Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet my dad...

I apologize that I haven’t been posting much on the blog lately. I set a gopal of trying to have something up each week, but I have done a poor job of meeting that goal the last few weeks.

Last Sunday at abour 3:20 my Father passed away after a massive heart attack. If you keep up with my blog you probably saw the post I made about it last Monday. Saturday was his Memorial service. It was one of those bitter sweet moments where you love seeing family that you haven’t seen for a long time, and get to share memories and time together, but there is the elephant in the room as to why we are all here together - because my dad has died. (i found in his library a stack of papers that was every entry of this blog that he had printed out i assume to make it easier to read)

As many of you know who have gone through the death of a parent or other family member there are lots of things that you need to do and take care of. Since i have some writing experience i volunteered (with the help of my brother and sister) to write dad’s obituary and a eulogy that was read at my dad’s memorial service on Saturday. Since there isn’t much else occupying my mind today i figured I would post up dad’s eulogy, and let you get a glimpse of this man that meant so much to me and as I have found out more this week meant so much to so many others. I apologize for its length but dad wasn’t really a guy you could sum up in half a page - in fact as i wrote this I found myself editing it down because there was so much about dad I could share... So here my friends is a BRIEF telling of my dads life...

As I sit down to write our shared memories of our dad, I realize my recollections will surface more than others, which isn't fair and I apologize. I know we all have so many wonderful memories overpowering our thoughts today. As we sat around the table on Monday night I realized our memories and impressions are so limited compared to all the things that dad was to so many people; a friend, a coworker, a teacher, a role model - the list goes on and on. I want to be sure that this is clear; although these comments are made in regards to our father, Steve, Nancy and I are keenly aware it was the partnership of our mom Gerry, with our father Bill, that filled our home with the joy and they together made our family a very special and unique entity which we treasure beyond words.

Bill was born in Pittsburgh Kansas on January, 22nd 1929 to Guy and Clara McMurray. Guy was a hard working school teacher who ultimately became a superintendent of schools and a very successful athletic coach, part of the reason Bill loved sports and was so successful at both football and basketball. Clara, Guy's wife, helped raise her all male family and was forever known as the grandma “who always made sure the grandchildren ate the crust on their bread whenever they visited.”

Bill attended the University of Kansas where he earned a degree in bio physics. On the recommendation of his brother Paul McMurray, Bill moved to Washington State to seek employment at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. At the time nuclear technology was the cutting edge of science and Bill was exploring new frontiers. It was here in Richland that Bill met a petite gorgeous young woman named Geraldine Sue Kelsey. Gerry was living with her brother and sister-in-law who also came out to Richland to find employment. Their first date was to a local football game and the two ultimately were married in a backyard ceremony at the home of her brother Bud Kelsey and his wife Joyce. Bill and Gerry were married for 57 years.

Bill's career spans 40 years at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and was mostly concerned with the area of health physics and emergency preparedness. Bill worked for years in the era where he wasn't at liberty to tell people what he did for a living. In the span of his career Bill was a member of the Health Physics Society and had several articles published in their journal and was a respected expert in the field. On a number of occasions his expertise was called on in the times of crisis. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island mishap, Bill was requested to review safety procedures. Because he was considered one of the few people who had expertise in Graphite Core Reactors, he was on a short list of people who would have been sent to Russia in 1986, had their government asked for help following the Chernobyl accident. Our family was thankful he was never sent to Russia to deal with that situation.

Bill and Gerry adopted their first child Steve in 1958, and adopted their daughter Nancy in 1961. It takes special people to provide a loving home to a child and bring them into their heart. Both Steve and Nancy have commented on their eternal gratefulness that God provided them the gift of a mother and father like our parents. In the summer of 1968 I was born. In my less sanctified moments I would say I was the real McMurray to which Steve and Nancy would reply “mom and dad picked us... they had to keep you”.

