code onto a punch card (e.g., 100 cards for a 100 line program). Our task was to write a program to take multiple inputs of student’s individual test scores, generate a semester average for each student, assign a letter grade, and then rank order the students from highest to lowest average. I had had no exposure to computer programming in high school so this first semester freshman class proved to be a challenging assignment that I ultimately was not able to finish.

Imagine my chagrin when my boss assigned this project to me, a task far more challenging than my college assignment. Maybe it was the motivation of wanting to impress my boss (or the fact that I was being paid to do this rather than just earning a grade) but I remember taking home books on programming in Basic and hand writing my program at the kitchen table. Fortunately less than a decade after college, we were working on a “mini-computer” using a text processor that could take our lines of code and compile them into machine language—no more punch cards—so once my program was complete, I typed it into the text processor.

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Turns out writing it was a blast! I had to write several subroutines to perform the actual linear regression and to output the data in a table. I even figured out how to sort the data with a single pass through the calculated results, a functionality that had eluded me in college.

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In the same folder, I also found that I had started writing a computer program to manage our family budget. Only problem was this predated the invention of personal computers and so I had no computer of my own on which to run this program. But for a more “legitimate” business use, I did find that I had written a program to track our golf league participant’s scores and total them up to determine the season’s winners. It was almost like that student’s test score program I never was able to write correctly in college, only with golf scores rather than test scores.

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As I looked over these 34 year-old documents, I recalled the fun I had had writing these and the sense of pride that on my own, I had taught myself how to successfully program in Basic. It seemed that once I had slayed that old nemesis from college, I was bubbling with confidence to try even more.

I wonder on our next clean-up day what other treasures like these I may uncover that bring back such fond memories. I guess only time will tell.

A Sermon a Day

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This year for Lent, I did something different. Rather than the usual approach of giving up something for Lent as a sacrifice like chocolate or adult beverages, I chose the alternative approach and started doing something instead. I don’t recall how I came up with this idea but I decided that I would read one of my dad’s sermons every day during Lent. Having received and organized my dad’s over 700 sermons in 2016, I knew that I wanted to read them all so I thought this would be a good way to get started. And since I had them organized in numerical order from 1 to 710, I naturally started with number 1.

As I sat down that first time to read sermon number #1, I felt a closeness to my dad holding the same pages he had held over 70 years before.

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I also read the cited Bible passage upon which the sermon was based in my dad’s tattered “work” Bible, a chain-reference Bible published in 1934. After reading just the first sermon, I knew I had chosen a wise activity for Lent.

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I don’t know when my dad wrote this sermon but according to the date on the folder, he preached it for the first time in August 1946 in Duncan Oklahoma, a time when he was still in Seminary. It is entitled “Jesus, the Door” and is based on the scripture in John about the shepard’s fold and the single opening where the sheep went in to and out of the fold. It is the parable where Jesus states that he is the door. In the sermon, it was enlightening to read an actual shepard’s response to the question why there was no door in the fold, only an opening. The shepard’s reply was that after the flock went into the fold, the shepard would lay down in the opening acting as the door, preventing the sheep from leaving the fold and predators from getting in.

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For me, it made a clear revelation of this parable like I hadn’t recalled before. Looking at the seven dates my dad gave this sermon, only once could I have even possibly heard this one, a time when I was about 10 years old. But what really sent chills all over me was when I read my dad’s closing comments describing the Holman Hunt painting, “The Light of the World.” It was a copy of this very painting that I remember hanging on my dad’s church office wall. And it is the same painting that my sister got to see on her visit to Europe and which she brought a copy back to me that has now been hanging in my office ever since.

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I never knew the significance of that painting. That it was a direct tie back to my dad’s very first sermon, a talisman of where he got started. What a way to begin Lent!

And just five days into Lent, I came across another significant sermon: number 5 entitled “If Christ Be Not Raised!”

As I thought about it, I realized that writing a sermon about Easter and the Resurrection was probably one of the most important ones ever written by a young minister. As any Christian knows who has attended an Easter service and experienced the crowd, this one Sunday is the most widely attended of any in a calendar year. So a minister would want this sermon to be one of his better ones. And with Dad’s, I was not disappointed.

Based on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 15:1-20) where Paul writes about doubts that have arisen of a resurrection, Paul addresses three aspects that would be anathema to early Christians if Christ had not been raised from the dead; namely that their faith would be in vain, their sins not forgiven, and the dead gone before them perished with no hope of life ever after.

