As a kid I remember hearing the story many times that my Dad and Larry Hagman had been in the Air Force together.  What I remember of the story was they were both stationed at the same Air Force base outside of London, England during the Korean War, and Larry Hagman was Mary Martin’s son.  I always found that kind of interesting that Peter Pan’s son was Major Nelson.  Yesterday as my mum told me the story again, she included details that I hadn’t heard before. As the story goes one day Mary Martin walked into the office where my dad was stationed and asked to speak to her son. My Dad asked “who is your son?” and she said “Larry Hagman”. My mum stated “that is how everyone found out who he was because at the time, Larry Hagman wasn’t Larry Hagman”. And then my mum said “I wonder if he was still married to that Swedish woman. You know your father and I went to their wedding reception at the American Embassy.” I checked Wikipedia and he was still married to the Swedish woman. 🙂

What makes this story weird is my dad and Larry Hagman died the same week. My dad died early Wednesday morning. It was so strange when I turned the radio on Saturday morning and heard that Larry Hagman had died. The funny thing is I don’t usually believe in coincidence or happenstance. I believe in God’s fingerprints, timing and design but this seems to be coincidence and that is fine. This past week other things happened that were definitely not coincidence and were definitely God’s timing and design.

Last Monday I was scheduled to lead tours but before I headed into the city I stopped by to drop off my mum’s laundry. As I was getting ready to leave my mum’s room for Manhattan, my cell phone rang. It was the hospice nurse to say that my dad was failing quickly. (My mum is in assisted living at the same facility that my dad was in the nursing home. My dad had been on hospice for a year.)  A stroke 6 years ago took his mind but his body had kept going. Needless to say I canceled my tours and headed to my dad’s room.

My sister, my mum and I would spend Monday and Tuesday at his bedside. At one point on Monday, the hospice chaplain would ask “what do you think your dad would say to you?” I commented that “there wasn’t really anything profound that needed to be said. Because we had always said those things to each other.” I would also comment “I am blessed. I know who my earthly father is and I know who my Heavenly Father is”.  Very early Wednesday morning I would receive the phone call that my dad had died. My mum had picked the funeral parlor but hadn’t finalized plans. So late Wednesday morning I would head to the funeral parlor to make the arrangements. When I arrived I was greeted by the funeral director, who I recognized as a man who had been part of a private tour I had led on November 11. Wow!! How can this be?

Last Spring, a walking tour with me had been one of the items that was auctioned off to raise money for the high school my daughters had attended. In late summer, I had been contacted by the woman who had “won” the tour and we had finally decided upon November 11. Fast forward and Hurricane Sandy happens – the memorial is closed, participants scheduled to be part of the tour are without power. There is talk of rescheduling for next Spring but we decide to go forward with the tour. November 11 was a beautiful day.  When I arrive at the Tribute Center, I meet most of this group for the first time. All of them have some connection to my daughters’ former high school.   Two people I know and this is a repeat tour for them. I  also come to find out that one gentleman is actually a tour guide at Gettysburg, and another gentleman is a volunteer firefighter.  It makes me a little nervous having a tour guide on my tour. And the firefighter will share with me his visit to the site on September 12, 2001. The line at the memorial is long but the tour proves to be a success. And 10 days later I will walk up to the funeral parlor my mum had chosen to be greeted by the funeral director who was the volunteer firefighter on my tour. Unbelievable.

James Ray Clark, Jr.  September 31, 1931 to November 21, 2012 – husband of one woman for 59 years, loving father of 4 children, grandfather to 5 grandchild and great-grandfather of 1 great-grandson and owner of lots, and lots of books. Thanks Daddy for always believing in me, for always encouraging me and for teaching me to question and learn. 🙂