A Life Well-Remembered

I remember, many years ago, sitting with Dad in a homemade ice-shanty-turned-deer-shack on the Lofgren farm in Michigan, where we used to hunt. It was muzzleloader deer season, snowy and cold, and we had a little porcelain-coated gas heater to keep us warm while we watched and waited. Dad was slicing an apple with his pocketknife and placing the slices on the top of the heater, where they hissed, filling the shack with the smell of the roasting fruit.

We ate them once they were soft and warm, and talked quietly together. My father is not a religious man; that day he told me he didn’t believe in an afterlife, but that heaven and hell are how people remember you. To his way of thinking, if you were a good person and took care of your family and your neighbors, you would be loved, missed, and remembered well. You would live on in the hearts of others, and that would be heaven.

If you didn’t, you would not be missed, and your memory would fade—or worse, you would be despised in retrospect. That would be hell.

I don’t share this view personally. I believe in a real and eternal afterlife, and I trust in our merciful God to see the goodness and beauty my father has brought into this world. But in the meantime, I want to give Dad something he can use here and now: a glimpse of his “heaven” as it stands today.

Most of our family and close friends know by now that my dad has both Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. If you hadn’t heard, please know that we didn’t intend to keep you in the dark. It’s not the easiest subject to broach, especially for our emotional clan. Parkinson’s and the resulting effects on his hands and mobility have been problems for several years now. The dementia diagnosis is a newer thing. Over the past few years, Dad’s short-term memory has declined and sequential thinking has become more challenging. More recently he has begun to imagine things.

As I said, it’s hard to share this, and even harder to live it. Dad could do almost anything he set his mind and hands to; he was a machinist, mechanic, and welder; a builder, electrician, and well-driver; a part-time rancher and pack-string wrangler; a hunter, fisherman, and trapper. He had natural engineering intelligence that stumped degreed engineers, and an uncanny ability to read people and know what made them tick in any given moment. To see his body and mind slowly fade is heartbreaking.

But he’s still here with us, and one thing he still enjoys is reminiscing. He loves talking about the things he’s built and the things he’s done, and he remembers the distant past far better than recent occurrences.

So—if you have a favorite story (or a few) about my father, Daryl Thorp, email or mail it to us so he can enjoy the memory now. You can email my mom, Sharon, or send it in the mail to 3110 11-Mile Road, Remus, MI 49340.

If you would like to talk or visit with them, feel free to call my mom. If you needed her number, email her or message me.

Please take the time to share what you remember about my Dad. God bless you all—we hope to hear from you soon!

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