Saturday, April 9, 2011

Adventure And Art

Knowing how stingy sleep had been to share its restoring power with my father, I sat quietly at the foot of his bed, rather than waken him. Since I last saw him at Christmas, his plethora of illnesses steadily followed its consuming processes leaving him a shadow of his former self. In his morphine induced condition his still giant hands (size 21 wedding band - which is 10.5 sizes larger than an average man) constantly fiddled with the oxygen tube that puffed its breathe into each nostril. Paper thin, as fragile as tissue, his skin clung tightly to his cheek bones. L-shaped splints padded with cotton and wound with ace bandages covered the soles of his feet and calfs protecting them from painful ulcers that grew larger as dad shrunk and grew weaker. Cards and notes covered the walls. Family pictures and colorful floral arrangements covered the nightstand. Dad was surrounded by expressions of love and encouragement.

Sitting there, I began to time-travel in my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I was the 10 year old boy following his father through the woods as he followed deer tracks on freshly fallen snow. Memories of clutching my weapon - a 38/40 carbine, so old it had a saddle ring - were so vivid my heart began to race as I relived my first hunting experience that took place four and a half decades ago. There were flashbacks of watching his ballgames and him watching my ballgames. Times when as adults we played the game together: he pitched, and I caught. Though a physical man of extraordinary toughness and a war hero, my father had a melancholy artistic side revealed through his sketching, drawing, and painting. Just about any flat surface in the house had some evidence of Dad's doodling. For several years he attempted to formally cultivate his latent talent through art lessons. Interestingly, the requirement to sketch a nude model, dad's loss of interest in lessons, and his decision to quit happened simultaneously. My mom may have weighed-in on that decision.

Dad sometimes woke up under a dark cloud. Along with a love for the outdoors and physical activity, we share a melancholy and artistic temperament. I try to sketch and paint with words, and like my father, my melancholy is a strong current running through me. I am quite familiar with awakening under a dark cloud.

Sitting there in the silence, it struck me for the first time that Burleigh Shorey in his truest self was a man who loved Adventure and was an outdoorsman as much as time would allow. Being the truly quiet man he was, I believe it was through Art Dad longed to sketch, paint, and draw pictures to replace thousands of words he found so hard to articulate.

Since then, I've come to realize that, more than any other factor in my life, who my father is has most greatly molded who I am. Adventure and Art were at his core - Wilderness and Words are at mine. Now it all makes sense: why I spent 30 years of my adult life in pulpits--both in the US and in foreign countries--trying, with color and passion, to communicate the Word; why I began that Wilderness journey to pioneer new churches and inspire other sojourners to brave the rough and tumble advancement of the Kingdom.

In death, Dad shook off every hindrance to pursue his earthbound dreams. No longer does he yearn for adventure, he is enjoying an endless Adventure. Now, the frustrated artist is himself a master and a masterpiece.


  1. ...speechless....priceless. Once ya man! Your Friend, Rocky

  2. Beautiful thought on your dad and youself. Love you Billy.

  3. As I read this Bill, I found myself sitting at the edge of my own father's bedside. He also was a shadow of himself at that time. You stirred in my heart the longing of a love long gone, but never forgotten.
    Your reflection and revelation has spurred my heart on! Thank you, and keep painting with your words for us!

  4. powerful and revealing. thanks for sharing and for FINALLY writing. I've missed these and I miss you.