I don't think I've ever known somebody so little and missed them so much.
One of my best friends, Derry Prenkert, went through a tragedy this weekend when his father, Kip, was in a car accident and eventually died from the injuries.
I knew Kip, but not well. I saw him maybe 3-4 times a year and did not have very many occasions to just sit and talk with him or get to know him on a deeper level. So what I know of Kip comes from my own observations of him and the things Derry has told me about him.
Kip was an English teacher before he retired several years ago. I know he loved to read and almost always had a book in hand. I know he loved basketball and would often go to games (with a book in hand) even when his children weren't playing. I know he was generous because he allowed my wife and I to use his cottage in Ludington for a weekend last fall. I know he was a man of few words, but a man of significant, and often humorous, words.
I tried to relay my feelings to Kip's widow, Jeanette, Derry and Derry's oldest brother Robby while I was at the hospital. I mentioned how much I always appreciated their family, even though I never spent much time with them.
Kip and Robby, who seem very similar to me, were some of the most thoughtful people I've ever known. What I mean is they spent a lot of time thinking - not talking. Both seemed to carefully measure their words before speaking and were great at expressing themselves through writing.
When Katie and I went to the cottage we discovered a journal for the people who stayed in that place. Since Kip and Jeanette were the owners they spent more time there than anybody and, thus, had the most entries in the journal. I sat for at least an hour thumbing through the various memories written in that book. The ones by Kip were my favorites.
One journal entry that stuck out to me was about putting up a new basketball hoop outside the cottage and Kip's comment was something like, "It seems to work fine. The ball consistently goes through the hoop when shot from the free throw line."
I remember Kip being chosen to shoot free throws at halftime of a Bethel basketball game. If he could make 10 in a row, he would win some large sum of money. Derry was sure his dad could do it, and it looked like he had a good chance. He made maybe 6 or 7 before missing and ending the game, but I'm sure that if he could have started over he could have made 10 in a row.
I've always had a respect and admiration for people who take great care in choosing their words. I wish I was more like that, but I have trouble enduring the silence. So, Kip always held a special place in my heart - even though I only knew him a little bit.
I miss him very much today. Maybe it's because I know my friend is hurting. Maybe it's because his death makes me realize how quickly somebody you love can be gone. Maybe it makes me realize my own father's mortality. Maybe it's because I would have liked one more experience with him - just to observe his unique personality and humor.
I know for sure Kip is celebrating today because he is with Jesus. He's probably passing the time until his family joins him by reading a book, or shooting free throws ... or maybe even talking to Jesus!