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The first ten years of my life were spent in the small town of Tawas City, Michigan. This little tourist town in northern Michigan is located on Huron Bay, on the sunrise side—or the east side—of the state. It is a pretty little town, and I have many fond memories of my years spent growing up there.
Back in the 1950s the world seemed a somewhat safer place to live. As children growing up in a small town, my sister and I had lots of freedom. We walked to and from school every day. We walked to the beach. We walked to our friend's homes several blocks away. We walked to the cemetery where there was a sand hill we loved to play on. We walked to the post office, the library, and the corner store. Everyone knew everyone, and all looked out for one another.
In the winter we spent time as a family at Silver Valley, a nearby resort where there was a toboggan run, sledding, and ice skating. In the summer we spent many sunny days playing in the sand on the beach and jumping the big waves as they rolled onto the shore.
Christmas was an exciting time, as it is for all children. Each year there was an air of anticipation as we prepared for the children's Christmas Eve service, followed by the opening of gifts at home. Then it was off to Grandma and Grandpa's to celebrate with our aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A Tragic Event
But in October of 1958, without any hint or foreknowledge, our life of happiness and contentment was about to change.
There was excitement in the air. It was Grandpa's birthday, and we were having a party for him at his house. Later in the evening, we children were sent home to prepare for bed. Our father came home to check on us about 8:30 and tell us good night. I have treasured the memory of those few minutes with him over the years. They were our last together.
I woke during the night to the sound of people crying. I wondered what was happening but was afraid to go downstairs to see. When we awoke in the morning, we were told by our uncle that we needed to be strong because he had some sad news for us. Our father had died during the night of a fatal heart attack. He was 39 years old. It was the beginning of a very sad and lonely time for all of us.
The lives of my mother, my sister (age 11), me (age 8), and my little brother (age 3) changed in a heartbeat, from that of happiness and contentment to sorrow, loneliness, and pain. How could we ever be happy again? How could we grow up without a father? Would my little brother even remember him? It was a comfort to know that Daddy was in heaven, but what were we going to do without him?
I never voiced these questions out loud, but they weighed heavily on my heart. I couldn't talk to my mother because she was lost in her own grief and I didn't want to make her cry. My sister was sad too, and my little brother was too young to understand. He kept asking, "When is Daddy coming home?"
The death of a parent is very traumatic for young children. Upon hearing the news, I cried tears of sadness, but the thing I remember most was praying through my tears and asking God to help me trust in him and not ask him why. Now, looking back as a mature adult, it amazes me that an eight-year-old child was able to understand the concept that God is in control of our lives. It brings to mind the words of Jesus, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" (Matthew 11:25).
I am so thankful that I was baptized as a baby and taught to love God and to know Jesus as my Savior from sin. Even at that young age, my faith sustained me.
Do you have a special need, concern, temptation, or heartache? Or do you know someone who does? Our prayer team is ready to pray on your behalf.
Looking for more stories and resources that relate to your life situation? WELS has developed materials for some of life's biggest challenges and changes including going to college, death of a loved one, financial problems, divorce, parenting, fear, aging, and more.