Even with sibling fights and arguments the three of us are forever in debt to our mother and father for providing such a wonderful home and family for us to grow in. Our parents encouraged us to be anything we wanted to be-we never felt like there was anything we couldn't do. Our home was a place where we built 747's out of refrigerator boxes and forts with the couch cushions. Our home was a place where Steve could follow behind Dad with his toy lawn mower as Dad mowed the lawn. It was a home where Dad taught me how to shoot a hook shot, and throw a football in the backyard. Our home was a place where Dad always made sure there was plenty of lighter fluid for Nancy's flaming batons for her competitions with the Atomic Twirlers. Our home was a place where we packed ice coolers and blankets to head out to Tri-City Raceways every Friday night, or to the hydroplane races every July. Nancy remembers her friends loved the opportunity to spend the night because our home was a special place and they were always greeted with a warm heart and a warm cookie! Dad did most of the addition work to our house on his own, and no code inspector should ever go near there. Yet the home our Mom and Dad built was so much more than wood and shingles.

Over the years our family has grown. It's not uncommon to have 20 plus people gathered for a Thanksgiving celebration. People have come into our family through the front door, the side door, down the chimney or through a window, but no matter how they entered, they found themselves part of our family. Dad always loved us and welcomed us. Nancy recalls - “Dad never judged me--even when I made mistakes or was having problems--he always loved me”. Dad was so proud of his kids and grandkids, if you didn't hear about how great his daughter's apple orchard was, or how skillful Steve was at the bus rodeo, or what a great pastor I was, you certainly weren't listening to Dad very long. I wish my kids and the rest of Dad's grandkids could have known him when he was more active. But I know for each of his grandkids, there were few places better or safer than sitting on grandpa's lap.

Dad loved to travel and we as a family visited most of the United States together. We survived traveling through the desert of Arizona going 112 mph in a 1973 Ford Galaxy 500 to visit his parents. We survived a trip to Miami Beach in a 1975 VW pop-up camper van, even though the transmission disintegrated along the road side in the warm embrace of the wheat fields of Dodge City Kansas. Not to mention it was the first--and last time that I got to pee on a grain silo while waiting for a tow truck. Along the way Dad always gave us a sense of history and family on those trips.

Dad's faith has always been inspiring to us. Dad literally taught hundreds of bible studies in this congregation that he dearly loved. I would assume most of the people here honoring our dad sat in at least one class he taught here. For years Dad and Mom served as Lay Witness Mission Coordinators. They traveled the region leading lay run gatherings--helping people rediscover a deep and passionate faith--or helped people discover faith for the first time. One of my earliest memories is playing with hot wheels on the floor while Dad lead a meeting in a home during one of those Lay Witness Missions. It was not unusual in our house to have Dad pray or be reading scripture. Faith was something Dad and Mom showed us everyday--it was a very special gift they shared with Steve, Nancy and me. For me it was foundational in my own journey that lead me into ordained ministry. Dad's grandson Brian recognized it was 3:16 pm last Sunday afternoon when Dad passed away…is there a better time to be reminded of God's love for us as so beautifully stated in John 3:16?

In recent years Dad's health had sharply declined. For 28 years he battled diabetes, he was a prostate cancer survivor, then liver and heart problems ultimately wore Dad's body out. Yet his spirit remained steadfast and true, even if it meant using a wheel chair to visit his grandson Brian in the hospital for pneumonia, or walking slowly but surly to McDonalds with “the kids” to get a happy meal. Before moving to their house in Pasco, Dad had 20 years-worth of happy meal toys in every nook and cranny of their Richland house. Dad loved kids and as Steve said - “there was no place better than sitting on dad's shoulders and feeling like you were a mile in the sky”.

I wrote on my web blog Monday Morning “The most brilliant faithful man I have ever known went home today - rest in peace dad”

Steve, Nancy and I are better people because of our father Bill McMurray

Our beautiful mother and our families will miss you and we know an important part of us is missing--but we know Jesus was there to meet you with open arms. We hold-on to the thought of you with a body that works like it's suppose to, in a place where there are no tears, and you don't have to sneak your snickers candy bars!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A great man went home yesterday!

One of the most brilliant, faithful men I have ever known, passed away yesterday. My Father, Bill J. McMurray died after a massive heart attack at the ICU at Kadlac Medical Center in Richland, WA at 3:20 pm. Rest in peace dad.

Thank you Dr. Zanders, what a blessing to have a Dr. with such a strong Christian faith, as my family and I waded through all that together. I wouldn't expect anything less from the son of two Salvation Army pastors! And thank you to the rest of the ICU staff at Kadlac you were wonderful!

To my friends, drink a toast to Bill McMurray if you get a chance.