Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remembering Richard Erdman

At left, Scott & Kathy Erdman, myself, and Jance Erdman, circa 1964.

I moved in across the street from the Erdman family when I was just five years old. Ours was a family of three; I was an only child of a second marriage. This was Arcadia, California in 1963.

The first family to welcome us to our new neighborhood lived across the street. The Erdman family of five seemed to me large and busy, full of personality, and, for me, a somewhat shy only child, at times intimidating. The Erdman kids surrounded me in age, they were 6, 4 and 3; a boy and two girls. As I grew, they also surrounded me by example - of character, fun, adventurousness, humor, and grace.

The husband and father of this family was an unassuming aerospace engineer named H. Richard Erdman; Dick to his friends.
He was born in 1930, 10 years after my Dad. In many ways Dick was an ordinary man, and yet, to me, and to many who knew him, completely extraordinary. Dick loved his wife well for many years, was a dedicated father, and a loving grandfather. Dick was part of the Greatest Generation, having served in the Navy during the Korean War.

For the next 13 years, I grew up across the street from the home where Dick raised his family. And last Saturday, at a memorial service in Arcadia, a church packed full of friends and colleagues remembered this good man. What a fitting tribute, a congregation full of people who were blessed by his friendship and touched by his example.

Over the past two years, following the death of both of my own parents, I have thought often of what things mark a life well lived. During the past week, I have been reflecting on the life of Dick Erdman, and the difference he made in so many lives. This was a life very well lived. I hope to be something like Dick, when I grow up.

Dick was an engineer by trade, and spend many years involved in the technology behind high altitude reconnaissance photography. We found out at his service (for me, for the first time!) that Dick had been involved design and manufacturing for the cameras used on the U2 Spy plane. Very cool! But he was so much more than just an engineer. The legacy he leaves behind is remarkable, as expressed primarily in the lives of his children, who have all formed families (three marriages, all still intact - something of an anomaly today) of their own, with seven grandchildren.

At the memorial service, we learned of Dick's love for his church, his involvement with the church's lay psychological counseling center, and also of his humble love for Christ. Dick saw no need to separate science and theology. The pastor recounted how Dick loved to read and learn about physics, astronomy, and their connection with faith. Here was a man whose involvement in technology and science had a part in the ending of the Cold War, and yet who embraced his faith without embarrassment. How refreshing.

The last time I spent with Dick was brief, but memorable, about two years ago. I was checking on repairs to my parents home, and Dick hailed me from across the street. Always the engineer, he noticed that I had the same make Acura sedan that he did - except he owned the fancier model - the one with all the high-tech bells and whistles. He invited me across the street, where we sat inside of his car, while he carefully explained each and every feature to me, including the GPS system that was connected to the Internet to warn of traffic events. Classic Dick Erdman. I was late to my next destination, but it didn't matter, I loved spending time with a man who was in love with learning new things, even at age 74 or so.

When my time comes, I hope to leave a loving legacy like that of Dick Erdman. I am so much richer for having known him. An the world is richer for the example of devotion to family, love of people, and live long enthusiasm for learning.

May the God who Dick loved comfort his family and friends in this season of loss. In the constellation of roll models of my youth, Richard Erdman shines brightly as a faithful man. I look forward to the time, in Another Place someday, when I will meet Dick again, and he will explain to me the wonder of the universe from a place where we can see it in a completely different perspective.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beauty Beyond My Comprehension

This past weekend, Nancy & I ditched civilization and went here. Yosemite. We were here to celebrate 20 years of marriage, marked officially on October 29th.

We had a wonderful time, walking, talking, resting, eating, hiking the Mist Trail. Yosemite Valley is from 1,500 to 2,000 feet below the cliffs that surround it, and as a result, the primary feeling one comes away with after a very short time is that of smallness. Littleness; insignificance.

The grandness and beauty of that place is staggering, large, and overwhelming, all at once. For me, standing in a meadow or among the trees on the valley floor, and looking up, put my life in sudden perspective. I spend my days often thinking that I am large, and in charge. I think I can handle things. But when I am placed in a location that forces me to look up in order to appreciate the immense beauty around me, a renewed sense of perspective sets in.

It is I who am small, dwarfed by the sheer beauty of Creation around me, and humbled to the point of a loss of speech when considering the mystery of the Creator of it all. When first passing through the Wawona Tunnel, the primary emotion I feel is that of just wanting to sit and weep, in awe of what lays before me. To get out of the car and just look, seems, well, so small an offering.

A recent article I recently read struck a chord in my spirit in relation to the beauty I experienced this past weekend:

What more, you may ask, do we want? … We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. —C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Do I Say This?

Lately, there are these ideas drifting in and out of my head.

These thoughts have been there now for some time, wandering in and out of my days and nights, and I have been pondering how to get them out in writing. Thoughts about Our Purpose, the meaning of life, if you will. Why I am here on this planet, and what it all means.

These are thoughts about the deep waters that run through our lives, about moments that capture us breathless and speechless, and wondering what just happened in our souls. These are the thoughts that epiphanies are made of, ideas that make lasting memories.

And yet, it seems that we often spend so much of our time in places where the water is very shallow and warm. We like it there, its easier to stand and not really think. The little waves feel good against our ankles. No deep water for us.

This is my first attempt to sort through it.

Perhaps this sort of this thing happens when one hits mid-life. As I am now well into my 50th year, I often find myself at mid-point; reflecting on my own childhood and growing up, and at the same time wondering what the future will hold. Where am I going, and how will it feel? Over the past several years I have stood bedside as both of my parents have passed; fading from life slowly. At the same time, I have been learning to adjust to the changes occurring in the two beautiful daughters. Soon they will be leaving our home, and spreading their wings in a world that, to me, often feels hostile and emotionally barren.

How will they fair, how will I? Where have we come from, and to where are we headed?

At the center of this wondering, in the middle of this in-between, there is Hope. There is Grace, and there is deep Peace. I have found my relationship with Christ to be the only thing that connects the dots, that renders meaning to my wonderings, and that sustains me on the journey.

Next, what role does Beauty play in my faith.

Remembering - Veterans Day

Today is Veteran's Day. My Dad was a veteran, and I am forever thankful. Deeply thankful.

This morning on NPR I heard THIS. It is simply wonderful. Make sure you click "Listen Now", the music is completely perfect.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Blessing

For anyone with teenage girls, this is wonderful.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Now What Will They Do?

We have a new President. I did not vote for him, but I will be praying Mr. Obama and his family. Perhaps this is an era of new hope, I hope the Democrats can lead with humility, the Republicans certainly did not.

A young teenage friend of mine posted this on his Facebook today. It made me laugh, there is is a bit of truth in this. If you can't laugh at yourself......

Monday, November 03, 2008


Listen to this guy:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Grand Decline Explained

I am in Boston this weekend for a conference. While here, we were presented with a short video that explains, rather completely, what has been happening in our economy over the past several years.

Please note, there is a comment about why "no one ever asked what these properties were worth". That is what I do; tell people what their properties are worth. Mind you, no one ever asked me, or those who share my profession, during the past several years, what these properties were worth.

I present you with the British humor of Bird & Fortune:

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