4 Months, 4 Gifts: A Tribute to My Dad

March 1986:  Mom and Dad Longenecker visit the families of my sister Janice and me in Jacksonville, Florida. We all enjoy Epcot in Disney World, Dad’s chance to see a faux version of the Switzerland he never actually visited but planned to some day. My super-charged Dad seems more mellow now, slower, even takes naps. “Hey, Dad, I see you’re getting a pooch here,” says son-in-law Cliff, commenting on my dad’s weight gain as he playfully pinches his waistline.


April 1986:  We get a call from Pennsylvania, “Dad has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Blood cell tumors have developed in the lymphatic system. Stage 4 . . . it’s too advanced to operate . . . they can try chemotherapy, maybe radiation after that  . . . .” Like an earthquake, the news sends shock-waves through our family. Why, we just saw him a month ago.

May 1986:  My father is now dying of lymphoma. I leave my husband and children and fly up to Pennsylvania, alone, to see him alive for the very last time. He looks nothing like my image of him in March. His skin, scorched red-brown from chemotherapy, reminds me of a starving Indian. He is wasting away. “I don’t want to live like this,” he says, calling a halt to the treatment. Too weak to climb to the upstairs bedroom, he reclines now almost motionless on the pull-out bed in the living room, a solitary pillow under his head. On May 17 his 71st birthday comes and goes.

My flight south leaves a few days later. This is probably the last time I will see my father in this life. I approach him to say goodbye, and I add: “I love you, Daddy.”

June 18, 1986  Daddy breathes his last, less than three months after his cancer diagnosis. We get the dreaded call and make plans to drive north for the funeral. My mind flits around in reminiscence.  And then leaps forward with prediction: Now Dad won’t be attending the ceremony where I receive my Master’s degree in December. He won’t stand up to be photographed at any of his grand-children’s weddings or get to play with his great-grandchildren any more. At age 71, he has reached his heavenly home.

Had he lived, he would have turned 100 years old this year, like Aunt Cecilia.



On this Father’s Day nearly 30 years later, I pause to give thanks for the gifts my father has given me:

1. Love of nature  He went on walks in the wide meadows and sun-dappled woods close to Rheems, PA on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes I went with him.

2. Love for music   He played a banjo, guitar, and piano with gusto and bought me a violin. Music has formed the sound-scape of my mind since then.

3. Intellectual curiosity  He perused US News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal, listened to Edward R. Murrow, Paul Harvey, and Lowell Thomas, engaged in conversation about world events.

4. Value of hard work  There was the tomato field, the sweet potato plot, the shop . . . .

Framed needlework above one of the kitchen doors in Grandma Longenecker's house
Framed needlework above a kitchen door in Grandma Longenecker’s house

Exodus 20:12  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  (King James Version)

My father’s deep faith in God included honoring his own parents.

* * *

Thank you for your thoughts on Father’s Day 2015. You always make the conversation richer!


7 Things I’m Thankful For

My secret joys (and struggles) show up in my gratitude books. You can see some of them here. But my list this week has sprung from my 9-day trip to Pennsylvania to visit family and take care of Mother’s house in mid-November 2014.

In her devotional book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp begins with a chapter entitled Surprising Grace in which she discusses how she and her Farmer Husband “give thanks even when things look like a failure.” Or when one experiences loss.

This year Mother died, we’ve had to sell her beloved house and its contents, I’ve struggled with a motley crew of personal challenges, and still I give thanks:

  • Health – I have an odd muscular neck pain (yes, pain in my neck!) yet I went up and down 3 flights of stairs from attic to cellar dozens of times, no problem.
  • My sisters and brother – We sorted, boxed, laughed, cried, disagreed, but ultimately met the challenge on time.   MarianJeanMark
  • My Aunt Cecilia – She’ll be 100 years old in March, still going strong. We found Aunt Ceci cheerfully playing the Tumbling Blocks game on the computer beside her. “It keeps my mind sharp!” she laughs. A Mennonite preacher’s wife, Aunt Cecilia Metzler raised a family of five children on a Lancaster County farm.AuntCecilia
  • My Aunt Ruthie – The photo is fuzzy here, just like her memory. But after she viewed some of the movies she filmed in her 20s and 30s that appear on other blog posts (here and here) she smiles, “ These pictures really make my mind come alive.” RuthieLookingVideo
  • An heritage with spiritual depth – When my ancestors arrived in The New World, they brought with them the Holy Scriptures. This one, the Nuremberg Bible, is dated 1765.


  • The memory of my Mother – When Mother died, she still had a current driver’s license, paid all of her bills by check, and kept appointments on her calendar. She sent birthday cards to all her children, grand-children, and great grand-children, represented by names penned into the blocks. She died on the 28th of July, a date we marked with a red asterisk.


  • My family – This photo is six years old, taken when baby Ian no longer needed a breathing apparatus. Just so you know: our daughter Crista is blonde, Joel, dark-haired. With the older boys now 11 years old, we are due for an update!

Beaman_Dalton_Christmas Card_2008

Ann Voskamp continues by quoting the first reference in Scripture containing the word thanksgiving, mingling peace and gratitude:

And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 

Leviticus 7:11 – 13   ESV

My conclusion: Gratitude brings peace and ultimately joy.

Writer Voskamp concludes: ” . . . standing straight into wind is how to fly on His wings of grace.”

Finally, a song I remember from childhood from that seems appropriate for the season:

What are you grateful for? Join me in naming your blessings.



It so falls out  / That what we have we prize not to the worth, / Whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, / Why, then we rack the value; then we find / The virtue, that possession would not show us / Whiles it was ours.   Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Sc. 1, Shakespeare

Is it true we don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it? What do you think?


5 Entries from my grandsons’ gratitude books:

1. The color GREEN
2. My dog Teddy
3. The Geico gecko
4. That I’m not an orfan
5. Pokemon

Curtis_GratitudeBk Ian_GratitudeBk

Some Entries from my gratitude book:

1. Hyacinths in the supermarket
2. Fell on pavement – didn’t break any bones
3. I can close the zipper on my size ? dress, barely, but still can
4. Talk on phone to 94-year-old Mom
5. New friend, Vietnamese neighbor
6. Lunch with former student Ivy
7. Clouds *

* Love Alexander McCall Smith’s new book, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds. He writes of Scotland and Botswana with equal enthusiasm. Check him out for mystery lite!

How do you express what you are thankful for? Do you share with friends? Grandchildren? Use a journal, scrapbook?

What have you enjoyed but taken for granted and then lost? Let’s chat!