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I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day when a meme stopped me. The photo was of an old, overweight guy pushing a cart out of Lowe’s with a dolly inside. The caption read, “They walk among us . . .” On the surface, that refers to aliens, but often it is used online to describe someone doing something stupid. I stopped scrolling because the man in the photo is my father.

At least I think it’s my father. There is disagreement in my family. If it isn’t him, it’s his doppelganger. The pants, shirt, beard, glasses, hair, face—that’s all him. But the shoes don’t look familiar and my dad always wore a watch. Yet I wonder.

Investigating further, I looked the meme up online and actually found a picture of another guy with a dolly in a cart, this time at Home Depot. That brought some comfort—my dad or not, he is not alone. But then I found a site that shared the photo that I think is my dad. There were all sorts of vile comments about his weight and intelligence. Yes, he put on a lot of weight as he got older. But my father was not stupid.

Even if it isn’t him in the photo, it still feels like a cruel violation. Posting pictures online of unwitting people so you can ridicule them is a vicious sport. And It’s certainly not how I want to remember my dad.

He died one year ago yesterday.

Grief is such an unusual and unpredictable thing. The idea of stages of grief is laughable. Grief is all over the place. A year later, I remember my father in vignettes.

Like how he was persnickety with his order at Wendy’s (He loved Wendy’s so much we had his 50th birthday party there.) He only wanted a bun with a plain hamburger and slice of tomato. This consistently challenged the staff at Wendy’s. He was often disappointed, opening his hamburger to find mustard or ketchup or pickles or onions. One time he made his order so forcefully they gave him a bun and a slice of tomato. No hamburger.

He had a curious vocabulary. When things were going his way, he’d say, “I’m codlocked on a three-bagger.” There were many other words he’d use that are best not printed here. He’d spent his career in the Army and then at General Motors, both breeding grounds of creative expression.

As a GM man, he disliked people who drove foreign cars. (One of his grandkids told him her new car was a “GM Honda” and he seemed satisfied.) As a Michigan State alum, he disliked the University of Michigan. As a straight-arrow Eisenhower Republican, he disliked hippies. One Thanksgiving Day, I was driving and he was in the passenger seat and we overtook a rusty Toyota on I-94. The car had a U of M bumper sticker and the driver had long hair, a beard, and was wearing granny glasses. This guy had three strikes on him and he didn’t even know he was up to bat. He looked over at us and my dad nodded and then calmly raised his middle finger. I hit the accelerator. I have long imagined that poor man unable to enjoy his turkey dinner as he tried to figure out what he’d done wrong.

My dad voted Republican from 1952 until the 2016 election. That year he wrote in the name of his neighbor Warren for president, figuring Warren had more going for him than either of the major party candidates.

Would you make fun of this guy? My dad in Korea in 1953.

About five years ago we were in the emergency room after he’d had a mini-stroke and was having trouble finding words. The doctor was asking cognition questions: “What day is it?” “Where are you?” Then he asked, “What’s the name of the president?” My dad glared at the doctor and didn’t speak. The doctor scribbled notes. I started laughing and said, “That doesn’t mean anything, He refuses to speak the name of the president.” “Is that true?” the doctor asked. “Don’t make me say his name,” my dad said. The doctor smiled and said, “I think you’re going to be okay.”

He never smoked or drank—yet he had cirrhosis of the liver at the end of his life. The list of things wrong with him at the end was long—diabetes, prostate cancer, vertigo, hypertension, dementia, and on and on. Even with all that he lived to be 91.

That long list notwithstanding, he died suddenly. My brother was with him, so he wasn’t alone, but none of the rest of us were there. There was no deathbed scene, no tearful and heartfelt goodbyes, no last chance to pray and read a Psalm and say I love you. We imagine beautiful deaths at home among family, but many of us die in facilities surrounded by strangers.

I preached at his funeral. Revelation 7 and I Corinthians 15. I preached because it had been 43 years since he’d had a pastor. He was heavily involved in the church for 48 years and then not involved for 43 years, following his divorce from my mother. My dear step-mother is Catholic, so he’d attend mass with her occasionally, but he didn’t really make any strong connections in that community. When I was in high school he was an elder, sang in the men’s chorus and chancel choir, and helped with the stewardship campaign. All that ended abruptly. In effect, my mom got the church in their divorce. She stayed, he never went back.

