At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The End of a Legacy

2016 will unfairly be remembered as the year in which life seemed to come off the rails. Mainly due to what seemed to be a rash of celebrity deaths, the consensus from human conversations is that this year can't end soon enough for our liking. How dare such a long list of folks go the way of all the earth, we ask.

Cautionary memo to all: 2016 did not kill these people. Death happens as a regular occurrence. I don't say that to mock death, but to recognize we're having this recognitions as a more fevered pitch than before. Possibly because we're more aware of our own mortality that we blame things on a year.

In fact, 2016 brought some good things. Thousands of teachers and mentors helped a number of students through difficult times and encouraged them to succeed. Simone Biles took Rio by storm in gymnastics and Michael Phelps wrapped up an amazing Olympic career run (with full possibility he could try again in 2020). The world giant panda population jumped by more than 15 percent, moving that lumpily cute creature off the endangered species list. Although pancreatic cancer is still terminal, chemotherapy breakthrough have lengthened the survival rate of five years from 16% to 27%. The suicide rate among males is decreasing. 

And the Cubs won the World Series. Which means that everyone except for the twenty percent of St. Louis Cardinal Universe that has no soul or heart can acknowledge the wonder and joy of that moment.

In the midst of it all, one legacy and life ended on Christmas Eve that brought me both personal sadness and joy in one lump. My esteemed college history professor and dear friend, Dr. Louis J. Voskuil, died that morning after a considerable and brave battle against Parkinson's Disease. It's hard to calculate his imprint in my life...Every day I teach, there's something either consciously or unconsciously I'm borrowing from Sweet Lou in my approach or philosophy.

It was soon after I got news of his death, that I wrote a tribute to the man on my Facebook page. The beauty of his life and work is such that I want you to know of this fine man before 2016 closes. This year may have taken Dr. Voskuil from us. God gave him to us for a good and wonderful season. 

Even as Christmas approaches, there is still the clarion reminder that we live on this side of glory and those we treasure, honor, and love reach the end of their earthly journey. Today I received word that my college history professor, senior integration project advisor, mentor, intellectual shepherd, and dear friend Dr. Louis J. Voskuil breathed his last and left the Shadowlands behind to enter the presence of the God who directs history. To calculate the impact that "Sweet Lou" had on my life, my decision-making, and my teaching is impossible...the world cannot contain it. His impact went beyond the classroom: He was a willing reference for several positions I pursued; he was highly concerned for my physical health when I suffered from post-concussion syndrome my senior year at Covenant; and when my time as a pastor ended rather shabbily, he was one of the first people to reach out to me and call to encourage me through it. Many memories of the man will endure...his patience with myself, Sean Carrick, and Kal Dawson in Age of Europe class during the fall of 1988; his dribbling skill at faculty talent night, plus his dry humor (such as thanking another "prof" at said talent night for being an "athletic supporter"); his vast knowledge and sheer ability to see the patterns in historical complexity; the Cultural Paradigm; and his calm, deep, and persevering faith. All of these remembrances are causing me to smile with gratitude today in the midst of the sadness.
Forty-four months ago, I shared how much Dr. Voskuil mean to me as a student, teacher, and human being. In thanks for his life, I reproduce it now here:…/my-greatest-teacher…
Rest well, Dr. Voskuil. Christmas came early for you. The comfort that Christ will give us in the wake of your passing will come, because He is faithful to us as He was to you.

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