March 6, 2015. Goodbye Dave, gentle brother in law. The Contolini family loves you.
I remember getting in the car to leave your house in Indiana this summer and thinking how kind you and Natalie had been to us and how sweet you both looked waiving goodbye to us; so I grabbed Isabella's iPhone and snapped this picture. I wondered when we would see you again. It had been years since our last visit to your house. It is such a clear memory. Your almost-ever-present, genuine smile is one thing that really stands out in my mind from our last visit. I am happy our paths crossed even though I wish I could have known you better. Norine has imparted in our family life and house so many practices and things that, as a young woman, she has observed you and Natalie do. I thank you for that. Thank you for teaching us about living simply, about being generous even when we don't have much and thank you for showing us strong faith. I am trying to imitate your reading of Scripture and of the liturgy of the hours throughout the day and to the family. Isabella and Emanuela loaded an app for that on their iphones.
I could not be there this past week, but Norine says that even your final earthly goodbye was a lesson in humility, dignity and joy. It was a celebration of your life, marked, in part, by the sadness of temporary separation but also by the joy and assurance that you are now with God where you wanted to be and where we all hope to join you someday. Your family gave you one last great gift in preparing and carrying on a unique and beautiful goodbye.
Even in the most difficult moment in life your family has taught us a lesson that we want to imitate. Thank you! That says a lot about who you were, and still are, as a father, leader and husband.
Watch over all of us now and please hug to our little "pumpkin" for us.
You may have seen in a post from last year http://smeeko.blogspot.com/2014/01/who-is-your-favorite-saint.html that Isabella designs custom wooden peg dolls. Well, Lent starts this Wednesday, so Isabella created a passion set, including several new characters, including St Veronica, St John, two Roman Soldiers, Pontius Pilate, and more! If you are interested in any of these you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don't go to the office on Wednesdays, but rather I am blessed to spend time at home with Norine, be an at-home dad and to do some freelance translation and consulting work. It was hard at first to move to a 32 hours a week. I felt guilty, like a student that skips a day of school. I have now learned to love it. The time I get to spend doing things with everybody in the family is priceless (while for everything else, of course I use my... Visa and MasterCard).
This morning I drove Emma to Front Range Christian High School. She loves it so much and I am so happy we are able to send her there. I love taking the kids to school. It is such a bonding time.
It was a cool Colorado morning at 7:30AM when I dropped off Emma and so I stopped at Columbine park to jog around Johnston Lake. I braved the 50 or so temperature with shorts and no gloves, which is big for me. After running around the lake once I heard the Columbine marching band practicing on their field and remembered that the park borders Columbine High School.
The Columbine is the state flower of Colorado. It is rare and quite elaborate. Beautiful, but surely not my favorite.
So, I decided to jog toward the school that became so sadly famous in April of 1999. I have never been there.
I wanted to find the memorial that was built to remember the 13 people that tragically lost their lives on that day. And there it was...very discrete on the side of a small and unimpressive open-space hill covered with a few brush flowers along with sparse, long and prickly grasses.
You have to know it is there or find it by mistake as you walk the path. There are no signs until you reach it to tell you of its location. Or at least, I did not see any.
It's round in shape, probably 150 feet diameter and carved in red rock, On one side of the circle water runs out of a half wall onto four flat red surfaces and drops four feet into a shallow and narrow pool with a soft sound.
On the other side a taller wall holds quotes from students and parents that experienced April 20, 1999. They are carved in rectangular frames of a different red.
The center holds 13 large slates each with a quote by a person that died on that day or a reflection by their family. I read probably eight of them. They all talk about God and Heaven, about the joy and desire to be with Jesus. Tears wet my eyes. Such young people with such strong faith. God has been removed from public schools in the US, yet all these students clearly clung to him during their lives and even during their last moments. God was surely there. "God is not dead".
It made me pause for a few minutes. If I was asked: "Do you believe in God?" like one of the girls that died at Columbine that day, would I be able to reply: "You know I do!". Peter faced that question too... It is harder than I ever thought it would be, but I hope I would.
Thank you Anne and Natalie's family for your great hospitality and generosity. It was a pleasure and a honor to share into your daily life, to see you in your house and talk and learn from each other. Spending time together helps us appreciate each other more and, hopefully, help us think about each other when we are not together. Time, space and the busyness of life make us forget the beauty of the time spent together. We hope and pray we can bridge the gap and remain closer together in the months ahead.
We enjoyed the water park, the drive-in movie, playing at the beach, a great dinner at Tina's sharing with college friends, a breakfast treat in Gurnee, Italian gelato, the jelly belly factory tour, listening to James improvise on the base (what a blast), wonderful vegetation, cool weather and cool lake Michigan waters, Dave's readings before meals, sleeping with cousins and almost-cousins, the hand-me-down clothes, bike rides in the woods and so many more great moments together...
We love you - The Contolinis