Then in archetypal fashion of including three main points in a sermon, Dad proceeded to build very logical arguments around each of these three that for a Christian would leave no doubt of their importance in supporting a belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

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In all my years of attending church/mass, it was the best Easter sermon I recalled hearing, and for my private reading, one with no crowds. My Dad must have agreed as he gave it almost annually every Easter for his first ten years of preaching.

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As I wrote previously about my dad’s sermons, also included in the numbered folders were the church bulletins from the services in which he gave the sermon. I delighted in seeing the “retro” cover image of some of these bulletins.

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In this one from April 17, 1949, there was a bonus: a note of welcome to my mom and dad on becoming the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Tallulah, Louisiana, his first church after graduating from Seminary and just months after his February marriage to my mom.

Then I realized that not only would I learn some things from reading my dad’s sermons, but I would also get a bit of family history from the stories told in the bulletins. Another bulletin announced our family’s vacation to Richmond, Virginia, a trip I well remember.

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So this is how I spent my journey through Lent, reading my dad’s sermons, learning from his words written long ago, and feeling as close as I have to him since his death over 15 years ago.

A Tale of Two Cabinets: Dad’s Sermons – Getting Them Organized.

Another month went by before I had time to continue my exploration of the bins. It was actually Thanksgiving night, still thoroughly stuffed from our Thanksgiving lunch, while watching college football that I returned to my effort.

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I had come to the realization over the past month that each time I thought about these sermons, the next step of my discovery process was really going to be predicated on my getting them more organized. While each bin represented one drawer from my dad’s file cabinet, the folders inside the bins were in random order as we had pulled them from the drawer. Since I didn’t have an empty file cabinet of my own to put them in, I raided my wife’s stash of Bankers Boxes.

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As I pulled handfuls of folders from the first bin, they were in somewhat numerical order. But then I would run across a number series well before or after the stack I had just pulled. Soon I had several stacks of sequences and I began to put them in the box in order, starting with number 1. It was a little like assembling a puzzle.

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I did have to pause for a moment when I found folder #1 to look through its contents. This was at least the first documented sermon my dad ever wrote. It was entitled; “Jesus, The Door” and my dad first preached it in August 1946 in Duncan, Oklahoma. This would have been while my dad was still in Seminary and thus even predated the beginning of his professional ministry. It gave me chills to hold this folder recognizing it was one my dad had written on at the young age of 19 over 70 years ago.

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Then returning to the process of getting them organized, I ran across #191 that had been given more times than the others I had seen. When I had randomly pulled folders from the bin, I hadn’t found a sermon that had been given as many as 10 times.

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I thought this was a lot until I came across #15 and saw that the dates literally ran the length of the folder. Curious, I checked my dad’s book of 32 sermons that he had typed up and sure enough it was in there, one of the ones he considered his best. In fact, it was the sermon that had the footnote at the end that said this was the sermon he gave the day he met his future wife. It sent chills through me as I realized he had written on this folder the day he met my mom, April 25, 1948, as duly noted on the folder.

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In no time I had filled the first box with sermons #1 through #190 and started on the next.

As I pulled more folders from the bin and ordered them in increasing numerical number, I began to notice that my dad had religiously (pun intended) used three-tab folders for all those years. He even strictly used them in cascading fashion (first left 1/3, then middle 1/3, finally right 1/3) so as I pulled a handful from the bin, it was easy to see if I had them in the right order, scanning across the tabs.

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Occasionally, I would run across a missing number only to be found later as I continued to empty the bins. But a few folders I never did find. It got me to thinking what might have happened to those. Maybe Dad had retrieved them to prepare for a future church service, but one that he never got to give as he died so suddenly. I can only wonder if these will ever be found.

Once I had pulled all the sermon folders from the bins and organized them in increasing numerical order, I had filled five Bankers Boxes.

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It was a pleasure to see them all organized again.

But as I pulled the last few sermons from the third bin, I found there were still some other folders left in the bin, each labeled with a single alphabetical letter.

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I opened a few of these and found that they were individual typed pages with quotes from books Dad had read that he thought could be included in future sermons. And in the top right corner in Dad’s organized fashion, there were hand notations as to when and which sermon he had incorporated the idea. I recalled from reading the 32 sermons last year that Dad would often quote verbatim a passage from some learned source in his sermons. Now I understood how he was able to easily access those.

For instance, if he were going to write a sermon on “death”, he would pull out his “D” folder to find what additional sources he could incorporate into his sermon. It was with a little sense of Sherlock Holmes that I had deduced part of my dad’s system.