He loved to play—euchre, pinochle, and most any board game. He loved gathering with his family. We didn’t have to say or do any particular thing, just be together. Being together meant a lot. Christmas and birthdays and an extended family trip to Mackinac Island every summer were big deals.

One last thing: When Michael Moore’s movie Roger and Me came out, blaming General Motors for the downfall of our hometown of Flint, my dad surprised me by going to see it. He disliked it—Michael Moore would never be his cup of tea—but he disliked it for a reason that surprised me. My dad knew people in that movie and was saddened because his friends, good and decent people, were ridiculed by the filmmaker. That wasn’t right. Now, in a similar way, the same thing has happened to my dad. There he is, or someone who looks like his twin, on Facebook, being presented as someone to laugh at.

My father was a real person, fearfully and wonderfully made, complicated and complex.

Just like you and me.  

I miss him.

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal. 


  • Nancy says:

    So much of what you wrote reminds me of my Dad, and he too could have someone else’s meme later in life. Thanks for this post. Kindness (my Dad’s strong suit) is a much better aspiration than generating a laugh online.

  • Whew. Thank you, Jeff. This took my breath away.

    And I’m sorry about the meme. It’s cruel. But there is beauty in your memories of your dad. I am glad you shared them.

  • Deb Mechler says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your beloved father. How it would help if we saw everyone as someone’s mom or dad, or as the child they once were. Thank you.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Thank you for sharing all the rich stories that bind families together; each one unique in it’s love and foibles.
    It is appalling that people do this to strangers, missing the image of God in them, as you have so aptly noted. My grandfather was of the same ilk, although not nearly as verbal or witty. Loved this so much.

  • David Hoff says:

    Jeff, thank you so much. This was so beautiful. I’m missing my dad right now — maybe more than any day since he passed 4 years ago. And I’m missing a good friend who died unexpectedly last month and knowing how much his daughters miss him.

  • Thomas Bartha says:

    Truly a fine tribute to your father, Jeff. Grateful for how your writing stirs so many good thoughts and memories. Even on family vacations my father often wore a necktie and short-sleeved white shirt. Even 52 years after his death I still think of him most days and wish I was more like him.

  • Emily Jane VandenBos Style says:

    A gift, this piece. Thank you for writing it.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    An excellent and loving tribute, Jeff. You have honoured your father. Live long in the land the Lord your God has given you.

  • Doug says:

    Thanks for this, Jeff. An unexpectedly touching piece, a story well told.

  • Jack says:

    When my dad died, a bit of me left and a lot of him stayed.

    What a great good gift you were to your father, Jeff.

  • Timothy Brown says:

    Bless you Jeff Munroe. I love articles about someone else’s life that help me see my own more clearly. This one does just that. Thank you. And since there’s a chance that some other people might read this response I want to bear witness to my love and respect for you as a writer and a friend. From time to time people say kind things to me about my years as President at Western Theological Seminary. You and I both know that had you not been there at the same time much of that would never have happened. It did happen and I bless the Lord for you and your remarkable and crazy skillset!

  • Jack Nyenhuis says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for writing this wonderful tribute to your father, and for reminding us to respect everyone. Thanks also for this ray of light in our darkened world of political mockery and retribution.

  • Leslie Vander Hoff says:

    So sweet that you kindly offered us a peek at the colorful character & unflinching goodness of your father. I am doing some writing, because you, Jeff have coached & inspired me. Very well done.

  • Cathy Smith says:

    So wonderful. I loved it. Thank you.

  • Elizabeth McBride says:

    What a loving and vibrant tribute to your father, Jeff! Thank you for sharing him with us, and for sharing the reminder of the depth and beauty that lies beneath our imperfections. Every person comes to us with a story and a history of their own. To impose the judgements that come from our own experiences upon others is to forget and ignore their distinction from ourselves. Each person’s history (and how they perceive and respond to it) contributes to the person they become, physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. This good and beautiful soul you describe is carried forward in you as well. Thank you for sharing this wonderful remembrance and the reminder of the deep respect each person deserves. Bless you.

  • Mark S. Hiskes says:

    This reflection moved me just as your reflection at your father’s funeral did. In both cases, you make me wish I knew him.

    This one also makes me wish for a simple thing: that more people looked to laugh at others less and to love them more. Thank you, my friend.

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