Reverend Harold Walker, Jr. 1927-2017 (My Dad)

August 5th, 2017

my dadI know I’ve been out of touch for most of the summer. If you’re someone who’s been close in my sphere over the last few months, you’ve probably heard that my dad died in June. 

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that two years ago, my dad’s oncologist ended chemo treatment for his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and placed him under hospice care. The prognosis at that point was that he would die in 1-3 months. 

Alas. My determined dad defied all prognoses and lived for two more years. 

There’s so much to say, and I’m not going to say it all here. There’s definitely a longer story to tell. I might tell it at some point down the road

Right now I’ll just say I’m learning about grief. What it means to lose a parent, a true sentinel in my life. How far and deep and wide love expands even (especially) after someone has died. How grief shows up in unexpected ways, in the nooks & crannies of life when everything on the surface looks “fine” and “normal.”

How even after a good, long 90-year life and the gift of 2 “bonus” years to celebrate and say goodbye, the heartbreak of losing my dad remains immeasurable. 

My dad was a preacher, and an activist, and a gardener and a bicyclist. He worked hard in service of climate justice and racial justice. He grew squash and green beans and raspberries and more in his backyard garden. He grew community. He rode his bike around town and until he got sick at 88, he swam a mile 3 times a week in the university swimming pool.

My dad laughed at my jokes.

My dad was a thinker. A philosopher. He always had a book of philosophy or theology in his hand (liberation theology or democratic socialist political philosophy, to be more exact), and loved chewing on ideas as much as he loved sharing a mid-morning pastry and coffee in the back garden with his family.

He chewed on ideas until they made sense. But sense wasn’t really what he was after. He was in love with the mystery, the not-knowing, and if finding the answer meant there was no more chewing to do, he would opt for a question over an answer any day. 

I’m proud that at 90 he was still so connected in the community. 225 people of all ages and from around the country came to his memorial service. It meant a lot to me that so many people approached me and said: “I am who I am because of your dad.”  

My siblings and I all spoke at the service. As I witnessed each of my 3 siblings speak, as I wept, I marveled at how alive he was in each one of us. And also how differently alive he was–how different parts of my dad shone through in each one of our voices.

What a blessing. What a gift. 

I’m here in your inbox to let you know what’s been up with me. As you might imagine, lots kinda got put on the back burner over the last couple of months, including this newsletter.

So just in case you were thinking “I haven’t received any of Johanna’s consistently inconsistent newsletters in quite some time!” never fear, I’m right here. I’m not promising consistency by any means. (No matter how hard I try, that’s just not my jam.)

But I am back in action. And will continue to send emails when the spirit moves.  
Thanks for being there. 

With love and so much gratitude, 

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