Returning to the sermons, I discovered that rather than the 706 that I had expected to find based on the typed list, there were actually 710 sermons. Puzzled, I pulled out #706 and noted the date—February 23, 1986. The date on #707 was March 28, 1991, over five years later. Thinking about this time gap, I then remembered that Dad had retired in December 1989. So the last time he updated his list of sermons was sometime after he wrote #706 and prior to his retirement. I guess by then, Dad figured he had enough previously written sermons that he could draw from for the remaining few years of his active service.   However, knowing how hard my dad had worked his entire life, I would never think that he just “coasted” for his last few years of ministry before retiring.

Having completed my organization task, I felt I was in a much better position for reading and exploring them. As I thought about these typed sermons, I realized they comprised a significant part of my dad’s professional career. Although his ministries to church members no doubt took up much of his professional time, these sermons represented his creativity, the times when he was alone in thought, thinking of ideas to convey.

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To me, these written sermons represented another aspect of his life I didn’t know. And with these sermons now more organized, I felt I was ready to gain another glimpse into my dad’s life as I had briefly explored before to learn more about the man I most admire, the man I didn’t get to know well enough before he was gone.

A Tale of Two Cabinets: Dad’s Sermons – All of Them!

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Due to a busy fall, it was over a month before I got a chance to start going through Dad’s sermons.

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Another item that my sister gave me was this small black book she had had since he died. Inside was a typed list of all his sermons in numerical order. Based on this book, I should find 706 file folders, one for each sermon he had written.

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At random, I pulled a couple of folders out and started going through them. On the outside of each folder was the date and location of when the sermon was given. I noticed on some of the folders that the sermon was given a number of times over the years, always at a different location (he apparently had no reruns, never giving the same sermon to the same congregation).

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On others, the sermons were given as few as only once or twice. I pondered if this meant in my dad’s opinion, that this sermon was not good enough to be given more than a couple of times. Or more likely as I found in one sermon folder, it was written for a special one-time occasion.

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As I had seen when I read my dad’s book of 32 sermons last year, some of the text was all in caps and some was in both caps and lower case letters.   But in these sermons, there was underlining in four different colors, green, purple, red and black. I wondered what the significance of the different colors meant to my dad. Obviously they served as visual cues as to how he should speak or the tone of voice he might use. But unless I could find a legend somewhere in his files, the secret of the color-coding might be lost forever.

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I also found in the folder, the church bulletin from each Sunday the sermon was given. I remembered in conversation with my sister about the files, that the hymns were specifically selected to go with the sermon topic. So while the old bulletins might be nostalgic to me much like a retained copy of each course brochure I have taught over the last 20 years, for my dad, the bulletins simply documented the hymns that should be used each time that sermon was given.

While I had pulled these files at random from one of the three bins, it was interesting when I began to notice that these were written the year I got married. I scanned through the folders that fall and specifically opened up the one my dad gave the day after I got married. It gave me an idea that I could go back and find significant dates in our lives and see what words my dad spoke on those Sundays around that time.

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Returning to the black book, I began to go through it to see what all it contained. While the listing of his sermons were only a few loose sheets in the front, I wondered what the rest of the book contained.

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The first few pages seemed to be notes written for a Bible study of the book of Matthew.

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There were also individual hand-written note pages where my dad was mapping out each chapter of Matthew, verse by verse. It appeared to be incomplete as it ended at chapter 5, well short of the 28 chapters in the book of Matthew. This might have been where his Bible study group ended but was never picked up again. Or this might have been as far as he intended to cover it. I would never know the reason.

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In the rest of the book were additional sermons, much shorter than the sermons in the file folders I had just looked through. I pondered why these would be separate but then I noticed up in the top right corner of each separate sermon, a small written date followed by (p.m.). Then I remembered that during our years in West Monroe, in addition to Sunday school at 9:45 AM and the morning service at 11:00 AM, there was an abbreviated Sunday evening service at 7:00 PM. This recollection brought back a vague memory of me dreading to have to go back to church on Sunday evening. It seemed I had already spent my whole morning at church, why should I have to go back in the evening? But we did.

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These pages chronicled his shorter sermons for those Sunday evening services. The earliest one I could find in the book was from August, 18 1963. The last one was dated January 31, 1965 and counting them all up there were 49 additional sermons not included on his typed list of folders sermons.

At that point the sermons ended. I don’t know if the evening service was discontinued at that point, or if after that Dad just didn’t use prepared notes for his sermon. It wasn’t too long after that date that we moved to Arkansas to a new church so it could just be that the services ended.

To be continued…