So many memories, so many tributes, but his life’s work says it all. Vin was born to do and be the voice of the Dodgers—a voice that at all times delighted in children and families, captured moments in time that were greater than our own first-hand witness, and always—always—spoke of players, teams, umps, leagues, and the world in a way that upheld the dignity of all.
Here, Kevin Costner recounts a life of vocation in words almost as eloquent as Vin’s.
May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven’t written
Or still in middle age ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.
May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can’t see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.
May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.
May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.
May they be themselves, long after we’ve stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn’t bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.
—Mark Jarman, from To the Green Man
In honor of the 22nd birthday of my daughter, Remy Choate Davis, who has been for many both blessed and blessing.
A year ago today, I had the honor of giving a talk at the wedding of a couple who I’ve grown close to over the past few years. The bride, Tina, teaches core connection/pilates/cardio line dancing classes at the Culver-Palms YMCA. Joy and inclusion seem to spill out of her heart, creating ever widening circles of love in our weekly workout family, which now includes an annual potluck celebration of love at my house every January. This talk meant a great deal to me because it allowed me to speak to their courtship, struggles, and the beauty and truth of marriage. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing how God works in and through people that they may grow in the knowledge of him.
(click to watch)
We lost someone dear last night. A woman whose faith came down through her family, through generations, and shone out through her with a twinkle that could not be mistaken for anything else. I loved Rheta Stoppel, and I will miss her dearly. We first became close almost twenty years ago, at one of those mission/vision workshops that churches are so fond of and which, invariably, lead nowhere. I was at a table with her and a few others when the subject of heaven came up. I don’t remember what she had said that led my jaw to drop but I do recall my words, “Are you telling me that you were raised to believe that only LC-MS Lutherans would go to Heaven.” I was new to the church and to the faith, but I knew that would not be a lesson I’d be passing on to my kids. Rheta smiled as if just then realizing what she had said and what she’d been taught. “That’s what I was taught” she said. I cannot say what she went to heaven ultimately believing, but what I witnessed in her day in and day out was a demonstrable confidence in the words of St. Paul, that God desired “all people to be saved.” And she showed that by loving people and caring tangibly about what they loved—mainly, their children— in her work for and/or behind the scenes at Venice Lutheran School. Every time I saw her, she would make a point of sharing some observation about Graham or Remy, some little detail of the day that no one else would have observed, but which made my heart sing. I have no doubt she did this for hundreds of moms and dads, loving who they loved, so that they may, in their time, come to love who she loved: Jesus Christ. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28) If you have ever attended a Fall Festival at First Lutheran Church of Venice, you have met Rheta. She would have been wearing a festive orange plaid shirt covered with pumpkin and spider and scarecrow pins. She and her lifetime friend, Suzie Dean, sold the tickets so you could play games or eat or buy things from the bake sale, which she always made goodies for. Rheta knew that the ticket to heaven was the grace of God, and that it was a gift to all who did not refuse it. If she were here today I think she’d say to all those families who weren’t yet so sure about what to make of the whole faith thing: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:15) Today, my heart is a puddle as I thank God for Rheta, for her life, her witness, the strength of her convictions, her tireless service, and the twinkle in her eye. I have no doubt she’s with Him now, and they’re enjoying some really good dessert.
It’s not intentional, really. We want to believe it’s true when we say that they can be and do anything they want when they grow up. We want to believe that there’s some relationship between that idea and the need for them to perform throughout their teen years as if their lives depended on it. We want to believe that there is no conflict between our urging them to Follow their Dreams morphing suddenly and abruptly into What are you Going to Major in and How are you Going to Support Yourself for the Rest of your Life doing That? We tell them to do all the “right” things because we don’t know what else to tell them and we can’t bear to tell them nothing. Or to let them fail. Or to let them veer from the prototypical success model——who knows where that might lead?
Maybe, just maybe, it will lead them slowly, and with some requisite turbulence, to themselves.
So if we really want to help our teen and young adult children, I’m thinking we should stop telling them that who they are is a series of grades and tests scores and titles and victories that must be accrued in a deliberate time and sequence—or else—and we should start telling them the truth, which, when you step back, I believe, looks something like this:
Between the ages of 15 and 25—give or take—you’re going to want to learn some things, e.g:
*What you like to do, and what you’re good at, and if those are the same things
*What kind of people make you happy and what kind of people seem happy to be around you
*What it feels like to love another person and the delirious grace that comes from being loved back
*Whether or not sex is going to become a defining factor in your life
*How to dig yourself out of a hole
*How to throw yourself into an idea that is bigger than yourself and seeing what happens
*How to cook a meal, do your laundry, clean your bathroom, and live with roommates
*How to look someone in the eye when you shake their hand
*What it feels like to earn a paycheck and then pay for something with money you earned
*Whether or not you can make enough money doing the things you like and are good at to live the way you want to live
*Or if money is more important to you than spending your time doing things you like or love and what that choice will cost you down the road (this usually has to be learned later)
*You’ll want to know what you believe in about Big Questions like God, and compassion, and why there’s evil in the world, and if you think you’re contributing to it, and how you feel about that
*You’ll want to know how to learn new things—some of your choosing, some not
*You’ll have to decide if your word will be your bond
*And to recognize those whose word is not
*It’s hard to build a good life on a wobbly foundation so you’re going to want to develop some confidence—if you’re lacking in that area—or some humility, if you’re not
*Do you know what makes you feel confident yet?
*Do you know how to express your thoughts and feelings?
*Do you know what you were put on this Earth to be and do?
Our kids will learn these things, and others, in no particular order, and often multiple times. No one will give them a certificate or a grade or a degree or a prize for them. But when they feel they’ve got a handle on most of these, they’ll be ready to have a really nice life. Let’s remember to tell them that sometimes.