Brick wall

Richard Hanson aka Dick Hanson 
December 10, 1923 – July 29, 2013

My dad would probably have said that he was an ordinary bricklayer; others would say he was very skilled and talented.   Regardless, he worked very hard to provide for his family.  But, being a bricklayer is what my dad did for a living not who he was as a man. 

Over his lifetime, my dad consistently proved himself to be an honorable man and the way he lived his life taught me four things about being a genuine Christ-follower and living a well-lived life:

No. 1
Genuine Christ-followers Live in a Way
that Consistently Honors God and Others

My dad was one of the most honorable men I’ve known.  I never heard my dad utter a swear word (even under his breath) or make an inappropriate comment about a woman or a person of a different race, nor did I ever see my dad consume any alcohol.  I never knew my dad to tell a lie or cheat someone out of anything (he even reported the money he was paid in cash on his taxes). When my dad promised to do something, he did it even when it was hard or inconvenient for him!  When I was a child, his promises meant playing with me after laying brick for 8 hours in 100° weather and taking me swimming at 9 o’clock at night in the rain, among other things I’m sure he wished he hadn’t promised to do!

My dad certainly wasn’t perfect and he would be the first person to admit that. But he did not “run aimlessly” or fight “like a boxer beating the air” (I Corinthians 9:26).  He ran with purpose and disciplined himself to act in a way that honored God and others. My dad didn’t refrain from swearing, drinking, etc. because it was on some church’s list of “Do’s and Don’ts”, but because he didn’t think those things reflected honorably on his God.

No. 2
Genuine Christ-followers Love Others
and Treat Others Like God Would Treat Them

One time I remember asking my dad about the job he was working on and he told me he was working for “some young guy in Encino who walks around with a monkey and wears a glove on one hand.”  I said, “Dad, don’t you know who that is?  That’s Michael Jackson!”  He responded, “Who’s that?”  After I explained who Michael Jackson was, my dad said, “Well, he might be popular and have a lot of money, but he looks pretty miserable and he has a lot of people taking advantage of him. I wouldn’t want to be him!”

My dad was never impressed by people’s wealth or high social status.  I never saw my dad treat someone differently because of their wealth, social standing, sex or race.

No. 3
Genuine Christ-followers Recognize it’s Never Too
Late to Live a Life of Service that Reflects God’s Love to Others

Even though my dad almost always worked six days a week, he made time to serve others. He taught Sunday school, served communion in nursing homes and took blind people bowling (even smiling when they beat him).  On two occasions he paid his own way to Panama to work on a missionary building project. After he retired, he took a blind man golfing every week which is when he learned to play golf. (Yes, blind people can golf if you point them in the right direction and tell them how far to hit the ball).

After my mom died, I began having difficulty getting a hold of my dad.  He was always gone helping out at church, unloading a delivery truck at the senior center, meeting someone for breakfast or going golfing.

I knew my dad was keeping himself busy, but I didn’t fully appreciate the impact he was having on others until I spent the last week of his life with him. Person after person visited him in the hospital, sent a card or called to say how my dad had affected their lives or the lives of others by doing simple things like:

      • Giving them a smile and a hug when he went to help out at the senior center
      • Helping women at the senior center hang curtain rods, fix things around in their homes, hang Christmas decorations, etc.
      • Doing janitorial work and weed abatement at the church.  (I remember my brother asking my dad if there wasn’t someone “under eighty” at his church who could do that kind of work)
      • Driving others to medical appointments, the store or to visit loved ones in the hospital
      • Visiting people in the hospital to pray for them or their loved ones
      • Calling a guy in his 90’s each morning to make sure he was up, out of bed and doing okay
      • Setting up things for the weekend church service and giving people a welcoming handshake or hug as they walked into church

The list goes on…

Learning all my dad had been doing for others made me realize he wasn’t just keeping himself busy at age 89, but he was doing things that positively affected the lives of the people God had brought into his life.   All of the people who shared stories about my dad had come to love and respect him because he showed genuine care and concern for them without expecting anything in return.

No. 4
Genuine Christ-followers Continue to
Honor God and Others Even in Difficult Circumstances

The second week of July my dad was playing golf when he experienced some severe chest pain.  He was later admitted to the hospital, allowed to return home a few days before being readmitted to the hospital.  On July 19th, after undergoing a bone marrow biopsy, his doctor asked him what he would say if the news wasn’t very good.  He responded, “I would say, ‘I have peace with my Lord.  I know where I’m going and I am ready to go.’” That day my dad learned he had been diagnosed with plasma cell leukemia, a rare, painful and very aggressive cancer.  One of the doctors told him her father had died within two months of receiving the same diagnosis.

When I saw my dad later that day, he told me that even though he knew his condition was terminal, his faith in God wasn’t shaken and he had an inexplicable peace about dying.  Little did I know he would be dead in just 10 days  But, over that very short period of time I had the privilege of seeing my dad embrace death the same way he had lived his life – with dignity and honor, showing care and concern for others and reflecting the love of God to people in his life.

Not one time while my dad was in the hospital did he say something negative or voice a complaint of any kind. If anything, my dad downplayed his complaints.  One time a doctor came in and asked him what his pain level was and he said, “I guess I’d say about a 3”. Based on what I had observed, that answer didn’t seem right so I asked him to describe the pain.  Dad said, “Well, it feels like someone is ripping the muscles in my chest off my ribs.”  The doctor and I simultaneously responded, “That’s not a three!” 

My dad was also a very thankful person and that never changed after his diagnosis. Even when he was in pain and barely conscious, he found a way to muster up the strength to groan out a “thank you” to his nurses for taking care of him.

Although losing my dad has been difficult, that difficulty has been greatly overshadowed by the thankfulness I feel for having had him for a father.  Even in the last days of his life, I learned things from my dad that I hope to emulate in my own endeavor to lead a life that glorifies God and honors others.

Over his lifetime, my dad certainly faced his share of difficulties and trials, but he fought a good fight and he finished the race God set before him remaining strong in his faith (2 Timothy 4:7). I have every confidence that when my dad took his last breath and crossed the finish line of his life on this Earth, he was welcomed into the arms of God who told him:

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”  — Matt. 25:21

Dad, Thank you for living a life that truly reflected the heart of God to others and thank you for showing me what it means to be a genuine Christ-follower. I will be forever grateful to God for choosing you to be my dad.

© 2013 by Andrina G. Hanson
Published: August 1, 2013

  Tags: Christ-follower, Dick Hanson, Richard Hanson, Richard N. Hanson